When the Pressure’s On: A book review by Bob Morris

When the Pressure's OnWhen the Pressure’s On: The Secret to Winning When You Can’t Afford to Lose
Louis S. Csoka
AMACOM (June 2016)

“Champions get up when they can’t.” Jack Dempsey, June 22, 2016

All of us can identify with a situation when someone has been knocked down (emotionally as well as physically) and seems unable to recover, to “get back up.” Some do, others don’t, and reasons vary. Louis Csoka wrote this book in order to share what he has learned about how to cope with severe stress, especially when it cannot be avoided and those involved are not responsible for its causes.

He identifies three options:

1. Opt out of the situation by quitting.
2. Attempt to eliminate the causes.
3. Improve response.

For many people, #1 really isn’t an option. They endure as best they can and may — or may not – attempt to eliminate or alleviate the causes. Csoka recommends #3 and provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel that can help almost anyone who reads this book to improve how they respond to severe stress.

In this context, I presume to share a few thoughts of my own. First, stress is not necessarily bad. It can stimulate rather than debilitate and give focus to effort. Some people need deadlines. They are more productive if they know the dos and don’ts when attempting to complete the given task. The stress to which Csoka refers diminishes self-confidence, enthusiasm, energy, stamina, and worst of all, hope.

Also, all of his recommendations take into full account the importance of decompression. Workplace burnout helps to explain why, on average, less than a third of employees in a U.S. company are actively and positively engaged. More than 70% are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”), or actively disengaged, working to undermine the success of their company.

Finally, positive stress will help to accelerate the personal growth and professional development in any workplace environment whereas negative stress will prevent that from occurring.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Csoka’s coverage:

o Mindsets (Pages 13-17)
o Mental strength (13-22 and 25-29)
o Desired behavior inventory (25-29)
o Peak Performance Skill Level Self-Assessment (27-29)
o Goal Setting (34-35 and 51-68)
o Adaptive Thinking (35-37 and 71-82)
o Stress and Energy Management (37-39 and 85-121)
o In-Depth Look at Training (43247, 131-132, and 160-162)
o Neuro Training (44-45)
o Outcome Goals (55-56)
o Controlling the Negative Voices in Our Heads (74-78)
o Rules of Stress Management (116-121)
o VUCA framework for self-assessment (167-183)
o Learned Instinct (174-175 and 180-183)
o Situational Awareness (176-180)
o Chelsey (”Sully”) Sullenberger and U.S. Airways flight 1549 (183-188)
o Commander’s Calm (190-196)

I agree with Louis Csoka that in a world that has become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I (at least) can remember, it is imperative to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” And keep in mind that stress is not necessarily bad. Also, some causes of stress can be avoided or overcome (if not eliminated) such as improving communication skills (e.g. making performance expectations crystal clear) and identifying the right question to answer or the right problem to solve.

Also, I agree with him about the importance of establishing a workplace culture within which individual awareness (Ellen Langer calls it “mindfulness,” same thing), self-reflection, self-control, and self-regulation are encouraged, indeed cherished — and rewarded as well as recognized — because they leverage positive stress to achieve high-impact results. Champions in the boxing ring get up when they can’t. So do peak performers in the business world.

When the Pressure’s On is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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