I have really been enjoying the Olympics. It’s so inspiring. Most of all, I love watching the athletes who win gold. Who doesn’t? I love watching that seemingly effortless performance – the ultimate expression of someone at the top of their game. It’s what we’re in pursuit of as creatives: being so in sync and in the moment with our craft that we glide through and everything seems like magic.
Since London-time is ahead of us here in the US, getting the news about who won is kind of unavoidable, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting to me. On the contrary, in some ways I find it more interesting. I’ve been getting really into studying the athletes’ demeanor prior to the event. Here’s what I’ve taken away. They all have something in common. They all have the eye of the tiger. Take Allyson Felix right before she won gold in the 200 meters. I was thinking as the camera followed her pre-race that she seemed so focused, so determined, she looked so in the zone– in retrospect it felt like she had to win. Of course she won.
All of the Olympic athletes are wonderfully skilled and talented at their craft. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t. What separates out the gold medalists is their ability to handle the pressure, their mental game, so to speak. Their mental game is the most important thing.
It makes me think about auditioning. About focus and concentration. Investment. Am I putting on my game face and truly going for it each and every time I step up to the mic? Once we approach a certain level, we’re all good at our craft. But how do we handle the mental side of this career? How do we approach each audition? Do we bring baggage with us (like all the other auditions we didn’t book, for example) or are we clean, clear and fresh? Do we shrug it off and downplay our importance (the “I’ll book it if I book it” attitude)? What would it be like to step up with the eye of the tiger, every time? To have the sense that this matters, that it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, EVERY time.
A few years ago I was studying promo intensively with a great teacher. At one point she admitted, “There’s a certain element of showing off when you step up to the mic. A certain attitude of watch what I can do.” That stuck with me because we’re taught to be humble and not show-off-y. Fine. She by no means meant to encourage show-boating or mugging. What she was talking about was confidence. Confidence so real that it’s palpable. It’s that extra something that translates into I’m a winner and it just might be the thing that gets you the job. It is easy to get complacent and just show up for the audition. But what would it be like if those athletes just showed up at their events?
It’s not about just doing the job adequately. It’s about being a gold medalist. Truly investing yourself and being willing to really compete for the gold. A certain amount of swagger- I’m here because I belong here, now watch me prove it– is not a bad thing. In fact it might be the thing that wins it for you. Nobody can take that away from you and nobody can give it to you.
So where does confidence of that nature come from? It comes from practice of course. It comes from developing your skills so thoroughly that you can do it in your sleep. You don’t have to think about it because it’s in you- the 10,000 hours rule. But just as much as we hone our skills- I am also thinking we need to develop our spirits- our inner Olympic competitors.
When you step up to the mic (or in front of the camera, or approach whatever art it is you make) do you put on your game face? Are you truly going for the gold? Do you have the eye of the tiger?