9 Chapters
Medium 9781626567719

4 Reframing from Tension to Laughter

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.


All other things being equal, a performer who is tense loses to a performer who is relaxed. We all know we need to relax under pressure, but we don’t know how. In fact, when we’re told to relax and have fun, this often frustrates us and makes us even tenser. Why? Because we don’t know how to relax when we’re under pressure.

Let me offer up a solution. In your tensest moments, actively seek opportunities to laugh. There is something about laughter that makes threats less daunting and opportunities more visible.

In this chapter, Rick and I will coach you on how to use humor as the best antidote to tension. I will also share a number of examples of Rick and others using humor to relieve tension and move forward in difficult situations. Humor is more than a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Not just because it’s fun, but because it works.

Andrew Tarvin is the chief humorist at the company he founded, Humor That Works. He is not what pops into my head when I think of a humorist. For one, he is not a comedian. He graduated with a degree in computer science and engineering from The Ohio State University. Before founding Humor That Works, Andrew worked as a successful international information technology (IT) project manager at Procter & Gamble. He said, “As an engineer, I find what works, I do it, and then I teach it to other people. It turns out humor works.”1 But how does it work?

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6 Reframing from Doubt to Confidence

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A lot of really good players I’ve been around believe they’re a lot better than they really are. They’re not constantly evaluating themselves critically. In a game like baseball, that every-day evaluation can be so detrimental. They’re smart enough to forget the negatives of the past and somehow only draw from the positive. As a result, these guys end up being better than their physical talent says they should be.1

—BILLY BEANE, executive vice president of baseball operations, Oakland A’s

Our reflexive thoughts and assumptions under pressure often lead us to feelings of fear, worry, and doubt. These reflexive thoughts and assumptions include, but aren’t limited to these:

We base our confidence on our most recent performance.

We assume we have to feel great to perform great.

We assume we are stuck in the present, pressure situation.

We fail to recognize our strengths and focus on our doubts.

The elite performers I interviewed boosted their confidence in unconventional ways. In this chapter, you’ll learn the methods these elite performers use to overcome their doubts and increase their confidence.

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2 Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There is one thing I know. Never ever in history has panic ever solved anything. It’s literally never happened.1

— STEVEN SODERBERGH, Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award winner for Best Director

Our brains are magnificent and powerful organs with ultra-fast processing speeds. A team of researchers using the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world—the K computer at the Riken research institute in Kobe, Japan—simulated one second of human brain activity. They did so by creating an artificial neural network of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. While this is impressive, the researchers were not able to simulate the brain’s activity in real time. In fact, it took 40 minutes with the combined muscle of 82,944 processors in the K computer to get just 1 second of biological brain processing time.2

In order to operate at this breakneck speed, your brain uses shortcuts. It reflexively assesses a situation and tries to make meaning. One such shortcut is our instinctual fight, flight, or freeze response in the face of a perceived threat. Consider a situation where you are being chased down the street by the neighborhood pit bull. Your brain signals danger. Your brain then floods your body with chemical impulses that tell your body to fight, flee, or freeze. All of this happens in an instant, without your conscious thought.

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A Index of Stories

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Introduction: Rick and Izzy

Rick and Izzy (Rick Peterson and Jason Isringhausen), p. 1

Chapter 1: Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

Reframing examples (Jack Cakebread, Colonel Lewis Burwell Puller, Ronald Reagan), p. 9

Chapter 2: Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

Reframing Cole’s hockey tryout (Judd, Sherry, and Cole Hoekstra), p. 28

Chapter 3: Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier

Take the grunt out. (Sandy Koufax), p. 43

The accidental world record (Katie Ledecky), p. 44

Try Easy applied to filmmaking (Steven Soderbergh), p. 45

Be extraordinary by being ordinary. (Rick Peterson and the 2001 Oakland A’s pitching staff), p. 49

I don’t need to be better than I already am. (Millionaires’ Magician Steve Cohen), p. 49

Chapter 4: Reframing from Tension to Laughter

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5 Reframing from Anxiety to Taking Control

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You are a professional glove hitter. Hit the glove!


There are many things about pressure situations which cause our anxiety levels to rise. The reasons include, but aren’t limited to, these:

We focus on goals or factors outside of our control.

We focus on outcomes rather than the process to achieve those outcomes.

We get overwhelmed by the perceived difficulty of the task.

We commit to doing too much.

Our expectations are too high because we use the wrong measuring stick.

We exaggerate the importance of the situation.

In this chapter, we share a number of antidotes to pressure that will lower your anxiety levels and put you back in control.

At the beginning of spring training every year, Rick asks his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most of the answers given center around outcomes like winning a certain number of games, or pitching a certain number of innings. Rick takes these answers as an opportunity to teach a lesson in goal setting. While many of us have been taught to set lofty, long-term-outcome goals, the type that show up on the back of a baseball card or a company financial statement, these goals are overrated in comparison to lesser-appreciated, short-term, bite-sized process goals.

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