Calvin Strachan | How to be confident in any situation
Over the span of my career I've held many roles, most of which required me to perform under massive pressure.
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How to be confident in any situation

One of the very clear associations with someone’s inability to perform under pressure is a lack of confidence. A lot of times people choke under pressure because they don’t think they have the confidence to follow through. So, in this post, I want to share with you, how you can be confident in any situation.

The first step is this, you have to practice like crazy and prepare like crazy. If you’ve been following me for a while you have heard me say it over and over again because it is the most important factor.

If you're not over prepared, you're under prepared.

So you have to overdo it. Let me give you some context because it’s not just common sense.

Earlier in my career, I used to be a medical device sales rep. What that means is, I would go into the operating room and support a surgeon with a hip or a knee surgery. My job was to say, “cut here, measure here, do this, and use this size”. I was a quasi surgeon. When I was first getting going though, to learn the procedure, they would give me what’s called a surgical technique. Basically, it’s a book on how to do the surgery. So, I think I’m doing a good job and I’m doing my best to get ready. As instructed, I read the book and I memorized all the steps. The trouble was, the book was a hand drawing or computer drawing, and not the actual instruments. When I walked into the operating room and they said, “Hey, where do we cut? How much do we cut? What do we do now? Hey, what’s this? What’s this for? How far should we go?”

All of a sudden my textbook knowledge was failing me. The worst part was it left me choking under the pressure. I would be babbling and saying things like, “I don’t know” and simply freezing. Consequently I would become jittery and look like a total fool.

The key difference between success and failure in that role was the preparation. As I said to you, if you’re not over prepared, you’re under prepared. So, from that humiliating moment I determined to bring the instruments to my house: the saws, the drills, the hammers, the saw bones, everything required to do a surgery. Then I sat in my basement and did surgery after surgery, after surgery. To the point where I knew exactly how high or low your hand should be. I knew how far left or right it should be. I knew what size drill, what the hole should look like. I was over prepared.

That over preparation gave me such certainty in the room, I could not fail. It didn’t matter who the surgeon was, experienced or inexperienced, I was totally ready for any moment because I was so over prepared.

This behaviour has served me in so many contexts. As an athlete, as an actor, as a sales rep, as a speaker. If you look at any of the greats, for example I love watching Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce, especially the behind the scenes footage for their concerts. Sometimes you get a chance to see just how hard they prep. Before they get anywhere near that show they’re going through it over and over and over. If you think about it, they know what they’re doing. They’re career professional entertainers. They really don’t need to prep like that. But that is not an excuse. Every single time they over prepare.

On another note I love to watch Tom Brady as well. During really close games with the game on the line, sometimes you will see him on the bench and he looks unbelievably poised. How does that happen? It’s the over preparation. Prior to being in that situation, he’s watched game films. He’s constantly tossing the ball. He’s constantly running plays in the background. So, when he comes to the high-pressure moment, he’s totally ready. I hope this is sinking in, you need to over prepare, I can’t say it enough.

The second step is state. As many of you know, I used to be a coach for Tony Robbins. Tony made the phrase “state” very popular. The thing is, state is not necessarily his term. It comes from neuro-linguistic programming. The neuro-linguistic professionals discovered that

state is a combination of how you think and how you feel.

So, states can be broken down into three components; one, how you move your body, your body posture, your facial expressions, your gestures; two, it’s also composed of what you think about, what you’re focusing on and three the actual words you use.

Here’s the point. When you’re bored or tired or fearful or full of anxiety, those behaviours have a state. They have a body posture, a gesture, a facial expression, a thought and language. For example someone experiencing pressure might think and say; “Oh my gosh, I’m dead. What am I going to do? How am I going to get through this? All right? Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God”. So, that’s a state. You can manage your state by shifting your body posture, your gestures, what you are thinking about and the language you use.

Based on what I mentioned earlier, it totally follows that confidence is also a state. Confidence has a body posture. Confidence has a gesture. Confidence has a thought; such as “I’ve got this. I’m going to crush this”. Also, confidence has a language like: “I’m ready. I can do it. Let’s go”. So confidence has a certain state pattern. So to be confident in any given moment, what is your confidence state? What does it look like for you? What’s yours?

When you’re absolutely confident, I want you to think about this right now. When you’re absolutely confident, how do you stand? How do you sit, if you’re sitting? How do you gesture? What are your thoughts when you’re totally confident? What are you saying to yourself?

I want you to make a note of these things and write them down in your phone, on a piece of paper and perhaps put them on a wall where you can see it everyday. Why am I saying this? Because repeatedly, several times in a day, I want you to go to this position. Don’t wait for the pressure to happen. Start practicing it before. So when the moment happens, you’re ready for it.

One more thing, once you have your confidence state, I want you to develop what’s called an anchor. We use this technique in acting quite a bit. In acting, what would happen is this. You could be on a set and all of a sudden you need to snap into love or snap into anger or snap into joy or happiness, and maybe you were having a sandwich just before they called you. I was trained to have an anchor that I could activate in order to immediately jump into whatever state I needed. In short, you create an anchor that’s tied to the desired state.

Maybe you clap your hands together. Maybe you snap. When I was an athlete, I used to always snap. It would put me back into a confident state. I would snap my fingers and I would start to feel the sensation of confidence. Some people laugh or smile you have something that puts you right back into that desired state. Also the more you do it, the faster and quicker it activates.

My one caveat to state and anchoring is this, if you only do it once in a while, it’s not going to work. To be confident in any moment you have to repeatedly do this. If you know who LeBron James is, and you watch him, you’ll see him trigger his anchors every game. There’s never a game where he doesn’t step into a confident state. Think about it. It’s not every other or every couple; it’s literally every game. The same is true for you, the more often you embrace it the better.

Quick recap, the first thing is you have to do to be confident in any situation is practice and over prepare. Then you have to get into that confident state. Remember to consider: How do you stand? How do you gesture? What are you thinking about and what are you saying to yourself? And then what’s your anchor when you are in that confident state?

The third and final step to being confident in any situation is you have to take action. When I say this people will often say: “yeah, yeah, I know”. Then I’ll respond with; “no, no, no, no, no”, I won’t allow people to dismiss this as obvious. You can’t build confidence without following through. Capture this; you can prepare your guts out. You can have the confidence state, but if you never get in the game, you would never develop the certainty in your mind that you can do it. You have to face the challenges. You have to go through the tests. If you don’t go through the test, you can’t get the confidence. It has to be there.

My favorite speaker is TD Jakes, he says,

“If there is no test, there is no blessing”.

In order to feel the certainty you can do it, you have to get in the game. Some people get nervous about aspects of their life and business. They may say things like: “hey, I don’t know if I can raise kids”. Realize that you have to have a kid to find out if you can raise the kid. Or sometimes people will say, “I’m not sure if I can ask for the business, I can’t sell”. I need you to realize that you have to ask for the business to get better at getting business. If you’re always just preparing and thinking and analyzing and coming to it and maybe someday, you’re never getting that certainty.

Handling pressure and being more confident does not get better by resistance, it gets better by acceptance. You have to move through it. Here’s an example from my life. When I think back to my early days when I was just getting going as an athlete, I’d get nervous about big games or big moments. I would be thinking things like, “please don’t give me the ball”. The truth is I only got better by taking the ball and missing those shots and making those shots. But if you never take the ball, the fear becomes magnificent. By taking the ball and hitting a couple of those shots, all of a sudden I was able to say, “Hey, I did it. And if I can do this, what else can I do”? That’s the gift of taking action.

Taking action proves to you that it can work, and encourages you to follow through repeatedly. And that builds. Success builds. Does that make sense?

So if you want to be confident in any moment you have to:
1. Over prepare,
2. Manage your state and
3. Take action
Get in the habit following these three steps and you will find a way to win.

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