I am going to an important meeting tomorrow. Not just a meeting but a luncheon. Yeah, luncheon, not lunch. So much more important they had to add three extra letters. A business luncheon, to be exact. This is SoTotallyNotMyStyle. See, I had this great little idea about how to help some of the businesses in my town, and then the little idea grew. And then before I knew it, I was invited to go to this meeting. Luncheon. Thing. To talk about my idea. With a lot of business people, most of whom I don’t know except as their customer. Remind me again, what was I thinking?
At first I felt a little panicky. When it comes to work, I like to be the one in the background. As a writer, it’s just easier that way. I do most of my client work over the phone or via email or the occasional fax. You need a brilliant ad created. I talk to you and create it. When the magazine comes out, I get my check, but YOU get all the credit for having such a brilliant ad. Everybody’s happy. It’s not that I mind doing business face to face. It’s just that I haven’t really had to do it in about a dozen years. And that makes me feel a little rusty. Which puts me into more of a panic.
But there’s no getting around this luncheonmeetingthing. As I see it, I’ve got two choices: go and take advantage, or miss out on the proverbial golden opportunity. Oh, and it just so happens that the featured discussion topic is a perfect fit for my idea.
I’ve already had a mini meltdown about what to wear. Then I realized that it didn’t matter what I picked out: the forecast is calling for rain and snow, so my options will be limited. This is somewhat of a blessing. I can spend less time on the wardrobe issue. Awesome. Then I started freaking out about my “performance.” That’s the real kicker right there. Can I walk the walk and talk the talk? What if no one ’gets’ my idea? What if they see me as a fraud? What if I totally bomb?
OK, the truth is, if I put that pressure on myself, I’m going to choke. I do best when I just go in and do my thing off the cuff, without agonizing over it. What’s meant to be, will be.
Here’s a little story about how I learned that concept: When I was in junior high, about the time that photo at the top of this page was taken (yep, that’s me), my mom came to one of my track meets. It was a big regional meet and I knew the competition was going to be tight. I was so nervous knowing that she was there and wanted to show her what I could do because she’d never really watched me run before.
I was hyper-focused and kept stretching and doing high knee drills while I waited for my race: 100 meters. My specialty. My heat had two false starts, which is incredibly nerve-wracking. I got back in the blocks the third time. Pistol went off. I lunged out of the blocks but was so nervous that I lost my balance and my legs got tangled up. I never got my stride and stumbled awkwardly for about 4 meters and then did a long, slow, skidding face plant into the sandy gravel (not the more crash-friendly foam most tracks are made of these days). I still have scars on the side of my left wrist/forearm from trying to break my fall. As my competitors sprinted toward the tape, I pulled myself up from the dust cloud I’d created, and realized my arms and legs were covered in scrapes. I had spiked myself in the fall, ripping open my left calf and blood was streaming down my leg. I dug the grit out of my eyes and nose and limped off, spitting out gravel and trying not to cry because my eyes were already stinging. Even though I was only 13, it was one of the most humiliating moments of my life. Still cringe-worthy after all these years. But, showing wisdom beyond my years, I quickly realized it happened because I let myself get so nervous. That pressure to be perfect caused me to fail. And fail I did. Miserably.
When I moved on to high school (yay – foam tracks!), I had the best coach. He was smart, funny, knowledgeable, and he was a psychology major. Yep. Not a Phys Ed major. Psych. He was skilled at finding just the right approach for each individual on our team. Some people need their hands held and lots of positive reinforcement. Some people need you screaming in their ear, demanding to know if that’s the best they’ve got. He understood our individual quirks and successfully used them to teach us what we needed to know. One of the most important things he taught me was how to chill before a race. Because I was that all or nothing type. My best was never good enough for me. Size up your competition, he’d say. Know what you’re up against, but don’t let them beat you before the pistol goes off. Just have faith in your abilities, know that you have prepared well, and then relax and run your own race. The fastest runner doesn’t always win. But a confident one does.
Those are the words of my high school track coach, Lee McLeroy, psychology major. Good advice in every endeavor. It has carried me through more life lessons than I’d like to admit. But it is advice that never fails. And I would encourage you to keep this advice in mind whenever you face a difficult situation and are nervous about what the outcome will be!
Tomorrow, I’m going to enjoy my luncheon. Meet new people. Talk about my idea. Probably make a few mistakes, too. But that’s OK. I may not be the fastest runner there, so to speak, but I’ll be running my own race. And that’s good enough for me.