Pressure. The very word strikes fear into many people. Winners thrive on pressure, while losers fear it.
What is pressure? My definition of pressure is when you absolutely have to do something you are not prepared to do. If you have to kick a field goal to win a big football game and you aren't prepared to do it, you are going to be nervous. You're going to feel pressure. But if you're really prepared for it, you can't wait to show people how good you are.
That's why winners look forward to pressure. It brings out their best. People who welcome pressure are more successful.
Conversely, pressure can cripple you if you're not prepared. When pressure is self-inflicted, it can control you. Pressure is an attitude. It's 10 percent of what is happening and 90 percent of how you handle it.
Don't be like my friend Mark. They used to call him "Jigsaw" because every time he was faced with a problem, he went to pieces.
To be a champion in sports, business or any realm of life, you have to learn to handle pressure. If you've prepared mentally and physically, you don't have to worry.
During my corporate speeches I repeat one of my favorite aphorisms: "Practice makes perfect -- not true. You have to add one word: Perfect practice makes perfect." I wish that I had coined that phrase, but I didn't. It's often credited to legendary pro football coach Vince Lombardi.
This is why, over my lifetime, I've had numerous coaches to help me develop whatever natural talent I have. I've had coaches for public speaking, writing, ideas/creativity, running marathons, golf, tennis, water skiing, swimming, bowling and basketball, to name only a few. I've even had a dance coach ... thanks to my wife.
Why do I have all of these coaches? Because whatever my God-given talent is, whatever my God-given potential is -- that's it. I can't do any better. But I will still try to do the best I can, with the best help I can get.
If I have a project, I'll have a time and action calendar, get the best coaching I can find and then try my hardest, focus and give it all I've got.
Should I feel pressure? Yes, but I will use it to my advantage. I'm as prepared as I can be. I can't do any more.
Research shows that one of the key ways to deal with pressure is to have a feeling of control. And what better way to be in control than to be prepared and experienced?
Take NASA as an example. NASA puts all its astronauts through situations they might encounter in space. Who can even begin to think about what might happen out there in the starry void? The moon is more than 238,000 miles away from Earth! Pressure? You better believe it. But they are prepared. If you are familiar with what is happening to and around you, you will have a powerful feeling of confidence.
Let's face it: No matter what, you are going to be in high-pressure situations. No one is free from pressure. It can't be avoided. Don't panic. Don't lose your cool. Concentrate. Return to fundamentals. Get your confidence back.
As simple as it sounds, try taking deep, relaxing breaths. Pressure often causes people to breathe more quickly and shallowly. Deep breathing allows oxygen to more efficiently enter the blood and the brain, which will help you think more clearly.
Don't stress over what you cannot control. Everybody gets a curveball now and then. Shake it off the best you can. Be flexible and appreciate adversity. It will help you grow stronger.
As Jacques Plante, a former professional hockey goalie for the Montreal Canadiens once said, "How would you like it in your job if every time you made a small mistake, a red light went on over your desk and 15,000 people stood up and yelled at you?"
Try to relax. Things could be worse.
Mackay's Moral: A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.