A couple of weeks ago – which is like, forever in the world of social media – when Russell Wilson was merely a newbie NFC champion, he asked the advice of four-time “The Big Game” winner Terry Bradshaw.
“What do we do to win the Super Bowl?” Wilson asked while still on the Championship podium.
This was Bradshaw’s spontaneous advice:
“You’ve got to be really cool. Don’t let the moment catch up with you. You’ve got to play the game down. If you build it up, it’s so important you’ll screw it up and you won’t play well. It’s not just another game, believe me, but you can make it one. Just be cool.”
I heard this sound bite for the first time yesterday, and it went in a mental file I call, “Well, They Oughta Know” that I’ve been cramming with expert advice lately. Just behind this latest addition to the file is a commercial for the Sochi Olympics featuring Shaun White who says of competing:
“It’s like a combination of complete focus with the slightest bit of not caring. . .”
The polarity of emphasizing one’s performance while de-emphasizing the importance of the performance seems to be a winning combination for many professional athletes, musicians, comedians, dancers, etc. And of all the plays Russell Wilson learned for yesterday’s game, perhaps “The Downplay” was the most important.
On a much, much smaller scale, and a much, much smaller stage, I have experienced “The Downplay.” It’s why I don’t tell anyone about an audition until after it’s done. It’s why I go stealth when there’s a goal I’m trying to reach. Too much talk about an event, too much enthusiasm, too much buildup can create a monster – however innocent and well-meaning – that swallows me whole. I believe the technical term is called “psyching yourself out.”
Now, I have been accused once or twice in my life of self-sabotage. A wise man once told me, “It’s like you look down to see you need a new pair of shoes, and, BAM! Shoot yourself in the foot.” He went on to say, “You see on one side of the coin – something bad. But on the flip side – something else bad.” You get how these tendencies might lead to the “psyche out.”
But today, when I look at the expression “psyching yourself out,” I am actually encouraged. Because, if on one side of the coin, I can psych myself out, then on the flip side, it means I am capable of psyching myself in. And in dealing with stage fright, feeling any amount of authority over scary circumstances is a victory.
On the “Conquering Stage Fright” page of ADAA’s website, tips two through four all deal with thoughts:
- Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring.
- Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence.
- Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation.
In other words, “Just be cool.” It worked for Terry, it worked for Russell, and I believe it can work for us all.
– Anita, Noted in Nashville
*This is post two of my “Fear Itself” Series. Read post one, “My Journey to Overcome Stage Fright” here.
Conquering Stage Fright: Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/treatment/conquering-stage-fright