Review and Summary: The Right Call

The Right Call Book Cover

In our daily lives, we constantly encounter a wide range of choices, ranging from simple decisions to incredibly complex ones. Some of these choices need to be made in a matter of days, while others demand our attention in mere minutes. But have you ever wondered how athletes and their coaches manage to make split-second decisions in the intense world of sports? Is there something we can learn from their approach and apply it to our own lives?

In “The Right Call,” Sally Jenkins delves deep into the key elements she believes are essential for making sound decisions: conditioning, practice, discipline, candor, culture, failure, and intention. These elements serve as the foundation of expertise in any field and can equip us, regardless of our profession, with the invaluable ability to think and choose more effectively.

Drawing from extensive research findings across various disciplines and the experiences of coaches and athletes in the world of sports, Jenkins has skillfully crafted a book that flows seamlessly. Her narrative not only informs but also invites the reader to build a solid foundation for making better decisions. As a recreational runner myself, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my passion for exercise not only benefits my physical health but also sharpens my mental acumen, especially when it comes to making quick decisions in urgent situations.

So, whether you’re an athlete aiming for excellence or someone seeking to improve decision-making skills in your daily life, “The Right Call” offers valuable insights and practical wisdom that will undoubtedly leave you inspired and better equipped to navigate life’s myriad choices. Sally Jenkins has truly hit the mark with this enlightening and thought-provoking book.


The “Right Call” is Made Under Pressure

  • We can learn how to make the “right call” under pressure from coaches and athletes who act under the stresses of competition. They show us how to become more skilled at enacting deliberate, intentional action in our own spheres. All of us face uncertainty in our work lives.

What Is a Good Decision?

  • Based on Mintzberg: the ability to sort through “dynamic and shifting factors to make a specific commitment to action”

Winning Approach for Making Smart Choices Under Pressure

1. Conditioning

  • Bowman, Michael Phelps coach: Conditioning is about building an infrastructure. We’re trying to build a physiological structure that will hold up to thhe stresses he’s going to face down the road
  • Anyone who wants to be consistently excellent at their living must have a more-than-passing acquaintance with conditioning.
  • In athletic, conditioning is something you do purely to build muscle. Conditioning is really just an instrument of human learning, and it’s not only elite athletes who can gain from it.


  • Exercise improves the quality of mind by enlarging and stimulating certain reactive areas in the higher order regions of the brain that govern evaluative thought. The transfer of metabolic energy literally lights these areas up, exciting neuronal signals, creating synaptic plasticity, and allowing for faster processing of information.
  • Engages powerful systems throughout the body that work in concert: the pumping of blood, oxygen, proteins, and other nutrients creates mitochondria, known as “the powerhouse” of the cells, which charge human biochemical physical reactions as well as facilitate neuronal activity → all of this has an impact on the dynamism you bring to a specific task, whether mental or physical. the energy required for problem-solving is enormous.
  • At the root level of confident decision-making is reliability. It’s not enough to decide what you want to do; you have to be able to command your body to do it. Athletes achieve this command through adaptation. When you impose a new challenge or workload on yourself that you have trouble meeting the stressful sensations intersect at the emotional center of your brain—which reacts by directing your system to upgrade itself, so it doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable anymore. As you repeat and reinforce, your response under the duress become more consistent. The right conditioning for a task creates a “harmonious unity” that allows all of your responses to fire on command in coordination, “psychic, technical, and tactical”


  • Stress is what happens when you face a demand that you aren’t conditioned to comfortably handle.
  • With conditioning, you can acclimate to the speed and stressors of the situation.

2. Practice

  • Practice is useful to make a decision confidently
  • Practice differs from conditioning: it’s strategic, informed, targeted work, usually under the evaluative eye of a teacher or coach. Though two can have some overlap, conditioning is about broad development of capacities, whereas pracitce is about refinement of skills through diagnosis and rehearsal.
  • Practice must:
    • have a purpose, a sure understanding of what the point of it is.
    • have measurable units
  • The right kind of practice targets specific weakness.
  • Good practice doesn’t eliminate stress altogether or mean you won’t ever experience it again. What it does do is give you instruments to manage it, in the face of tensions.

Sometimes even the most task-fit person can fail at the simplest thing. What happens to those circuits between brain and body?

  • Beilock, a neurologist: because rarely do we practice under the conditions we actually perform in.
  • Suggestion: we should make study more stressful. Impose deadlines. Practice quickening your recall by enforcing a time limit on yourself. In closing the gap between training and competition, you want to practice the things that you have to do when it matters most.

3. Discipline

  • Discipline is what allows for effective improvisation—without it you’re just an uncontrolled hacker or jacker.
  • Without discipline, a leader is left to sift through unreliable factors and behaviors in making choices, and the result is haphazardness, the quickest way to sabotage any endeavor
  • Disciple is not militaristic enforcement, overflexing of authority, and obedience.
  • Discipline is the voluntary regulating of behavior that drive repetitive excellence.
  • Discipline is a fostered inner construct. It’s the internal mechanism that self-motivates you.
  • The person who is more disciplined is the person who creates options for him- or herself–career, options, style of living options, financial options–and thus has the best chance of making the “right” call.

4. Candor

  • For communication to be clear, it had to be well channeled.
  • Soft language may seem safe and convenient because it’s slippery, inoffensive seeming. But it actually has a hard superficiality that leaves people feeling insulted. It sounds equivocating, evasive, even devious. And it breeds the opposite of belief.
  • If you want to breed trust, you don’t just tell someone what they did wrong; you tell them how to do it right. Great leaders never present a problem to the team or a player without also presenting that it can be solved. They stress the remedy or resolution.
  • Great deciders communicate from honest centers with ears for others and tongues that avoid blame, and this allows them to form powerful alliances.

The language of leadership has four basic characteristics:

  • It is illuminating, not obfuscating
  • It is well structured to prevent misunderstandings
  • It is trustworthy
  • It is emotionally connective, expressive

5. Culture

  • A winning culture is organically grown, as much as manufactured. Culture is certain specific conditions encourage that growth.
  • What makes a culture strong and sustainable is the right match of materials, plans, and people.
  • It does not good to identify your workplace culture as “collaborative” if your reporting channel is hierarchical and inhibits fraternization. It’s ridiculous to label your culture “innovative” and then hire play-it-safe veterans. There is no point in declaring that you have a “family” culture if your deciders are aloof.

6. Intention

The very best leader don’t tell people what to do. They ask them what they want to do together. They recognize that all anybody really wants from a leader.

Sally Jenkins, The Right Call
  • Many of us bring the same confusion to larger decisions in our lives; we lack a solid picture of what we’re doing and why or how much we care about it. We’re unclear about what we’re really after and what’s required to get there. When you know your why, it dramatically affects the definition of success, and your tolerance for setback.
  • It’s not enough for a leader to simply have strong intentions. Others have to perceive you as having good intentions.

7. Failure

Winners aren’t born; they are made—and they are made out of people who have been losers at one time or another.

Sally Jenkins, The Right Call
  • An essential precondition for success.
  • Only through failures—if they assess them candidly—do they acquire the self-understanding and intentionality that leads to eventual victories and, more importantly, the acceptance of those outcomes they can’t control.
  • If you want to turn events around, you can never underestimate the value of your past failures.
  • The truth about winning and losing professionally is that neither has much value by itself. If you lose all the time, it becomes a bad habit, and if you win all the time, you develop overconfidence to assume you are superior. What makes a worthy decision-makes is the ability to see the winning and the losing as deeply intertwined and equally valuable. This is what enables us to lose without losing heart. And continue on.

Some mistakes are irreversible, and some loses can’t be recouped. What then? How do you love with a decision that leads to a very visible and permanent failure?

  • Know why you did it. When you have engaged in a good “discovery process” and understand yourself and your own thinking, failure is bearable.
  • Competition is protean, with constantly shifting factors in a fog of action, including bad luck, unforgiving circumstances, and sometimes unstoppable adversaries. What matters most is how you respond.

Author: Sally Jenkins

Publication date: 6 June 2023

Number of pages: 272 pages


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