Cracking Pressure: How to Build Resilience in Pressure Situations with Dane Jensen

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Table Of Contents

In this episode, Michael Gardon chats with Dane Jensen. Dane Jensen is the CEO of Third Factor, an instructor at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, and is affiliate faculty with the UNC Executive Development at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Third Factor, he works to help leaders be more effective, creative, and resilient under pressure. His work has spanned twenty-three countries on six continents. In addition to his corporate work, Dane works extensively with athletes, coaches, leaders, and boards across Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic sport system to enhance national competitiveness. Dane lives in Toronto.


  • Dane’s background
  • How Dane’s first job made him stand out
  • Third Factor: what they do, how they got started
  • What it takes to perform under pressure
  • Dane’s definition of resilience
  • Stress vs pressure
  • How to become pressure ambidextrous
  • Elements of pressure and how they can be helpful
  • How to prepare for dealing with pressure
  • Why pressure is the answer


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Michael Gardon (00:00):

Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of CareerCloud Radio. I'm your host Michael Gardon. I'm on a mission to help job seekers build thriving careers of their choosing. And to do that, I try to have interesting conversations with people that approach the idea of career a little bit differently. Today's guest is Dane Jensen. Dana is the CEO of Third factor. He's also an instructor at the Smith school of business at Queens University and is affiliate faculty with the UNC executive development at the Kenan Flagler business school in the university of North Carolina chapel hill. At Third factor, Dane works to help leaders become more effective, creative and resilient under pressure. His work has span 23 countries on six continents. And in addition to his corporate work, Dane works extensively with athletes, coaches, leaders, and boards across Canada's Olympic and Paralympic sport system to enhance national competitiveness. In this episode, we dive into what's going on when we encounter pressure, how to build a resilient approach to thriving in pressure situations and how pressure isn't the problem, t's the solution. I hope you enjoy this episode with Dane Jensen, Dane. Welcome to the podcast.

Dane Jensen (01:08):

I'm doing great, Mike, thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Michael Gardon (01:11):

Great. I'm super excited for this topic. We're here. We can have you here talking about pressure, resilience, how to perform. This is just like an absolute, amazing topic for me. So I'm super excited, but I also love backstory. So I need to start, I start off every interview with this question, and that is, tell me a little bit about your first job and you can take that however you would like if it's a, as a kid or college or whatever.

Dane Jensen (01:38):

Yeah, god, that's a great question because I feel like everybody has a story. When you ask them about your first job. I had odd jobs here and there as kind of a young teenager, but where I think I would start if I was asked about my first real job is in my summers during college. And, you know, I went through my undergrad for business and kind of the thing to do as an undergrad in business was to get progressively more prestigious internships kind of as you went through your four year undergrad. So that by the time you graduated, you kind of had this track record of, oh, this is somebody who's worked at, you know, a blue chip investment bank for two summers or a consulting house for a couple of summers. And, and that was kind of the sort of staircase to, to have in, if you will.

Dane Jensen (02:25):

The four year undergrad, I had a very different kind of view of what summers were for. I think as a 19 20 21, 22 year old, you know, I had grown up spending my summers going to an overnight summer camp since I was about nine years old. So I spent all four summers in undergrad with progressively more kind of senior staff roles at that camp working my way up, eventually the head of the sailing department, which was a team of about 10 or 12 folks, and then eventually becoming one of the directors in my fourth summer. And it was really interesting because it was a very non-traditional kind of resume to come out of a business degree with. But I think it actually stood me in pretty good stead because I had been in a position where I was managing reasonably large teams from the time I was kind of 20 or 21.

Dane Jensen (03:12):

The other thing you get when you're a camp counselor is we would take groups of 10 boys, you know, 11 year olds, 12 year olds into a park for five days. And this is pre-cell phone. This is pre you know, and as an 18 year old, a 19 year old to be fully responsible for 10, 11 year olds over a five day canoe trip with poor Taj's and paddling. And so I actually felt really good and quite well prepared coming out of those summers. And I think that, that, that, you know, we're here to talk about career. I am a big believer in taking full stock of your ability to kind of direct your career path in a way that's maybe a little bit different than the kind of accepted or traditional route that, that people kind of expect you to take. So definitely for me, that was a, you know, that's a job that I look back on fondly. My son's going to that camp this summer. So yeah, it was a pretty memorable one for my first job.

Michael Gardon (03:59):

That's great. I mean, you think about some of the underrated skills that you're developing there, right? Like operations, HR, and just managing people at a really young age. And I think like it's funny, you're dead on with the internship thing. Those again are just like underrated skills. And when you come into an interview and you've got all this experience actually managing people, like you kinda, you kind of set yourself apart. I think that's, that's fantastic.

Dane Jensen (04:27):

Yeah. And I think it's a bit of a hook to, you know, I do think about the Seth Godin thing where you really want a hundred raving fans instead of trying to appeal to a hundred thousand different people. And I would say the same thing about my second job, which was planting trees in the north, which is not a job that I actually fully endorse. It is really, really brutal from a physical labor standpoint. But I will tell you, you get into a job interview with somebody else who planted trees and they're like, oh, you plant trees up north. And it's like, yeah. They're like, man, that's a tough job. You don't hit those people all the time. But when you do, there's a real kinship there, which I think is helpful. For sure.

Michael Gardon (05:02):

And when you say up north, I mean, we're talking up north Canada, right?

Dane Jensen (05:06):

Yeah. So I'm, I'm basically, Toronto's not, you tell somebody from Canada, you're from Toronto, that's the south. Right. But I'm talking 14 hours north of Toronto, you know, I started May 5th, then it would go down to the low twenties overnight. You'd wake up in a tent with your boots, frozen your clothes, frozen your water bottle frozen. Yeah, it was, it was an interesting experience.

Michael Gardon (05:27):

Excellent. All right. So starting there and kind of fast forwarding to what you do now, you're CEO of Third Factor. Can you give our audience a little bit of idea of what you guys do today?

Dane Jensen (05:39):

Yeah, so, you know, third factor, we're kind of a, we're an interesting little business in that. We're kind of like a big cross-pollination hub. So we sit at the intersection of a bunch of different environments, principally the worlds of elite sport, academia, and business. And we try to figure out what we can learn from each other. So the business actually got started about 30 years ago by my parents. So it's the family business for me. You know, my father has a PhD in sports psychology. My mom's a clinical psychologist and they were really working on the mental side of sport. That's where the business got its start. There was this emerging discipline of sports psychology. It was kind of a bit of a dark art at the time, honestly. You'd tell people, Hey, I'm a sports psychologist to be like, okay, what do you know?

Dane Jensen (06:21):

You got shocked paddles back there. Is there like a fainting couch? Like what do you guys do in behind the curtain? And they were really working at the forefront of what does it take to help somebody mentally prepare to perform under the pressure of international competition and kind of the early nineties people in the business world started to get really interested in this. You know, they, Hey, this stuff that you're doing with athletes, this could be useful to anybody that has to perform under pressure. And that was kind of the way everything got started. And the way I talk about it now is we're just trying to figure out across the world of elite sport, particularly Olympic and Paralympic is where we really cut in academia. So I teach at UNC in chapel hill and then Queens university up here in Canada. And then the work that we do in the corporate side, there are certain things that are just kind of fundamentally true, whether the pressure comes from sport business, school, life, about what it takes to perform under pressure.

Dane Jensen (07:09):

And there are certain things that are just fundamentally true about what leadership means, regardless of whether you're a coach in sport, a manager in business. And so we're trying to figure out what those things are and then help people learn to get better at them. So we spend, most of our time in the business world spend about 90% of my time teaching leaders and individuals in business teaching at business school. But then we have these great R and D labs, you know, in the world of sport that really help us kind of understand what's going on at the edges of, of performance.

Michael Gardon (07:36):

Interesting. So there's, as I was researching, there's really two words that stick out to me from all of your work. So pressure is the first one. And you, you just kind of touched on it and you have a upcoming book, all about pressure coming out, August 31st, which we're going to dive into as well. But the second one is really resilience. And I want you to talk to me a little bit about resilience. I come from the finance world and I actually think about resilience. We actually have a saying here, not really mine, but resilience is brilliance because what I'm trying to do here is teach people essentially a risk mitigation strategy around resilience, right? So getting a side job, having multiple streams of income, those types of things help you be more resilient. How do you define resilience?

Dane Jensen (08:23):

Yeah, it's interesting. You know, resilience is one of these topics that has become a bit of a touchstone in so many different fields. Cities now have chief resilience officers because of hurricane Sandy and what we learned from these natural disasters about what it means to be a resilient city. To your point, you're talking about resilience in the, you know, the structural sense of like, okay, you know, what happens if one job goes away or the economy you don't do, I have multiple points of failure or redundancy. And I think that's one of the things that's kind of interesting about. You can talk about it at the individual level. You can talk about it at the team level, the system level, there are multiple levels talk about it at, I think we came and I come to the topic of resilience, principally through the lens of performance and health and both of those kind of over time under pressure.

Dane Jensen (09:12):

What does it mean to sustain? I tend to kind of define resilience at an individual level as some combination of three things. So the first is resilience is a set of stabilizer muscles. It's about when you get shoved off balance, can you get back to center? And I think this one is a pretty important one that resilience for me is not about how do I adopt such a stable posture? Like how do I stand with such a wide base that I just never get off balance? I don't think that's actually a particularly productive way to think about it. For me, resilience is like, I'm going to get knocked off balance. Do I have the stabilizer muscles to fire to get me back in balance? The second thing that I think of when I think of resilience is an ability to take the energy under pressure and use it to grow.

Dane Jensen (09:55):

There's a lot of heat and light around this whole notion of post-traumatic growth. And what does it mean to use failure as fuel for growth? And, and I think that's an important part of resilience. If you read books like antifragile, often people will differentiate. So, you know, and I seem to love will differentiate between resilience and antifragility, you know, I think it's a bit of a continuum. I think I would kind of characterize really resilient people as those that do actually bounce back stronger from the setbacks that they encounter. And then the third thing I think, and this really comes from our work in sport is I think there's an element to resilience, which is about under pressure. Can you get out what you're capable of? You know, when we're working on resilience and mental performance with athletes, really what we're looking for is can you peak at the right moment, does pressure help you perform or do you shrink in the face of pressure?

Dane Jensen (10:40):

And both of those are eminently possible. We see people choke all the time. We also see that there are more world records set at the Olympics than anywhere else. Why? Because there's pressure, right? Pressure can be hugely energizing if we channel it appropriately. So I do think that combination of, yeah, it's stabilizer muscles, you know, can I get back when I get knocked off balance? It's that ability to actually use pressure as fuel for growth, as opposed to letting it take me down the garden path to burn out or, or, you know, regret. And it's that ability to kind of peak, you know, under pressure to let that pressure power you a little bit. So, so three different kinds and listen, I think everybody has their own definition of resilience, but, but that's kind of how I tend to come at it.

Michael Gardon (11:22):

I like your point of view on the continuum. I'm a Nassim Taleb fan. Not everything you do can be anti-fragile to the one extreme, but this ability to, you know, there is a definitely an element of the bounce back factor, right. And coming back stronger. And then there's also an element of like, how much can you sort of foresee and plan for again, to your point, if you try to plan for everything, it's probably a unproductive use of time and resources, but there are certain things that you sort of can and can plan for. And that manifests itself in how resilient you are. Okay. So this other word that we've been throwing around is pressure. And I want to get a little bit of a definition around pressure as well, because as you and I were talking just before we went on, I can certainly feel, there are times when I have performed well, what I would call pressure and in times where I have not, and I, it's a really this conundrum of gosh, how do I react to these things differently? What are the environmental factors or the things going on that are causing me to sort of perform differently? So let's get a little definition around pressure.

Dane Jensen (12:30):

Okay. So this is a topic that is very near and dear to me having spent the past kind of four or five years really thinking about pressure. I want to start, you know, one of the questions I often get around pressure is, okay, is stress the same as pressure is pressure different from stress? You know, how do you kind of delineate between these two? I do think that delineating between stress, fear, pressure grief, when I ask people what's the most pressure you've ever been under, which was, you know, the foundational question for the book, that's where kind of pretty much all of the insights I got on pressure came from was just having people tell me their stories. I actually came to realize that, you know, what people classify as pressure is a pretty vast range of human experience. Some of which I would agree as pressure other stories I heard, I would say they were probably more on the lane of fear or stress.

Dane Jensen (13:19):

And so I kind of started to develop a little bit of a working definition as these stories kind of landed. And I started to sort them a little bit. So the first thing I would say is the difference between stress and pressure is really about influence it's about the ability to act and influence the situation. And the example I always use is a basketball game. You know, so my wife is a huge Toronto Raptors fan to the point where, you know, if it's a close game in the fourth quarter, she cannot watch it. She has to leave the room and get updates via text message from me because she finds it so stressful to watch the game that it becomes uncomfortable for her. So for me, that's stress, right? She is stressed. She is feeling stress in that moment. It's not pressure, right? Pressure is playing the game.

Dane Jensen (14:03):

Pressure is you are on the court and you have the ability to influence the outcome. And so I think we can feel stress in a wide variety of contexts, whether we can influence the outcome or not pressure requires this ability to act that I actually have to do something, you know, in order to influence the outcome of a situation. So, so that to me is kind of the first thing that delineates pressure a little bit from other situations when it comes to, okay, so what creates pressure then broadly speaking, we really only need two things as human beings to feel pressure. So as human beings, the first thing that has to be there for us to feel pressure is importance. I have to be doing something in which the outcome matters to me. My brain somehow have coded this as this is important because if I don't care about something, if it's meaningless to me, it's not going to create pressure.

Dane Jensen (14:51):

The second thing that has to be there is uncertainty, right? Because if something matters to me, but I know exactly how it's going to turn out, it's also not really going to create pressure. It's that combination of, Hey, the outcome of this is important to me and it's uncertain. That's where we start to experience pressure as human beings. And so for me, you know, there's a pretty general kind of working definition of pressure, which is the need to act in important uncertain situations. There's a real relationship between importance and uncertainty. So I talk about the pressure equation, a lot in the book, that's kind of the central framework for the book. And the first part of the pressure equation is importance times uncertainty. And that's because if there's a really low level of importance, I need a lot of uncertainty to create pressure. If there's a high level of importance, I only need a little uncertainty create pressure, right?

Dane Jensen (15:38):

If I buy a $5 lottery ticket, the 99.99% uncertainty does not create that much pressure. If I'm getting wheeled down the hospital corridor for an operation with a 95% survival rate, the 5% of uncertainty is going to create a lot of pressure. So there is that interplay between importance and uncertainty and then the final part of the equation is volume, right? So how much importance and uncertainty am I being asked to carry right now? Just what, you know, how big is the pile that I am carrying around right now? And that's really the multiplier on the equation. So it's, you know, importance times, uncertainty, times volume, and depending on whether we're talking about pressure in moments or pressure over the long haul, different elements can dominate importance, uncertainty volume. And I know we're going to get into that in a bit, but, but those are kind of the three things that load on to pressure now, from my perspective.

Michael Gardon (16:29):

Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I don't want to split hairs, but like for the player on the court, right. Who is feeling pressure and has an ability to affect the outcome, he or she could still describe their situation as stress, correct? Yes.

Dane Jensen (16:46):

Yeah. It's kind of like the rectangle square thing. Right. You know, where all the present rectangles, but yeah, I think that's exactly right.

Michael Gardon (16:53):

Okay, cool. So when we're talking about importance, uncertainty and volume, there's obviously there's sort of load there's time components, and then there's this individualized reaction to all of this. And as I kind of said before, obviously different people react to pressure differently and people react in different situations differently. What have you learned about maybe some of the differences, if we could pick apart a couple of these, what makes a person perform poorly under pressure?

Dane Jensen (17:27):

You know, it's interesting because one of the big things that I learned from the book research is that pressure, isn't one thing, it's two things. And what I mean by that is there's actually a really big difference, both in terms of how pressure manifests, but also in terms of how we need to respond to it. When we're talking about, you know, what I came to call pressure moments, versus when we're talking about pressure over the long haul, both can be pressure, but actually they're quite different in terms of, to your point, what has us perform well or poorly in those situations. And actually, I think when you look at people who are quote unquote, good under pressure, I think most of the time when we talk about somebody who's good under pressure, we tend to be thinking about people who are good in the peak pressure moments.

Dane Jensen (18:15):

Like who do you want taking the buzzer beater in game seven, a Navy seal who goes in and clears a room with enemy combatants. Like those are the moments that we think about people being good under pressure. You know, I guess I would argue that actually a lot of those people have very disorganized wives over the long haul and that actually that ability to effectively navigate pressure over the years and the months that ability is in and of itself, just as important, if not more so an ability from a pressure standpoint to nailing the peak pressure moments. And so I talk about this notion in the book of becoming pressure ambidextrous, which is this idea that being good at pressure, isn't about one skill. It's actually about two skills, you know, the peak pressure and the long haul. And I know we're going to get into the topic of career.

Dane Jensen (19:01):

I think there's nowhere that that's more relevant than in the top, you know, in, in the realm of career, a career is basically made up of, you know, performing at high levels through the long haul and then nailing one or two peak pressure moments where you get to elevate or, you know, take the next step up the ladder. And so I do think for people who are thinking about how do I build a career, you've got to get good at both of these things. You know, if you're going to kind of take, take the Arker or bend things the way that you want to. So when you talk about what goes wrong under pressure, it comes back to the fact that all three of these elements of pressure, importance, uncertainty, and volume, all of these are basically double agents. They can be tremendously helpful under pressure, and they can also really sabotage our performance under pressure.

Dane Jensen (19:47):

And so let's use importance as an example. So we all know thanks to Simon Sinek and bill George and many others that over the long haul, our ability to connect with importance, to get really in touch with the why behind something, this is a critical element to persevering under pressure over the longterm, right? Can I see why this matters to me? Do I have a good sense of either how this is helping me grow or help it, how it is contributing to others or how it's bringing me closer to people that, you know, the big kind of purpose-driven stuff importance in peak pressure moments can really sabotage performance. In fact, when I listened to people talk about choking 80% of the time it's because they just could not stop thinking about how important this was. And so in as much as we want to bring importance close over the long haul and really connect with why, what we're doing matters in peak pressure moments, it's actually all about keeping importance at bay and seeing things in perspective so that when I walk into that job interview, I'm not going like, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, this is so important.

Dane Jensen (20:48):

If I screw this up and finish, this is my dream job. Oh my God, you got to do this perfectly so much is riding on this. So it's kind of funny because depending on the time duration, actually the skill that you want to do and what can sabotage you is almost the direct opposite. And I saw this kind of duality or parallelism kind of play out in every aspect of the equation when I talk to people about these situations. So I kind of think about all three of them has kind of continuums with importance. It's like, okay, you know, am I trying to pull importance close and really connect? Or am I trying to keep importance and perspective with uncertainty? It's like, okay, am I acting too corral on certainty? Or do I need to back off and just accept that uncertainty is inevitable with volume it's okay.

Dane Jensen (21:31):

There are times when I need to really build the physical platform so I can handle volume. I need to make sure that I'm building enough, you know, a big enough container. And then there are other times where what I really need to do is just relentlessly eliminate volumes so that I can focus on a couple of things that really matter and where I want to be on those three continuum really depends on, okay, am I, am I optimizing for the long haul or for peak pressure here? So that's maybe a bigger answer that we could unpack, but that's kind of at a high level. That's, that's kinda what I did.

Michael Gardon (22:00):

Yeah. I can completely relate to what you were saying when you're important example. Right. I mean, I can think about like being in VC pitch meetings and just thinking like, oh my God, this is, you know, everything is riding on this. Isn't that really just when it comes down to it, from what we know about psychology neuroscience, like, isn't that just sort of like a mental trick that we play on, on ourselves, like sort of this neurotic thing where we build things up way higher than their reality and are the mechanisms to sort of tamp that down similar to what you might read in, in psychology and things like that. Yeah. I

Dane Jensen (22:41):

Mean, I think all of this is happening inside your head, right. You know and I think we, as human beings have a profound tendency to fixate and raise the stakes of our important situations and they get raised in a bunch of different ways. So first and foremost, there is just, if you're walking into a big sales pitch or a VC meeting, almost by definition, you are focusing most of your attention on what's at stake, right? That that's just a natural attentional anchor the size of the deal that you could win or lose the commission check that's at stake. You know, maybe this is an input to an early promotion, the degree to which your financing round is fully subscribed. Like all this stuff is going to be front and center. And because when we get activated under pressure, when our physiology starts to get activated, our attention starts to narrow, which is just a hard wired, physiological response.

Dane Jensen (23:34):

Like you can absorb less and less information. The more activated your body gets. All of a sudden we begin to lose sight of everything else in our life that is not at stake in this meeting. You know, our family, our health, the love of our friends, the rest of the business and our base comp and like all this stuff that actually is not impacted by the outcome of this, this conversation, to this meeting. And so one of the attentional cues that, that I've really come to believe in, and you is, you know, when you head into these situations yes. In the preparatory phase, you want to be focusing on what's at stake because that's what gets you to put in the work. This has to be important for you to put in the preparation work when you're standing outside the door of that job interview or that VC pitch or that sales presentation, you need to really flip your attention to, what's not at stake.

Dane Jensen (24:21):

Like what's waiting for me on the other side of this meeting, regardless of how it goes, because that's the attentional cue. That's going to get you back into more of a loose kind of state. And it's not that you're trying to like convince yourself that this doesn't matter. It's not important. Like I don't believe in trying to fool yourself. It's can I see all of what is true? Am I able to see that yes, this matters to me and you know what? There is 90% of my life that is not impacted by what's about to happen in the next 30 minutes. One of my more interesting stories on this, I sat down with with Johan Costes, who is a Norwegian long track speed skater, who in 1994, went into Lillehammer, the Olympic games in his home country, in Norway as the gold medal favorite in three events the 1500, the 5,000 and the 10,000 meters, the speed skate.

Dane Jensen (25:03):

And he talked about how now the pressure was so intense that he felt he could not handle it. And he ended up crying under a staircase in his hotel. And actually, I will, I'll say as somebody who's been around sport for awhile, I think going into an Olympics in your home country as the gold medal favorite in an individual sport, like carrying the, it actually is I think the most pressure that you can experience in sport like the entire country is fixated on you and you alone, any talked about what really snapped him out of. It was he had popped himself up to a point where he was feeling that if he failed at the Olympics, he would become a failure for the rest of his life. Like that was basically the frame that he had kind of worked himself up to. And it was the fact that his sports psychologist was able to sit with him and talk to him about the rest of his life and say, okay, what do you want to do after sport?

Dane Jensen (25:53):

And he said, well, I want to be a doctor. And she said, okay, well is losing at the Olympics is going to make you a worse star. And he said, well, all right, maybe not actually, you know, it actually might make me a better doctor because I could relate, you know, to people that were going through tough times and were dealing with adversity. And she said, okay, well, what else has create, well, you said, well, the Norwegian people are counting on me. And she said, Johann, there's four Norwegian speed skaters that are going to win a medal. Do you think the Norwegian people care whether you, or some other Norwegian wins? And he said, well, okay. Maybe they probably don't really care whether it's me or it's somebody else. Right. And, you know, as long as it's a Norwegian. And so they basically just kind of disassembled brick by brick, all of what wasn't at stake here.

Dane Jensen (26:31):

Yes. The Olympics are important to you, but you don't have to load all this other stuff on let's broaden the aperture so we can see, yes, this is important. And there is all of this other stuff that is not at stake at here. And so much of that, you know, to your point on psychology tends to be ego-driven. I had one CEO talk about it as, you know, psychic validation. This was a guy who took over the CEO role at a consulting firm for months before layman declared bankruptcy. And, you know, the economy fell apart in 2008. And he said, I finally realized that what was actually creating the pressure for me was I had craved the psychic validation of being a successful CEO. And I had to come to terms with the fact that actually that didn't really matter, and this wasn't my fault and I couldn't control it. Right. It was just the context. So yeah, I think so much of it is our ability when we are under pressure to not get fixated on what's at stake here, but to be able to disassemble all this manufactured importance and see things in perspective, you know, as we're going into some of these high pressure situations.

Michael Gardon (27:32):

Yeah. I mean, I can relate. So again, I'm just, I'm thinking of examples from my own life when you're dying, you're talking. Right. And like, I mean, one of the greatest experiences of my life was training and preparing for an iron man race. I mean, I just connected so much with what you said around in the preparation phase. Right? Like being zeroed in on what you're doing and all of that. But like, I think it was such a peak state for me because I followed this process of prepare, prepare, prepare, but then sort of let go of the outcome. Like I have three different sort of tiered goals. And, you know, I said like, if the conditions are perfect, I want to hit this time. Otherwise, like, I just want to enjoy this day. Like I've prepared for, you know, a year. I just wanna enjoy this day.

Michael Gardon (28:16):

And so I really let go of the importance of the moment. Yep. And so I've been doing some work with my, I have a performance coach that I work with and we've been unpacking all of this and trying to apply that formula essentially to the next thing. Cause I think it's the context for me. It's, it's like this barrier of sport, I can nail it in sport. And then when you transition into a business role or a sales meeting or something like that, it's like all of that whole formula kind of goes out the window. So I'm super excited that you've kind of put a formula to paper that I can now sort of refer back to, to help me as I go. So I just wanted to say that because like I was just thinking about that moment and being able to deconstruct the importance of it, you know,

Dane Jensen (29:01):

Certainly in the research for the book, I interviewed a lot of people who nailed their pressure moments and people who did not, you know, and so some of these stories are triumphs and some of them are, you know, lessons learned. And I think when you talk to the people who nailed their peak pressure mum, that's what you hear over and over again. I knew exactly why this mattered to me and that got me to put in the work. And then when I got to the moment itself, I was able to trust my preparation and let go. Like I wasn't all in my head around, oh my God, this is so important. And that, you know, like what if I fail? And it's like, I got to a point where I was able to say, okay, I need to just be able to let go and perform. And I think that's so vital.

Michael Gardon (29:37):

Sorry. I, I felt like I had done enough, you know, like I could say, like I had prepared, you know, that it was going to do as good as good as I could do. And so it went well. And, and I think about that moment all the time and I, and I bring that up and now we're in that sort of process of all right, like replicating that whole thing when we're, if we're doing going after a project or whatever. So we've been talking a lot about these peak moments and you gave the example, the sports psychologist really helped. I'm fortunate. I have a coach if somebody is like preparing for an interview, right. Or they're, they're trying to like level up their career, make a big move. And there's a peak pressure moment that they're coming up on. How does somebody go about preparing? Like, I really do believe that you almost need that external perspective because you, you like, to your point, you were talking about, you get so narrowly focused that you can't see the forest for the trees. So I'm a huge proponent of having that external vision on your situation. How does somebody enact that? Or what else can they do to sort of be prepared and then remember to smile and sort of let go of the outcome.

Dane Jensen (30:47):

So, you know, I think you've touched on preparation and I mean, I think that's, it's not a secret, but that is the secret. And when I say preparation, I mean, prepare for pressure in the same way you prepare your responses to the interview questions that you think you're going to be asked. You know, I think a lot of the time we'd go in with a game plan on the tactical side, but we don't go in with a game plan on the mental side of how am I going to manage this. If I get thrown in the first five minutes or, you know, I get a hard question or the interviewer seems antagonistic, or I have to wait for 15 minutes in the waiting room and I wasn't expecting it. And you know, my palms start to sweat and, you know, the preparation piece is vital for my perspective, Mike and I, a couple of things that I think are really important.

Dane Jensen (31:32):

First, you have to get yourself in the head space of what is it gonna feel like for me in that moment? And what I mean by that is I think one misconception people sometimes have of people who are really good under pressure is that they don't feel the pressure. And that's just not true. Being highly activated is an uncomfortable state. The most elite performers, their muscles are tense. There are butterflies in their stomach that, you know, I talked to multiple Olympians who said in the 30 seconds, when I'm in the waiting room, before I go out, all I'm thinking about is can I get outta here? Like why do I do this? Why do I put myself, you know, these are things that happen to elite performers and normal folks alike. And I think you've got to get that dial the in advance to go, okay, when I walk into this situation, this is a situation that really matters to me.

Dane Jensen (32:18):

The outcome is quite uncertain. There's going to be activation. So what does that going to feel like? Well, you know, knowing me, my hands are probably going to get sweaty. I can imagine my heart's probably going to be racing. My breathing might be a little bit shallow for me. Sometimes my ears actually start to pop, which is a bit of a unique one for me. And I want to really imagine what that going to feel like before I get into the situation. And the reason I want to do that is because if I'm thrown by that, all of a sudden I start to go, oh my God, I'm choking. When in reality, this is just a natural by-product of being put under pressure. And so if I can instead anticipated and get into a situation and go, okay, there's the palms. Yep. There's my heart rate.

Dane Jensen (33:00):

Speeding up. Yep. Okay. My ears are starting to pop, right? This is what I expected was going to happen. Now, this is just a natural part of the process that unfolds in your body when you get put under pressure. And so I think that is one part of it for me is make sure you are honest with yourself and pre playing. What's it going to feel like when the pressure hits so you don't get thrown by it? The second thing I would say, and this is just core mental performance sports psych stuff is you need to have really clear understanding of what are the process cues that you're going to use to redirect your attention away from the outcome and towards the things that you can control and, you know, focus on process instead of outcome is just at the heart of how do we make sure that we don't get overwhelmed by importance?

Dane Jensen (33:44):

How do we take control over uncertainty? All of that stuff is rooted in. Have I identified in advance? What are the two or three things? When I feel those feelings that I anticipated, I was going to feel, what am I going to redirect my attention to in order to act? And that could be my breathing. That could be, I've got a great joke that I've got relocated. You know, that's going to break the ice. It could be that I have a script for my first 45 seconds that I have memorized to the ends of the earth and back so that I know I can say that on demand. And that's when my nerves are going to start to come down, but you need two or three things in your arsenal that you go, okay, these are things that are within my control that I can redirect my attention to when the pressure starts to hit. And so I think if I was going to recommend even two things to folks, that would be it like scenario perform in your head, what it's going to feel like when the pressure hits and then make sure that you've got two or three things that you can take control over at that moment that sort of redirects you back inside your body and out of the bigness of the situation or kind of the outcome.

Michael Gardon (34:45):

So at like a real tactical level, you can answer this from things that work for yourself, or maybe predominant things that you see across sport, but like, what are those things that people are doing? So is it visualization? I'm visualizing every day, this scenario is it box breathing? Is it filling your fingertips, that type of thing. So

Dane Jensen (35:08):

At a very tactical level, I would say breathing is absolutely one that I recommend that literally everybody, you know, it's very hard when your brain gets in a battle with your body, it's very hard for your brain to win. And I mean, the brain is part of the body. So I don't want to create this fake duality, but if your brain is going like calm down, calm down, and your heart is racing at 140 beats a minute. And your breath is up at 20 breaths per minute. Like that's sending a very clear message to your brain that like, I'm not calm, I'm not calm. And so at some level you just have to get your physiology under control and whether it's box breathing, I'm a big believer in a breathing technique known as centering which comes from my t-to, which is really, you try to make your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation.

Dane Jensen (35:46):

So into four, out to eight, and on the exhalation, you focus on relaxing your shoulders as much as possible, but absent that, just the simple act of moving your breath down into your diaphragm and trying to slow it down as much as possible is a very quick way to get activation under control. So certainly breathing. If you carry your pressure, your stress or pressure physically is a wonderful way to get started. Then there is just a straight routine, right? That there is a reason why Nadal and Federer, and Djokovich all have a very consistent routine before they serve the ball because it gives them an attentional anchor that is within their control. And so I do think having a routine that you practice that acts as a point of centering, you know, so at the start of every single job interview, here's, what's going to happen.

Dane Jensen (36:30):

I'm going to put my bag down on the left-hand side of my chair. I'm going to take my notebook out, put it on the desk. I'm going to open it to the second page. I'm going to pull my pen out, write the date and time at the top of the page, take two deep breaths. And then look the interviewer in the eyes like having something like that, that is really concrete that you can orient to. It can be quite helpful. And if you're going into group interviews, one thing that I picked up from Brian Orser, who's a, you know, a two time Olympic medalist in figure skating. And one of the most successful coaches in the world, one of the things that's unique about figure skating as a sport, as you warm up in a flight of six athletes and in the order in which you skate is drawn randomly.

Dane Jensen (37:04):

So you could literally just stay on the ice and skate right away. Or you could have to go off the ice for up to 30 minutes and then come back out and skate. And you don't know that until literally the moment that you're warming up. And so he talked about how he had a skating first routine of skating, second routine of skating, third routine of skating. And so regardless of what got drawn, he wasn't thrown by the uncertainty, right. It was like, okay, we're in lane four, I've got the routine for lane four. So yeah, I'm a big believer that, you know, that stuff can really, can really help when you're getting into these situations. The other thing that I learned from Orser that I use personally, is if you are doing something that you've done before he has this great question, which is, you know, what's my average, what can I count on?

Dane Jensen (37:46):

And I have found that really helpful as I've kind of built my speaking career. And if you're successful in building a speaking career, you progressively speak to larger and larger audiences. Right. And you know, so you're lying in bed at night and it's the first time you spoke to 500 people coming up at 7:00 AM and then you're lying in bed six months later. And it's the first time you've spoken to 1500 people. And then, you know, as that has kind of progressed in my career, I have found that question to be one of the most reliable ones for me is like, okay, what's my average. Have you ever really screwed one of these things up? And it's like, nah. So my average is on average, I'm going to go out there and do a really good job. Right. I actually don't have to do something that is unbelievable for me. Some kind of like, you know, out of the ordinary, out of body experience, if I can just hit my average, that's actually really good. Right? The average is pretty strong. And so again, each person's are going to be unique, but I do think those little attentional cues can be quite helpful,

Michael Gardon (38:40):

Right? So the subtitle of your book is why pressure, isn't the problem? It's the solution. We've been talking a lot about these high pressure moments and not how to avoid the pressure, but how do sort of avoid the negative stress affects of the pressure? Talk to me a little bit about why pressure is the answer.

Dane Jensen (39:02):

Okay. Yeah. So let's start with, you know, the subtitle is deliberately a little provocative, right? Because, you know, as we've just talked about, pressure can be a problem. I think you'd have to be blind to kind of say, you know, pressure is just the solution. But what I think is really important is we have to remember that it's actually the energy under pressure that gives us the capacity to handle our highest pressure moments. And so when I say that pressure is the solution, what I mean by that is pressure is energy. And there's a reason that that energy presents itself at the moment that we need it most, right. When we are heading into that big presentation or the big interview or the, you know, whatever it might be. So when I look at what is pressure, the solution to well pressure is the fuel that tends to power, the biggest periods in our life, the biggest moments in our life, right?

Dane Jensen (39:53):

I said earlier, where do more world records get set than anywhere the Olympic games? Why? Because there's pressure. You know, when we look at the race to develop a COVID vaccine, what was that fueled by fuel by pressure and the people that were doing this were fueled by why are they working 18 hour days, 19 hour days, because there's tremendous pressure there, right? When I gave birth to my first kid, Derma God, thank God I didn't give birth to my, and my wife gave birth to a, all three of our wonderful children. And that's a very different form of pressure, which blows my mind every time I think about it. But you know, the first 90 days of your child's life, what is it that allows you to persevere through six weeks of sleepless nights and abject terror that you're screwing everything up. It's like, it's the pressure that you're like, okay, that's where the energy comes from.

Dane Jensen (40:35):

When I talk to people about their highest pressure moments and periods, frankly, over eight months or 10 months, I think most people would say, I don't want to really repeat that. It's not like I got to a place where I loved it. And I, you know, I think we would aspire to like thrive on pressure and feel it as like, you know, this often it's quite uncomfortable and it's the energy under the pressure that allowed them to take it to the next level that allowed them to access a more empathetic and resilient version of themselves in the first 90 days of their kid's life that allowed them to nail that big sales presentation that unlocked the, you know, so pressure in many ways, from my perspective is the solution to human growth and development. It is the fuel for human growth and development. It is the inevitable byproduct of pursuing things that we haven't done before.

Dane Jensen (41:21):

And so, yeah, when I talk about it as the solution, that that's really what I mean, if we think of pressure solely as the problem, I think we tend to build a life that insulates us from all the moments that can actually define our lives. You know, when I listened to the stories I heard for the book, every one of them was about a defining moment in someone's life. And all of those defining moments were fueled by pressure were accompanied by pressure. So yeah, I do think it's an essential input into human growth and development.

Michael Gardon (41:47):

So how do you develop a, I guess, productive relationship with pressure over the longterm? Because if it's the solution, I'm assuming that we need some downtime. We can't be running hot all the time, right?

Dane Jensen (42:03):

Yeah, yeah. You're absolutely right. And so recovery is huge and, and believe me by no means, am I saying the solution is to just be under pressure 24 7 365. So even when I'm talking about the long haul, when people told me stories that I would consider the long haul, they were often telling stories about the six months leading up to a really big conference or the two years leading up to an Olympic performance or, you know, the eight months where they were caring for a sick parent while holding down a really tough job. So I'm not so much talking about the long haul of 80 years of pressure. It's more these kinds of periods in our life where we're just carrying, you know, a particularly big pile. Absolutely. We need the downtime between periods of pressure. If you want to get physically strong, the muscle repairs itself in recovery, right.

Dane Jensen (42:52):

Sleep is just as important as the workout. So a hundred percent over time, we need those moments of recovery. We need periods of low pressure. You know, I think where we tend to thrive as human beings is in a little bit of a Goldilocks zone, right, where we're somewhere between Russ doubt and burnout. You know, we don't want to go through life like elevator music where it's just, you know, inoculated and insulated from pressure. We also don't want to go through life red lining at 9,000 RPM all the time. And I think like where I have landed after not just writing the book, but actually talking about the book for the past few months, I really think if, if I were to sum up the three things of importance, uncertainty and volume, they are all sort of tensions. You know, when it comes to importance, the tension is I have to really believe that what I do is important while at the same time, not being overwhelmed by what's at stake.

Dane Jensen (43:40):

Like I've got to hit that middle ground of seeing how, what I do matters without being overwhelmed and importance is the same, right? I've gotta be really good at taking action to tame the uncertainty that I can well embracing the fact that there is uncertainty that I cannot tame and being at peace with that. And at volume, you know, I do have to build the capacity to handle volume. And at the same time, I've got to be ruthless at eliminating unproductive volume. And so I think life is found or, you know, a successful life under pressure is found in that ability to productively manage those tensions and carve out space in the middle, you know, where things are imbalanced

Michael Gardon (44:16):

Over the long-term. Is there a correlation between, I guess, internal and external pressure, I'm imagining a lot of our peak moments are sort of externally driven pressure that we've built up in our heads over the there's a lot more that we can sort of control in terms of what we focus on and all of that. And did you find kind of a correlation or look at that from an internal, external standpoint?

Dane Jensen (44:41):

Yeah. It's an interesting question. I haven't thought about it as internal external. Yeah. I mean, I do think, you know, the long halls tend to be more volume driven, so it's less about some highly important, highly uncertain thing. That's creating pressure for me. And it's more that I've accumulated a high volume of stuff that is, you know, taken together, creating significant pressure for a prolonged period of time. And so in that way, I think it is a little bit more externally driven because it's more rooted in like how many balls in my juggling at any one moment in time than one particularly important and uncertain thing. It's interesting though, because you know, when it comes to uncertainty, for example, you know, one of the big patterns for me is in peak pressure, direct action is, is the answer, right? Like under peak pressure, it's eliminate any uncertainty that you can, right.

Dane Jensen (45:34):

Have your routine over the long haul. It's about recognizing that you can't tame uncertainty. And if you try to tame all the uncertainty over the long haul, you're going to burn out. Like you have to come to a place where you are at peace with the fact that life is inherently uncertain. And I don't know how the present is going to look from the future, you know? Yes, I feel bad, but is this really a tragedy? I don't know. Yes. I feel good. But is this really a triumph? You know, I'll tell you in 10 years, every moment is kind of suspended in, in perfect uncertainty. So it's interesting. I think you're right. That it's the context that creates pressure over the long haul, like the external context. And I think over the long haul, more so than in peak pressure moments, it is that ability to be a little bit elastic in how I'm relating to things, you know, to be able to go with the flow a little bit, versus in peak pressure, there is more of a drive to control a little bit. So I don't know if that perfectly answers the question, but yeah, I think it's an interesting thought.

Michael Gardon (46:32):

It at least gives you something to think about. Yeah, exactly. Dan, this has been amazing guys. The book is power pressure. Why pressure? Isn't the problem? It's the solution it's available August 31st. Is that correct? August 31st,

Dane Jensen (46:46):

But you can, pre-order it. Wherever books are sold right now. And then yeah, if you want to grab a physical copy on the shelf, it's August 31st.

Michael Gardon (46:53):

Excellent. I'm going to definitely be ordering mine today. I can't wait to read it. I've got three kids also. So my reading time has gone down a little bit, but I still get to sneak off and do it sometimes. So Danny, thank you so much for being here. Can you tell our folks where they can find you where they can connect with you?

Dane Jensen (47:10):

Yeah, absolutely. So I'm on LinkedIn, obviously at Dane Jensen. I'm also on Twitter @danejensen and always happy to get emails as well. So

Michael Gardon (47:22):

All right, Dan, thanks so much for joining us. It's been a pleasure.

Dane Jensen (47:25):

Thanks so much, Mike. Really appreciate it.

Outro (47:27):

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