Stay Positive in a Negative World, Part 7

December 31, 2007

by Matt Michel

People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.”
Sandy Koufax

You’re assaulted by negative information, making it tough for anyone to stay positive in this day and age. So how do you manage it? Some of these techniques may work for you, while others will not. Some might work for a while, but lose effectiveness over time or with repetition. That’s why there are 50 tips.

31. Practice Like You Play
Every athlete’s heard the refrain, “Practice like you play.  Play like you practice.”  And top performers do practice. 

Champion athletes practice the same plays over and over and over.  Golfers hit the range.  Ball machines feed volleys to tennis players.  Pitching machines fire strikes to hitters.  Football teams run the same plays again and again.

If anything, musicians are more diligent than athletes.  The great 19th century pianist Ignace Paderewski said, “If I don't practice for one day, I know it; if I don't practice for two days, the critics know it; if I don't practice for three days, the audience knows it.”

While practice may be important for athletes and musicians, it’s critical for pilots and astronauts.  No one dies when you screw up a sonata. 

When Laurel Clark took her first flight aboard the shuttle Columbia, she remarked that her biggest surprise was “how much the ascent felt just like the simulation.”  Neil Armstrong told mission control that walking on the moon was, “just like our drills.”  After Apollo 12, Pete Conrad described walking on the moon as, “just like old home week.  I feel like I’ve been rehearsing this moment for the past four years!”

Practice gives you confidence in your own abilities.  It also teaches you your limits, building your confidence within those limits.  Before a football game, for example, kickers will practice field goals.  They’re not merely practicing.  They’re learning their range for that day, field, and weather.  Good coaches will not ask a kicker to attempt a field goal beyond his pre-game range.  If the kicker is asked to make the kick during the game, he’s confident.  After all, he already hit a field goal from that distance during warm ups.

We expect shuttle astronauts to practice.  We expect Tiger Woods to practice.  So why don’t we expect it of ourselves in our professions? 

If practice helps an athlete, artist, or astronaut, won’t it help you?  If you want to improve your presentation skills, your management skills, your salesmanship, practice.  Simulate.  Role play. 

Practice in a mirror.  Practice until the performance becomes automatic, and then practice some more.

With practice, comes confidence.  Nothing gives you a positive outlook like sincere confidence in your ability. 

Practice like you play.  Play like you practice.

32. Face Fear
Most of us want to run and hide from things that can’t physically hurt us.  According to Gallup, 40% percent of the public is terrified of speaking in public.  Jerry Seinfeld quips that, “Surveys show that the #1 fear of Americans is public speaking. #2 is death. Death is #2. That means that at a funeral, the average American would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Usually, “fear” is nothing more than *F*alse *E*xpectations *A*ppearing *R*eal.  Yet, what appears real to me, is real to me.  In other words, our very fear of something makes it real and gives it power over us.  The only way to conquer the things we fear is to face them head-on.

Once, I was afraid of speaking in front of a group.  During one of my first, very short, speeches I memorized every word.  I felt gratified when I received polite applause.  Only later did I learn that no one heard a word I said.  Warned about feedback, I held the microphone too far away from my mouth to pick up my voice.  Yet, people still applauded. 

I totally blew my first big speech.  And yet, people applauded.  So what was I afraid of?  It was no longer speaking in public.  In fact, today I even get paid to speak in public (and more on occasion if I’ll sit down and shut up).

As a kid I was never much of a street fighter, punishing the knuckles of too many opponents.  When I grew older, the thought of stepping into a boxing ring with an audience terrified me.  I wasn’t afraid of getting beat up.  I’d already experienced that.  I was afraid of getting beat up in public.

I forced myself to box anyway.  I’m a lousy boxer.  Yet, it felt great to lose.  It felt great because I was no longer afraid.  My fear no longer held power over me.

When you face your fear, you remove its power over you.  You boost your confidence and feel great about the world.


Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2005 Matt Michel

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