On Thursday night I was fortunate enough to go the Classic Brits at the Royal Albert Hall as the guest of one of the sponsors (thank you PPL). I must admit I went along for no other reason than not looking a gift horse in the mouth, what reason was there not to? The one negative up front was that Russell Watson was singing… I don’t have a problem with his voice but as a brand he makes my skin crawl I don’t know why. As it turns out he didn’t rock up (no reason given) so my skin was safe. The highlight of the evening turned out to be a 74 year old Welsh woman in the form of Dame Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger” in a tribute to sadly departed John Barry – AMAZING! Not just her powerful and distinctive voice but the way she completely owned the stage.
I have been lucky enough to attend some amazing concerts in my time (gigs and concerts) and the common thing is the respect and awe for the people who can stand up there and do that. This could apply to many people from Thursday night but for example, Alison Balsom. She’s a 32 year old British trumpet player. She won female artist of the year. She was appointed Professor of Trumpet at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama at 22!!! (which feels just like showing off). But still she stood there on Thursday night have changed from ‘award winner’ frock into ‘performer’ frock and with only 14 musicians to accompany hear put a trumpet to her mouth and created the most amazing sound. What was going through her mind whilst she did it? How did she deal with her nerves? How did she cope with increased pulse and skin temperature when any affect on her breathing would hinder her performance? What was the psychology of her awesome achievement?
Like many of us, I do a fairly normal job. I go to an office, I go to meetings, I try and not overspend my budget, I write business cases, I talk to my team, I talk to my peers, I make presentations – you know….the usual. My success or failure isn’t defined by 4 minutes stood on a stage, it’s defined in different ways by different people and in some cases through different people. So how would my mind cope with standing on the stage in the Royal Albert Hall for 4 minutes?
When I was a youth I worked in Media Sales, I was one of those people who had to try and reach the decision maker, ask the dopey question and try against all odds to get a meeting to sell an advert. It was the most incredible learning experience and as I sit here now some years later I would rather have hot pokers stuck in my eyes than have to do it again. The MD of the business I worked for was a fan of Brian Tracy and his “Psychology of Achievement” books/tapes/videos/seminars (all available at very high price from etc). Whilst I’m sure Tracy’s methods work for some I personally couldn’t stand and repeat at least 20 times “today I am going to be better than I was yesterday” – it just felt too American (ironically Tracy is Canadian), too false and made my skin responded in exactly the same way it does to Russell Watson…
That being said if you think about Alison Balsom, or Tiger Woods (before his wife hit him with a golf club) or any person stood in front of a pair of rugby posts with the weight of a nation on their shoulders – how do you cope with all of the noise going through your mind? The noise or even worse deathly hush of the crowd? The lack of sleep the night before and the dreams where it all goes wrong? There’s a line in the TV show “The West Wing” where the Chief of Staff says to the President “elections are won or lost on one square foot of real estate”, he then points at his head…
I don’t have the answer and would be really interested to hear people’s views about dealing with anxiety, pressure and that make or break moment, but the thing that Balsom and Woods have in common aside from talent is practice. They do their performance thousands of times before they get anywhere near the stage/fairway and whilst you get better as a professional doing a “normal” job over time is there anything we can learn from these amazing talents that would benefit organisations?
I hope to get some thoughts/challenges/answers to the questions posted above but will leave you to think about that with what to me is a great example of talent+practice+mindset=result
and it’s been bothering me there was no balance. This is not directly related to the post but had to be done, and to quote Max Boyce “I was there”