Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
It's happened to you and it's happened to me.
It's happened to just about everyone who feels a big win is within their grasp and then it slips away like a bar of soap in the bath.
We had it. We had it. We blew it.
And then we hate ourselves, kick ourselves and question our very existence.
Why did we choke? How can we prevent ourselves from choking again?
What is Tom Brady ingesting to maintain such mental equilibrium? A lot of water, apparently.
Anything else? Does he have some other secret trick?
Thankfully, some researchers at the California Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine thought they'd gallop to our (ego's) rescue.
That's what doctors are for, after all.
The result of their work is adorned with the perfectly adorable title: Reappraisal of Incentives Ameliorates Choking Under Pressure and Is Correlated With Changes In the Neural Representations of Incentives.
An earlier study had already suggested that at the heart of choking is a fear of losing the big one. The minute that fear kicks in, it affects activity in the part of the brain known as the ventral striatum.
There is, in effect, a communication breakdown between this part of the brain and the part that controls motor functions. (The participants in the research were playing a computer game and the reward was monetary.)
And suddenly you've thrown a ridiculous interception.
In this new study, the researchers tried to improve performance by "instructing participants performing a demanding motor task that rewards successful performance with a monetary gain, to reappraise this incentive as a monetary loss for unsuccessful performance."
In essence, the participants were told that they had to succeed in their task in order to avoid losing money.
What do you know, it seems to have worked.
The participants were less worked up. They didn't exhibit exaggerated skin conductance. Communication between the ventral striatum and the motor parts was better and they choked far less.
Here, then, is a magical possibility.
Tom Brady tends not to choke not because of obsessive water drinking or an almost entire avoidance of strawberries.
And it's not because he's desperate for another multiple million-dollar payday.
Instead, he believes he's performing not to lose money, so that he doesn't lose (every element of) his opulent lifestyle.
No, I'm not going to call him an arrogant so-and-so, but please feel free to.