Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why I'm Not Nervous About Being Nervous...

I'm giving a presentation tonight.

I've never been to the venue before, and I don't know how large the audience will be.  I don't know how receptive they'll be, either, and I'm not entirely sure how long it will go.

Add the whole thing up, and at H-7 (that's H-Hour, minus 7), I'm starting to get that oh-so-slight-but-present butterfly feeling in the stomach.  Just like the one I got before our traveling team basketball games in eighth grade.  Or just like before giving the briefs to the brass down at the waterfront in New London, or Groton, or wherever it was.

But, to paraphrase the title of this post, I'm not worried about being worried.  I'm self-aware of it, but I'm also aware that Jim Kelly used to puke his guts out in the locker room before every Bills game. 

All Super Bowl and "missing rings" jokes aside, Kelly was one of the all-time greats.  And you know why he was puking in Buffalo?  Because he cared.  I don't know this, but I'll bet dollars-to-donuts that the Bills' 2nd- and 3rd-string QBs WEREN'T going through that same inner turmoil...not because of their supposed "steely composition" but because they frankly had less on the line.

And something that's been studied and re-studied time and again among psychologists who study athletes and students is that people who perform the best are just a bit "nervous in the service" just prior to the starting gun.

People who are TOO much a bundle of nerves tend to choke and not perform.  But guess what?  For everyone out there who brags about he's the "Iceman" at crunchtime, that's not ideal, either.  People who express no signs of nervousness (either through their statements or their physiological responses) don't rate the highest performances, either.

Someone who doesn't get at least a little bit psyched up probably isn't personally invested in whatever's going on.  This is something I wish I had known back when I used to work with someone who was very quick to brag about his coolness (in contrast to my lack thereof) but, I later realized, didn't really care about what we were doing.

It's like, no sh!t that guy's palms were bone dry just before "The Big One" because he wasn't the one under the klieg lights.  (Of course, everyone becomes wittier AFTER the fact, and I wish I had the wherewithal to point this out at the time).

So, yes, there are some butterflies-a-swirling.  But I've been to this rodeo before -- in fact, many, many times.  As soon as the first couple slides are clicked through, and I enter what Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes called "The Zone" back in their early-1990s basketball classic, all will be well.

And I'm not sure I could have one without the other.  

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