Getting Over Yourself

February 18, 2014

Charlie White stays in the moment and gets the Gold!

If you’ve been following the Olympics, perhaps you’ve seen clips of Charlie White and Meryl Davis from early on in their skating careers. One shows Charlie just outside his hockey game with an reporter asking him which he liked best–ice skating performance or hockey? His answer is classic: whichever one he was doing at the time. I’d imagine that Meryl and Charlie both were totally in the moment on that Gold medal performance.

Someone once asked the pianist Vladimir Horowitz what was the most important thing his father-in-law, the conductor Arturo Toscani, ever did. His answer was, “Whatever he was doing at the moment, whether he was conducting a symphony or peeling an orange.”

These athletes are conditioned, prepared, strong, and it often comes down to their focus. One of the men skaters fluffed a jump that came right before a total change in tempo and attitude in the music. I think it’s quite possible he let himself anticipate what was coming and didn’t stay with the jump he was making.

You have the power to stay in the moment when you’re speaking, and the outcome will be much like it is for the athletes in terms of your accomplishing your goal. You have more chances to fix problems that come up by your losing your focus, and you may go on to win the “gold,” but you’re better off to keep working on not being distracted by who’s in the audience, or what could happen to your job, or whether or not you’re going to remember some piece of information.

You will do your best–and probably shine–if you stay with how your message benefits your listeners. Stay in the moment.

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February 11, 2014

Jamie Anderson says she stays in the “now” and it got her a Gold Medal

Yes, watching the Olympics can help your speaking. There are always examples during the games of those who are completely focused and “in the now,” and those who aren’t.  Being in the now means to me being able to see and know what’s going on and respond to it in real time with whatever is appropriate.

While watching the women’s biathlon, it was pretty easy to see when they were shooting at the target whether they stayed with it the whole time or whether they lost their focus. The announcer made it clear, several times, that the shots they were most likely to miss were the first and the last. It’s the same with speaking. Sometimes you don’t let go of what you were just doing in order to focus on the first words of your speech, or in this case on your first shot. And, when speaking, it’s easy at the end to think something like, “I’m almost finished” instead of focusing on your closing message. On one of the shooters, it was obvious that she hadn’t stayed focused on her last shot because the rifle barrel lifted just as she pulled the trigger.

You may not win a Olympic medal for your speech, but you’ll feel pretty darn good if you’ll stay focused on connecting your message to your audience rather than what just happened or what’s about to happen. And your audience will get your point.

August 8, 2012

What happened to Gabby’s focus?

Gabby knows she has to work on her focus. She knows, and we know, that she is an outstanding gymnast. You have to work on your focus consistently until it becomes a natural habit for you.Once she won the Gold, think of the distractions — her family, well-wishers, celebrations,  which haven’t been a part of her daily experience. It would be easy to lose focus.

And what about the rest of us? We may not be in medal races, but there are plenty of distractions that can keep us from being all we can be. Whether it’s a speech, managing your people, or golfing, for best results you need to be in the moment.

Here are a couple of things you can do to sharpen your focus and ability to “be there.”

See if you can listen to a one-minute news story on the radio from beginning to end without wandering off to think about other things.

Similarly, see if you can recite something you know by heart (in your head) that’s about a minute long: The Gettysburg Address, the 23rd Psalm, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Again, the goal is to see if you can get all the way through it without losing focus.

Keep at it until you are good at it. Focus is really exercising your discipline muscle. And just like any other muscle it will get stronger as you work it.

August 7, 2012

What Dr. Michael Gervais told Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings

Here’s a gem passed along by the announcers as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings competed in their Olympic beach volleyball playoff against the Italians: “Confidence is a little voice that says, “you belong.” (Sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais)

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from that piece of wisdom.

You’re the one who gets to program that little voice. Your choice. An objective assessment of any given situation – speech, networking, job interview, etc. – can help you reach that conclusion: You belong. It’s the counterproductive “noise” voice that gets in the way.

When you know you belong, you can trust your instincts and do or say the right thing–or keep your mouth shut.

Cultivate the “little voice” and just say, “no” to the noise.

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