Paul Sullivan

Performance Expert
New York Times Columnist
Author, Clutch

New insights into how top performers succeed under pressure.

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Biography

We’ve all heard the phrase "clutch hitter" — the player who seems always to get the crucial hit, or who sticks with the most trying tasks and always gets them done under the most trying circumstances — when victory or defeat hang in the balance.

Such individuals excel beyond most top achievers by relishing the pressure, welcoming the challenge, and never faltering...while others crumble.

Every organization wants clutch performers, and now, thanks to Paul Sullivan, finding them need no longer be left to chance.

Paul has studied and interviewed individuals who have achieved great things under great pressure — in financial crises, war, business, sports, the law, even the stage and he has discovered traits they exercise in their clutch performances include focus, discipline, adaptability, presence, and fear and desire.

Most importantly, he discovered that the secrets of peak performance in the clutch can be learned.

He has written a highly-acclaimed book that presents his findings along with the stories of the clutch performers themselves at their moment of most fierce challenges and greatest successes:

Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't

One of the Best Books of 2010 in the Human Mind category
strategy+business

"Mr. Sullivan has sallied forth with notepad and pen in hand to tell individual stories... [He] takes his examples from sports, business, the military and the stage.He explains right away that there are five traits that help people pull off a clutch performance: focus; discipline, adaptability, presence (i.e., actual involvement in the task at hand), and fear and desire."
The Wall Street Journal

"Clutch, by New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan, is a well-written examination of what makes a person perform despite stress. It's not luck, he emphasizes; it's "the ability to do what you can do normally under immense pressure."
TIME

"Is clutch performance just a fluke? Paul Sullivan, in this terrific book, says no. With the deft touch of a skilled storyteller, he brings us into the minds and souls of people who come through when the stakes are high. Clutch is the ultimate guide to understanding high achievement and to stepping up your own game."
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

"Everyone knows that it’s difficult to work under intense pressure, but what Paul Sullivan explains so well in this book is that there is a certain art to it that anyone can master. Clutch is an engaging and insightful read that will help you overcome even the toughest challenges."
— Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame Football coach

Paul Sullivan writes the Wealth Matters column for The New York Times. His articles have appeared in Condé Nast's Portfolio, Financial Times, The International Herald Tribune, Barron's, The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and Food & Wine.

He has been interviewed on numerous radio and televisions programs, including CNN, ESPN as well as NPR, WCBS, and Fox News.

Credentials

  • Columnist, The New York Times
  • Formerly, reporter, editor and columnist at the Financial Times
  • University of Chicago
  • Trinity College

Books

Clutch

Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Other Don't

Paul Sullivan

Is clutch performance innate-or can it be learned?

Sooner or later everyone encounters a situation in which the stakes are high and the outcome is crucial. And even top performers can crumble when faced with such extreme pressure. Consider the CEO who panics in a desperate attempt to shore up his company's earnings, the veteran politician who grows overconfident and loses to the upstart candidate, the quarterback who carries his team to the Super Bowl but falls apart in the final quarter. All of them choked. But then there are the performers who thrive under such conditions: the ER doctor racing the clock to save someone's life, the lieutenant who leads his platoon to victory after an ambush, the young attorney who refuses to be intimidated in court and wins the crucial case.

These people are clutch, and their ability to overcome extreme pressure consistently and beat the toughest odds fascinates us. How do they do it? According to Paul Sullivan, clutch performance does not stem from an innate ability. It's a learned skill: the art of operating in high-stress situations as if they were everyday conditions. Even some of the most experienced and talented performers lack this skill-but Sullivan shows that anyone can develop it. Drawing on new research and interviews with stars across a range of fields, Sullivan uncovers the shared traits that define clutch performers and explains how anyone can apply their strategies. He builds his case through many inspiring true stories, including those of

  • a skinny sergeant who saved his battalion in Iraq;
  • a rookie baseball player who pitched his team into its first World Series;
  • an eccentric psychiatrist who trained a group of financial traders to become the best in the world;
  • a lawyer who struggled in school but became one of the top litigators in America.

Full of powerful advice and real-world examples, Clutch will show you how to overcome extreme pressure to achieve greatness.

Portfolio Trade; Reprint edition (January 31, 2012)
Portfolio Hardcover (September 2, 2010)

Review

Business BooksTIME

Topics

Paul tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

How to excel under pressure

Videos

Clutch

Feedback

An independent financial services firm:
Dear Paul — Many thanks for your participation in the [...]. Kicking off the morning with “clutch” moments and sports analogies really resonated with the audience. And your energy really jump-started the day. The feedback has been extremely positive and we were absolutely thrilled. It was a pleasure and really good fun working with you. I will definitely keep you in mind for other events that I work on and hope to have the opportunity to work with you again soon.

Articles

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"Most people associate clutch performances with a triumphant sports moment: the home run that wins the game or the basket at the buzzer. But each of these contains an element of luck, and clutch is not luck. Being clutch is the precisely executed series of plays down the football field, not the Hail Mary pass. It is also something that goes far beyond the world of sport, to business, politics, war, any area where a person’s individual actions under pressure can mean the difference between success and failure. And while it has a mental component, it is not a mystical ability. Being clutch is the ability to do what you can do under normal conditions under extreme pressure..."

— The New York Times