• John Panepinto

How To Perform Under Pressure Like The Top 1% - The Secret to Rising To The Occasion

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

michael jordan and kobe bryant clutch

As you progress towards your goals, you will come across many ‘critical moments’ of high pressure.

These moments will require you to perform to the best of your ability (to ‘rise to the occasion’) in the face of tremendous tension, fear, and stress.

These ‘big moments’ have the potential to be major turning points, and breakthroughs for you and your mission – so long as you are able to execute.

Where most people succumb to these feelings of anxiety, letting it ‘shrink’ their abilities – you must learn to reverse this instinct, and learn how to thrive in these moments.

It is moments like these where you must know how to ‘rise and conquer’ above those anxious feelings, and ultimately perform to your greatest potential.

No matter how much you practise, train, and refine your craft – these moments can still have you perform below your true ability, if not handled correctly.

Today I am going to teach you how to develop that ‘cold-blooded’ instinct of a high-performer in these ‘big moments’, and how, you too, can rise to the occasion in high pressure situations.

Big Moments - The Two Types of Reactions You Can Have:

Whether it’s a big game, big presentation, or big performance of any kind – pressures will be high.

There is truly no way of getting rid of those butterflies (feelings of fear) - so you must learn to accept and embrace them; have those butterflies fly in formation for you. Start to practise getting excited when you feel that fear.

Note: Putting in the work through practise, preparation, and building your skill-set is a hard requirement – so this is assumed for the sake of this article. If you aren’t putting in the work and preparing your abilities, then you have bigger problems. You’re leaving your results up to fate – which isn’t a good strategy. So for the sake of this article – I am assuming you are putting in the work and preparing correctly.

People react to the pressure of ‘big moments’ in two ways:

(1) By Shrinking & Folding

You might be a killer in practise. You swim faster, you hit harder, you speak better, you shoot the ball or puck better, and you’re confident in your ability – but when the ‘big moment’ comes, you shrink and fold under the pressure.

Your confidence turns to self-doubt, your optimism becomes pessimism, and your ability shrinks far below your true potential and what you are capable of.

The performance – below average, and below expectations

The outcome – below average, and below expectations

Key Characteristics:

  • Self-doubt in ability and preparation

  • They trust in others more than they trust in themselves

  • Pessimistic

  • Rigid (needing things to be perfect, and fearing ambiguity)

(2) By Rising To The Occasion & Conquering

When that big moment arises – you thrive and blossom to the highest of your abilities. No matter how much tension, fear, or anxiety you were feeling before hand – you understand that there is a mission to be accomplished, and so you set out to accomplish it, no matter what is thrown at you.

You’ve prepared relentlessly, you’re adaptable, motivated, and most of all – you have an unwavering confidence and trust in your own ability and the preparation you’ve put in.

Think – Michael Jordan with 5.2 seconds left on the clock, hitting the game winning shot against Utah, to secure another championship. With Utahs best defender on him, and all obstacles thrown at him – he rose to the occasion and executed.

Think – LeBron James dragging the heavily injured Cleveland Cavaliers roster (with their second and third best players; Kevin Love & Kyrie Irving, out and injured for the rest of the playoffs) to the NBA finals.

With all the pressure on LBJ, he put the team on his back and literally dragged that team to the playoffs – averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, and nearly 9 assists per game. No excuses. No shrinking.

These are the high-performers that actually rise and conquer in big moments. They perform even better in these moments, then they do in practise – using the additional energy of fear/excitement to their advantage.

They practise hard, and perform even better.

Their performance – above average

Their outcome – above average

Key Characteristics:

  • Supreme confidence in ability and preparation

  • They trust in themselves more than they trust in others (‘give me the ball’ mentality)

  • Optimistic

  • Adaptable (flexible enough to ‘change with the change’, achieving the outcome regardless)

*REMEMBER* - People in both categories feel fear, anxiety, and tension before these big moments – they just react and handle them differently!

What Separates Those Who Shrink/Fold from Those Who Rise/Conquer:

cus d'amato hero and coward

So what separates the ‘rise & conquerors’ like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, from those who ‘shrink & fold’ in big moments?

Well - there are three factors that will determine whether you rise & conquer, or whether you shrink & fold:

1. Belief Systems:

When you’re nerves are at all-time highs, your true belief system will shine through. If you didn’t prepare as well as you should have, or missed certain aspects, this is when that self-doubt creeps up on you.

This is the importance of having a strong fundamental belief in your own ability and the preparation you’ve put in. Cover your bases and cultivate that strong belief in yourself.

Belief systems are actually shaped before the big moment, in your preparation. This is why you should never take short-cuts in your preparation/practise.

Belief Systems of Rise & Conquerors:

- Have supreme confidence in their ability

- Trust themselves more than they trust others

- Desire the big moment

Belief Systems of Shrink & Folders:

- Have self-doubt in their ability

- Trust others more than they trust themselves

- Shy away from the big moment

Where the ’rise & conquerors’ differ from the ‘shrink & folders’ here is through their mindset and how they manage self-doubt. The rise & conquerors do everything in their power to minimize that self-doubt and maximize confidence, while the shrink & folders let that self-doubt seep in.

Your belief systems put a ceiling on your true potential.

The more you believe in yourself and are confident in yourself, the higher that ceiling becomes!

That’s why Conor McGregor desires these big moments so much, it’s because his belief systems and confidence in his ability is so high that he is able to rise to the occasion and standard he sets for himself.

Even people who don’t practise or work on their craft as much as you, might perform better than you in ‘big moments’ simply because they know how to handle the pressure and because they believe in their ability to ‘rise to the occasion’ – so they do!

This is the mental aspect – it plays a far bigger role than you think!

2. Preparation/Practise Routine:

If your beliefs are the ‘ceiling’ to your potential, then your preparation/practise is the ‘floor’. You want to elevate your floor as high as you can.

The stronger your work ethic and preparation, the more confidence and trust you will have in your own ability. When those nerves hit, your preparation and practise routine will be the instincts that you rely on – so build them strong.

The second factor that separates ’rise & conquerors’ from the ‘shrink & folders’ is the environment and routine in which you prepare/practise.

The rise & conquerors do a great job of replicating ‘the big moment’ as much as possible during practise.

Kobe Bryant would practise and prepare in the same type of arena he would play in, relentlessly. Mimicking the pressures of fans, distractions, noises, and the ability to zone things out in the moment.

Conor McGregor would practise and prepare in the same type of UFC ring he would fight in, for a 5 round, 5 minute/round bout – so that when the time comes, he’s done it thousands of times before.

It is this type of practise/preparation routine that makes the ‘big moment’ just another moment – when you’ve practiced, prepared, and executed in it plenty of times in practise.

When the rise & conquerors come into these ‘big moments’ it is nothing new to them – they’ve seen it and conquered it plenty of times before in practise. They can rely on instincts.

The Shrink & Folders often don’t practise in these circumstances as much as they should – so when the ‘big moment’ comes to them, they are often paralyzed by it. They lose their instincts, and quite literally psyche themselves out of it.

Your preparation/practise regimen will enable you to rely on those instincts, and zone out all excess thoughts and emotions.

3. Pre & During The Moment Concentration

Rituals and routines to prepare your mindset before a ‘big moment’ are a true game-changer.

When nerves, anxiety, and stress is high – you must be able to ground yourself and narrow your concentration.

The ‘Rise & Conquerors’ will always have some type of pre ‘big moment’ ritual or routine to mentally prepare themselves.

Whether it be breathing exercises for Tony Robbins before a big speech, or listening to music and zoning out all external distractions before a big game for athletes – these routines will get your mind right.

The ‘Shrink & Folders’ will often neglect having a pre ‘big moment’ routine, and will instead leave their mindset up to their circumstances. Very dangerous, and it is quite literally leaving your performance and outcome up to fate.

There are three goals to every pre ‘big moment’ routine – (1) ground yourself, (2) become excited (confident) rather than fearful (self-doubt), and (3) remind yourself of the task at hand.

Whether it be breathing exercises, meditation, music, or really any other means – this is a must!

It will re-enforce your belief system before the moment, and make you present during the moment.

The Bottom Line:

lebron james clutch

Dealing with fear, anxiety, and enormous pressure before big moments is a true challenge – but with the right strategy (as I have outlined in this article), you can become someone who rises & conquers in these high-pressure, high stakes moments.

I want you to be cool, calm, collected, and have supreme confidence in your ability before and during these big moments. This will put you in the best position to crush it.

After-all, a great performance during these critical times, may just change your life and advance you further along your mission!

As always, hope that you guys enjoyed this article and got value from it – I’ll see you next time!

My Challenge To You:

So now that we know how the ‘rise & conquerors’ differ from the ‘shrink & folders’ in big moments – I want to leave you guys with a few easily digestible tips and actionable steps you can take to become someone who ‘rises & conquers’ in big moments!

1. Belief systems:

- Put in the work! Practise, improve, and work on your craft consistently

- Use positive affirmations (‘I am ...”)

- Have an encouraging environment (mentors, colleagues who encourage/support you)

2. Practise/Preparation:

- Mimic the real ‘big moment’ as much as you can.

- Practise relentlessly – put the reps in

3. Pre-moment Routine:

- Focus on your breath to become present (take 6 deep, full breathes)

- Remind yourself of three reasons to be excited for this upcoming moment

- Remind yourself of three reasons you will succeed in this upcoming moment

- Re-focus your attention on the task at hand / desired outcome