A few years ago, I was standing in the lobby of a hotel, talking to Jay Baer.
He was about to go on stage, in front of 200 or so PR firm leaders, to give one of his first speeches on The NOW Revolution, the book he co-authored with Amber Naslund.
I asked him if he was nervous. He said no. Then he went on to tell me that the more you speak—and I would soon realize this—the less nervous you get.
Well, that was nearly five years ago and I’m still waiting.
In fact, I am speaking at both Content Marketing World and INBOUND next week and, just thinking about it, makes me want to puke.
My palms are sweaty, I have a pit in my stomach, and I’m beginning to shake.
These nerves will be harnessed by the time I go on stage, but it’s a good six days before I can take a breath.
Use RAIN When You Are Nervous
Right now, I going use RAIN, a tool used by many meditation teachers—originally developed by Michele McDonald—to calm myself down.
This is a simple, yet powerful way to handle your nerves, no matter what you’re nervous about. It could be a first date, a presentation to the board, telling your boss about a challenge you’re having, a media event, a big race, working with a client, meeting a new group of people for the first time, or getting up on stage.
According to A Simple Yet Powerful Way to Handle a Stress Episode, this is how you work RAIN:
- Recognition: Consciously take notice of what is occurring in your body and mind. For example, “My mouth feels dry and there is a pit in my stomach. I feel like an idiot.” Or, in my case, my palms are sweaty and you can actually see me shake.
- Acceptance: Acknowledge being nervous is okay and allow yourself to manage it. This doesn’t mean that you’re happy about it, but giving up the effort to resist it is the quickest way to help it subside.
- Investigation: Ask yourself calmly what thoughts and emotions are present, what stories you are telling yourself. Following this technique, I might think, “I know Joe Pulizzi doesn’t invite speakers back if they don’t score a minimum four out of five. What if I don’t? What if they hate me? How do my legs look in this dress? What if people look at me and think, ‘Yeah, sure you’re a cycling. Your legs don’t look muscular at all.’” It’s totally crazy to have those thoughts, but we all do it.
- Non-identification: Having recognized, accepted, and explored the implications of being nervous, the final step is to realize this do not define you. “I am having the thought that I may feel like a failure” is very different from and much more manageable than “I am a failure.”
Or, as Jack Handy used to say on Saturday Night Live, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like me.”
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