The comments that were made in regards to my last post regarding American Idol vs Olympics Performances were nothing but astounding. Reading your stories and insight have brought tears to my eyes. So thank you!
Now, I mentioned Shaun White and I wrote about fear in regards to performance. I also promised I would follow up on this subject. Well, we have certainly witnessed amazing feats in the last couple of days…
Let’s start off with Shaun White. I wrote the previous article before he was about to compete in the finals of the snowboard half pipe. I mentioned how he was the heavy favorite with enormous pressure on him to win, and also expected to perform a trick no one has ever done before. Would he be able to perform at his peak with this kind of pressure?
I also mentioned his attitude, work ethic, his constant challenge to push the boundaries of what is possible, in addition to his fun-loving personality. This has not only made him the peak performer that he is, but has also been a major factor in growing the popularity of his sport.
Well, if you saw the competition you know what happened. In his first run, he flew higher than everyone else. But then in the last trick, he didn’t do the trick everyone had had been waiting for. He did a safer trick, and yet he landed the highest score.
Now being the leader, he would start last in the second run. Since it is the highest score of one of the two runs that counts, everyone else would now have to push the boundaries of their capabilities to outscore him. He had turned the tables and put the pressure on them.
This time no one succeeds and Shaun White is proclaimed the winner without needing to do his second run.
So what do you do now? The pressure is off. You have already won. You’re celebrating. But what do you do? On TV we could sense this dilemma. Just ride down the center and celebrate?
To be able to refocus in this situation is one of the most difficult things to do. If you have listened to Shaun White you know that he needs pressure to perform well. All peak performers do. But where’s the pressure? He has to find it.
Now, of course he knows what people are waiting for. They’re expecting to see the trick – the one everyone has been talking about. Talk about pressure. His coach helps him to refocus – adding to the pressure – by saying: “Don’t do it if you’re not gonna stick it”.
However, his thoughts are likely not on what other people expect. He came to the Olympics with a trick in his bag that he has worked so hard on – the Double MacTwist 1260. Would he walk away without doing it? Of course not, not if you’re Shaun White.
For peak performer is not just about winning, it is about doing what you set out to do – to do something you haven’t done before.
So there he goes in his second run, flies like never before, leaving us mortals gaping in awe over how it is even possible. And then he heads for the last trick… and he does it. He lands his Double MacTwist 1260 perfectly and once again he has given us insights into the spirit of a peak performer.
So was he nervous? Of course. All performers are nervous. In fact, Shaun White speaks openly about it.
If you listen to athletes, you will learn that they are all nervous. Some are just more honest about expressing it. The Alpine skier Bode Miller has openly talked about how nervous he has felt this time. And amazing results have followed. To him nervousness is good.
Last week a private client, who is a great singer but hasn’t had much performance experience, mentioned how nervous she is because she is not yet a pro.
I ask you the same question as I asked her:
What has made you believe that professionals are less nervous than you are?
In fact, I will leave you with this to contemplate (and respond to if you wish):
If you are not nervous on a regular basis, you are not challenging yourself enough. What are you about to do this week that makes you nervous?