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Sally Jenkins: The Right Call


Sally Jenkins

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Kelly speaks with legendary Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins about her new book "The Right Call: What Sports Teach us About the Art of Decision Making."

This book came out of your own battles around dealing with pressure in your job, right?

“You know, pressure has actual physical properties, among other things it acts on your body in a way that your body can kind of betray you. And so I just really started taking notes on that, you know, because I wanted to get better at my own job, partly. I wanted to rise to the moment the way an athlete does, and I thought, well, is there anything in what they're doing? Should I do that?”

But there are differences between how a businessperson makes a decision that is different than how an athlete does.

"So, there are aspects of this that really it doesn't matter what you do. Pressure is the most common experience in the world. And another really common experience is failure. Two things that athletes and coaches can really teach us a lot about are pressure and failure. They teach us how to deal with them. You know, most people who have to make decisions, who have to perform under pressure, do it behind closed doors. We don't get to investigate how Bob Iger makes decisions for Disney, or how Bob Iger behaves when he's under pressure, trying to decide whether to do a deal. Athletes and coaches perform right in front of us in real time.”

These decisions that athletes make are often fast and ever changing.

“Those are micro decisions: when to take the shot, how to take the shot, when to let it go? Do I go to my left? Do I go to my right? It happens in this very split-second momentary way. But, they are micro decisions. There's a lot of method and practice that goes into making the right action in the moment for a great athlete. It's not a fortunate burst of inspiration. It's married to method, right? And it's not intuition. It's a deep form of intelligence, and they work and work and work on it. They work on the messaging system between their brain and their body and from their body back to their brain to make that more efficient. That's a lot of what athletes do is they work on the mail system between the brain and the body. And I investigate that in the book.”

Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno

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