“Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” 

How many times have you heard this quoted? Made famous by the boxing legend that is Mike Tyson at the height of his career it is thrown out by naysayers whenever you come up with a great plan or idea.

In 2016 I was in a charity boxing match. No one else would match up against the guy so I was asked. He was 6 foot 8, in great shape, had an easy 10 inch reach advantage and a 40kg weight advantage over me. Plus he had been training for 9 months for the match and I was a last minute addition. I lost the match and I lost count of everyone who quoted Tyson to me after.

No matter what the wording the sentiment is always the same. No matter how well you plan, as soon as anything crops up that isn’t in your plan, or any sort of pressure hits, your plan will fall to pieces and you will end up winging it anyway.

Its snappy, memorable and is easy to throw into a conversation.

The problem is that the sentiment normally behind it is rubbish. In every aspect of your life from projects at work through to planning a family holiday it is rubbish. 

The truth is, if you believe your plan will fail as soon as you encounter any pressure, then it will. Because you will immediately stop following it. You will start to “wing it” and your chance of success will plummet.

So back to my match. Early in the first round I took a hard punch and was badly rocked. I could have abandoned my plan, the modified peek-a-boo structure I have refined over my years training and tried something random. Something I hadn’t planned.

But I didn’t.

I had pressure tested my structure and style in the past, including in previous boxing matches. I had sparred opponents who were stronger than me. I had been knocked down and knocked out multiple times in sparring. I knew that the plan I had was the best chance for me to win.

I didn’t win but the plan was sound, even with foresight. I was just beaten by someone who was better than me. Without my plan I wouldn’t have made it past that first heavy punch.

What people often forget is that your plan is not your skills. Rather your plan is the framework for implementing your skills. In my match my skills were simply not good enough for me to win. While my plan was good I wasn’t moving fast enough, or throwing hard enough combinations to win. My skills let me down, not my plan.

Pressure testing lets you refine you plan and tweak it for specific scenarios. Pressure testing helps you adapt to new requirements. Pressure testing gives you the confidence to follow a plan through and maybe pull success from the flames of disaster. Pressure testing also tells you if you skills need improvement.

Pressure testing is not just a martial arts concept, though I got into it as a self-protection specialist. It is something you can apply to all areas of your life. In martial arts it is the reason a person training with me for 2 months will have a better chance to protect themselves against a knife attack than someone with 20 years traditional martial arts experience who might freeze when a drunk throws a lazy punch at them in a bar.

In my match pressure testing was what let me take that first punch and think;

“Wow, that hurt. But I knew it was coming and I expected it to.” 

before standing up and keeping boxing.

In business pressure testing gets your staff out of the building quickly and safely during a fire, or enables them to deal with angry customers when your computer system fails, or deal with any of the other hundred things that can go wrong day to day.

This is not physical training, it is psychological training. It is training to keep yourself in control when fear hits you, when panic hits you. It is training to know you are doing the best possible even when things and people are falling apart around you.

Pressure testing lets you look back on any situation, no matter how badly it went and treat it as a learning experience to identify your own areas for improvement, and if you are a leader the areas for your team to improve.

Most importantly, good pressure testing teaches you that sometimes (unless you are Captain Kirk) there are no-win situations you can’t avoid. Sometimes you just can’t win. But that is no reason to stop, no reason to abandon the attempt. But it is a good reason to adapt your plan in advance so you can still use it when things go sideways.

Pressure testing lets you do this and, even if you fail, afterwards you can accept you did everything you could.

Pressure testing is the most important part of any training plan as it bridges your skills from practice to the real world and puts you in the best place possible to use them, be it in business, boxing or otherwise.