Sep 18, 2013

On being nervous

Yesterday, I was flattered by a friend's compliment that I didn't look nervous during my CNBC appearance. Despite being a performer himself, my friend was impressed because performance anxiety is the #1 fear in America, as the saying goes. How does someone overcome an anxiety as paralyzing as stage fright?
"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy." --Jerry Seinfeld
When I ran track in high school, my nerves were so bad that I vomited before, during or after every race.

In order to calm down, I told myself, "This race doesn't matter. It's no big deal." My self-talk eliminated my dread, but it also annihilated all my excitement! I numbed my competitive spirit. My reactions were dull, and my times took a hit.

Channeling my nerves into excitement was my middle ground. I felt confident and comfortable before my college races. I've used this strategy for high-pressure situations, like job interviews and my live-television interview, but I use it for low-pressure situations, as well. For example, I wanted to get psyched up for my first day of work, so I listened to my pre-race music, power-posed and told myself, "I'm excited to be here! I can't wait to contribute!"

Take a tip from athletic psychology--it helps kick the nerves to present confidently!

(Ed. note: Last month, I appeared on CNBC's PowerLunch with two other Venture for America fellows, Jim Kahmann and Sean Lane. Thanks, Venture for America!)

-Paige