You’ve been there: obsessing about that very important meeting, or event, or opportunity that’s coming up very soon. You’re looking forward to it, but you’re worried about it, and possibly dreading it at the same time. You can feel the tension mounting the more you think about it. You feel all alone in your anxiety. It’s a clusterfuck of competing emotions. As this moment fast approaches, you’re wondering: “Why the hell did I sign-up for this… ?”
Through my lifelong research and in my personal experience, managing this stuff effectively is what separates the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots.’ I’ve always been fascinated by the factors that separate the famously successful from everyone else. I’ve been devouring biographies, watching documentaries, and studying successful musicians, actors, artists, entrepreneurs, and others for years to learn about their journey’s. How they got from here to there, and to uncover what truly sets them apart.
Rob Lowe, one of the original 1980’s “brat-packers,” has had a long, and storied career in both film and television spanning over three decades. To me, he continues to epitomize the tenets of a real-world rock star as an enduring acting icon. His autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, includes the riviting details about his career-launching, yet arduous audition process for the Francis Ford Coppola flim, The Outsiders in 1982.
“There were days when I would’ve liked to have faced lower expectations and less pressure than learning at what this particular level demanded.” ~ Rob Lowe
This story made clear to me that two things must happen for people to achieve any type of “success” personally or professionally. First, you have to consistently take action and do what most others will not do. And second, you must be able to deliver results in the midst of the inevitable stress, angst, and anxiety that follows.
I’ve heard it said: “Nothing hurts a failure but a try.”
You must be deliberate about putting yourself into uncomfortable and uncertain situations at times. These are the types of situations that have you shaking in your boots, figuratively and literally. Extraordinary outcomes only come from first making choices that most others will not make. These are the difficult decisions, and ensuing actions that have the great potential to expose you to ridicule; and to place you in very vulnerable positions that make you a target for scrutiny and criticism. You’re thinking: “Am I out of my fucking mind?” The answer is… YES, you are out of your mind, and waaay out of your comfort zone. But, this is also the place where most worthwhile happenings, happen…
It’s at this point that the majority of people will opt out; they’ll quit because it’s the softer, easier way. Very often, our natural instincts are to go small; to retreat; to get invisible when faced with challenges or change. Instead, the best go big. They run into, instead of run away. They forge ahead, though often afraid. They then do their damndest to deliver the goods.
At some point, we all find ourselves alone on the “stage.” It’s an inevitability, and it’s exhilarating.
So how do you NOT get so shaken that you cannot perform? Three things:
1. Feel the shake. Let it be. Don’t run from it, lean into it. You not only have to be willing to face it, but you must also embrace it. Let it help you by allowing it to push you to higher levels of performance. It’s a friend, not your foe.
2. Focus on what the shake really is. It’s fear. But fear of what? When you boil it down, it’s simply the fear of looking bad or of being seen as not good enough in the eyes of others. That’s it; and that ain’t shit. It means nothing. Once you understand how base and universal these fears really are, they are much easier to manage and overcome. Everybody has them… EVERYBODY. And most people are actually rooting for you, whether you know it or not. Take comfort in knowing this, and let it empower and embolden you.
3. Finally, let #1 and #2 Fuel your performance. Channel that energy into executing what your hard work and preparation has positioned you to do. Turn it into positive energy, not just negative anxiety. You’ve earned the right to be there, and deserve to be there, because you GOT there in the first place.
Now go kick ass!