Back when I was a snot-filled 13-year-old with an unhealthy obsession for Allen Iverson, we were assigned a project in history class. We had to choose a hero of ours which we had to do a 5-minute presentation. My hip-hop lord and savior, Allen Iverson, was too recent of a figure to cover, so I had to look elsewhere. So because I wanted really badly to show my classmates that I had historical taste in basketball, I chose Oscar Robertson.
If you don’t know who Oscar Robertson is, he was basically the Lebron James of the 1960s. The man used to crap out triple-doubles on command.
So how did I prepare? Along with making a big poster that was required to present, I did all the things that I thought at the time would make me LOOK like I was didn’t know how to prepare for a presentation. Here is a shortlist:
- I printed out newspaper articles featuring Oscar
- I begged my dad to buy a cheap Oscar Robertson jersey
- I downloaded videos of Oscar Robertson’s games (shout out to Limewire!)
All of these things prepared me extremely well for one thing – to bomb horribly in front of my fellow snot-nosed 8th-grade classmates. During the presentation, I proceeded to blurt out a collection of incomprehensible sentences that probably somehow persuaded my classmates to hate the greatest triple-double machine in NBA history, strictly because my presentation about him was making them feel uncomfortable. I stumble dover my words like a 3-year-old toddler attempting to salsa dance. It was embarrassing.
In retrospect, all the way leading up to the presentation I was as nervous as I was when giving it. Did I practice the presentation? Yes, a couple of times. But I still felt uneasy about my confidence in how I would deliver it. I didn’t know what I was going to say for the beginning, middle and end. ANd I knew it but didn’t do anything about it.
I did everything, but the most important thing that my nerves were shouting at me to fix. That was becoming strong in my presentation.
Anxiety guides your Preparation.
One of the more powerful reframes I have learned is from a gentleman named Grant Cardone. Grant is a sales guru, and has many a fortune off of being an expert in conviction, and driving revenue for businesses. One of the things I have heard him repeat is that in sales, you have to deal with your anxieties in a way that makes you a better salesperson.
For example, if you are uneasy about an imminent sales call or a presentation, then whatever you are most nervous about should tell you where you are weak. This is a key indicator of where you should spend your time improving! What a gift! That is direct feedback from mother nature herself, as she is spreading the “you better-improve-here” juices throughout your brain!
Whenever I am extremely anxious about a call, I try to identify the “why” of why I am anxious. When I identify the “why”, it is usually some hole in my presentation or potential objection that might be raised. Just that alone leads me to draft a document or email, and write out a strategy that will strengthen that part of my sales game.
When this happens, I think, “Good. Now I know what work is cut out for me.” Then I put on my cape with a big “M” on it and fly away.
Anxiety signals growth.
Here’s another way you can let anxiety lead you (per our buddy Grant).
If you aren’t feeling ANY anxiety at all before a call, set, etc. then maybe you aren’t pushing yourself enough. At that point, you are just doing the same old, and you have mastered it, and have no anxiety because it comes as second nature to you.
But if you are looking to grow as a communicator, you want to feel a little bit anxious. It means you are going through mental growing pain. You are reaching outside of your perceived capabilities and learning how to communicate or perform something new. Your anxiety tells you that you are shooting for something that is a bit beyond what you think you can do. And that is the only way to grow.
This is prevalent in the corporate world where folks stay in a job forever because it is all they know and are comfortable with. And that is great if you are looking for stability, and you are cashing in hefty paychecks over and over again. But then you’re creative muscle starts to atrophy, and then you start resenting the printer and figuring out ways to destroy it once and for all.
Anxiety Can be Good
Anxiety is often viewed as a bad thing in our society. Its viewed as a disorder and something that needs to be “dealt with”.
But often we aren’t taught how to reframe things in life. Instead of using your anxiety as a tool, many times we look to drugs and mood enhancers to deal with our worried thoughts.
At the end of the day, our anxieties are just telling us to take action. So if you are a 13-year-old, and are feeling anxious about a presentation, do something about it that DIRECTLY affects the outcome. Present to your wall 10 times, then do one more. You will be (literally) 10 times more prepared.