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Plan for Your Best Performace but Prepare for the Worst-Have an Adversity Plan

Plan for Your Best Performace but Prepare for the Worst-Have an Adversity Plan
September 11, 2010 Ignacio Fiallos

Rudy Giuliani is known as America’s Mayor. He gained fame as the mayor of New York City during the horrific shock of 9-11. When this terrible situation happened, Rudy Giuliani looked like a man who could handle the pressure: He did not panic.

Why? Was it his personality? Was it his upbringing?

Giuliani followed the lead from another great politician, George Washington, who said, “If we are wise, let us prepare for the worst”. Giuliani has said that NY city has a crisis every month. As such, he and his staff created procedures for responding to every difficulty that they could image for their city. According to Giuliani, he had a procedure to deal with weather catastrophes as well as biological war fare-he had a plan for everything-or so he thought-until 9-11. Giuliani and his staff had never foreseen a plane hitting a building (or worse, to be used as a missile to destroy the Trade Center).

However, according to Giuliani, he was ready for the worst because he had all those other crisis plans in place. While none were the exact plan, they allowed Rudy and his staff to translate those actions into effective responding for a horrific and unforeseen crisis. As a result of his preparation, Rudy Giuliani took on a fame as a leader that still shines today.

While nothing in sport could compare to the horrific tragedy that happened that day, athletes must deal with their own personal adversities and crises that can occur during a competition. The most successful ones are ready for anything that may happen because they have prepared for adversity. Al Orter became the greatest shot-putters of all time because he prepared for failure.

While Al Orter had arms of steel and a body built for power, he benefited greatly from his mental preparation.  Al Orter knew champions had to overcome continual adversity. Therefore, he would be ready to perform under adverse conditions. Orter would imagine the day of the Olympic finals, in the pouring ran. He would visualize the throwing area in atrociously slippery conditions, yet he would still throw with great technique. Or, sometimes, Al would picture in his mind that he had one more throw attempt in the Olympic finals, with the Russians trailing just behind him. He had just performed poorly in his previous throws, but his mental rehearsal envisioned him responding to that adversity with a new world record on his last attempt. His training regiment helped him to control his emotions under adversity and win gold medals in four consecutive Olympiads, from 1956 to 1968.

In any endeavor, events rarely go as planned. Spontaneous and difficult questions can arise during key meetings. Your boss may change the deadline for the proposal from one week to two days. Your plane gets cancel so you miss your important meeting, etc., etc., etc.

Unfortunately, most people follow a Pollyanna approach rather than a Giuliani one. They believe that only good events will happen to them.  Further, they do not want to open their mind or spirit to all the bad events that can occur-they believe it to be bad luck. Unfortunately, with such an attitude, when the worst does come, they are not ready. They may freeze up or simply recoil from the adversity–that becomes their downfall.

Pat Riley championship winning NBA coach, said there comes a moment that defines winners and losers. The true warrior understands and seizes the moment. Riley said “know this: you will experience one of those defining moments. And it will define you-as an achiever. Prepare for that moment and know that it’s coming-and you increase your chances for winning your way through it”.

Failure is not about the adversity itself, but rather how we respond to the adversity. Failure is having a failed or ineffective response to a difficult situation. Success, on the other hand, is responding positively and effectively to a difficult situation. Those who have a planned positive response will become a success. The following will help you prepare for the best but plan for the worst:

Develop an adversity plan

To be a winner, develop an adversity plan. First write down a list of five relevant events that could happen during the week, or month, that could be considered an obstacle or hurdle. Next, create a corresponding list of positive responses to the adversity. Remember, it is not the event that defines you as a person, but rather your response will determine whether or not you can overcome it and grow from it.

Adversity                                                             Positive  Response







Preparation implies perspiration

Creating an adversity plan is only the first step. Implementing the plan is next. Implementation can occur with visualization such as Al Orter used. You should run through your list of adverse conditions, and then imagine your positive responses. You should do this a few times, to be completely prepared and ready for that bad event.

Even better is to implement adversity in real life. Nick Faldo, hall of fame golfer, followed such a principle for the 1987 PGA Championship. This contest was to be held in Florida in the middle of summer. Nick Faldo, at that time lived primarily in England, and knew he was not going to be accustomed to such a high level of humidity. To prepare his body, he sat in a sauna regularly for three weeks prior to the tournament. He knew he had to get his body trained to the adverse conditions of the Floridian heat, if he wanted to win the championship. Nick did not win that event, but it clearly showed a winner’s determination and plan of attack for an important contest.

Have a backup plan

Besides having an adversity plan, success comes from having a back-up plan.  President Jackson was always a defender of the Union. He was adamant against any early succession moves by the southern states. He loudly used military threats to quell any ideas of succession, but at the same time, behind the scenes he produced legislation in Congress to defuse possibilities of succession.

Always have at least two plans for any given situation-you may fail if you have only one plan for each crisis at hand.

Prepare for the unexpected

Are you always prepared for the unexpected?

According to Mark McCormack, founder and CEO of IMG, those agents who were prepared for the unexpected became the stars of his company. Mark McCormack saw many new agents rise to the top of his agency, as well as many others who floundered. As the key decision maker in his company, Mark would call a lot of meetings, some scheduled and some ad hoc. Mark mentioned that the ad hoc meetings illustrated whether an associate was well prepared and constantly doing their homework. McCormack stated that the agents who anticipated the unscheduled meetings appeared most competent, and as a result, rose to the top of his firm much quicker than those who appeared unprepared at those meetings.

The following article was exerpted from the Full Throttle: 122 Strategies to Supercharge your Performance at Work. This book is a Washington Post Best Seller.

Dr.Gregg Steinberg is a sport psychologist to many professional athletes, motivational speaker, business keynote speaker and leadership trainer and sales trainer. To see more about mental toughness strategies and going Full throttle in your sales, business and life, go to and see his new book, Full Throttle on To see more about his coaching go to and to see his products go to


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