I recently listened to an interview Chris Hardwick did with his father, former professional bowler Billy Hardwick. It was a great listen! One of the things Billy talked about was that he didn’t pay attention to the crowd, his opponent, or even his own score–he just bowled. Billy said that what he did he did in order to avoid getting nervous, noting that being relaxed and focused is what allowed him to accomplish his tremendous feats.
I’m much more creative when I’m relaxed, so I’m going to adopt the Hardwick method. Before, if I got nervous, I’d try to tell myself that getting nervous doesn’t mean I’m going to perform poorly. Or I’d tell myself that getting nervous feels a lot like being excited and, hey, I could be excited! But if either of those things worked, I think it was because it distracted me from what was making me nervous, which was me, by the way. I’m great at making me nervous.
One way make me nervous is just by envisioning me failing–in great detail. Or! I would feel generally negative, not know why, and then look for reasons that I might be feeling bad. Maybe my face was getting fat. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’ll never be able to monetize my talents and wolves will eat me. Or how about that time I was six and an old man offered me a children’s book and I said no and then he left that children’s book for me on the street. WHY DID I DO THAT? Also, my grandmother is old and my mother works so hard and, what am I, a bum? And how about poverty in Africa or Romania’s orphan epidemic?!
I don’t do that as much anymore. Partly because I’m more confident and partly because I’ve just stopped thinking about the things that used to worry me. Too often I’d try to use my intellect to think my way out of being nervous, but that gave my nervousness undue legitimacy. It’s not a problem to be dealt with rationally; it’s just a feeling I get. And rather than engage it, I just do what needs to be done.
This might sound familiar to you. It’s what heroes do. When you hear people talk about how they jumped in front of a subway to save someone and pressed them down to the ground to keep them safe, they don’t talk about their worries. They talk about how they just did what they had to do. I’m a hero now. And to all those people who want to bring me down, telling me this about odds or that about making a living. Why you trying to bring a hero down? You wanna get us all killed?! Cause that’s what happens if you heckle Superman! And, right now, I’m Superman. Do or do not; there is no try. Now I’m Yoda! Lead follow or get out of the way! Now I’m Luke Wilson in Ideocracy! The only thing to fear is fear itself. FDR! Now get outta my way before I run you down with my wheelchair!