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A Look in the Mirror

Posted by on March 7th, 2013 with 0 Comments

When you’re nervous, there’s nothing more unsettling than seeing that everyone else is calm and relaxed.

As you step up to a big challenge, how do you look?

  • Is your brow sweaty? Or dry?
  • Are your hands twitchy? Or rock-steady?
  • Is your heart beating out of your chest? Or barely noticeable?
  • Is your voice shaking? Or commanding?

Note that I didn’t ask how you feel… only how you look.
Nervous energy is good, but channeling that nervous energy is much better.

An unworried expression is one sign that a person is focused on accomplishing a major goal with his entire soul.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, from D.E. Tarver’s translation of “The Hagakure

With his life on the line, a samurai had good reason to fear any man with an unworried expression. Such a man was either supremely focused or supremely stupid. Either of those possibilities is dangerous when combined with a sword.

I’m struck by three points in Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s quote:

  • Unworried expression:
    This phrase brings baseball star Derek Jeter to mind. Even during the most pressure-packed moments of a critical World Series game, Jeter is smiling and joking. From an outward appearance, he treats the most critical outs of the biggest games like they are just another batting practice.
    Why? Because he’s put in his work. He’s where he wants to be. He’s put himself in position to succeed. The outcome is almost irrelevant at that point.
  • Focused on a goal:
    When a person is truly focused on a goal, everything else recedes. They are undistracted, unbothered.
    When one is focused on anything other than the goal, they are less likely to achieve it.
  • Entire soul:
    Everything is working together – body, spirit, and mind – and commitment is absolute. How often have you seen that? When we’re lucky, we see it in singers, comedians, and speakers. How often do you feel it?

Yamamoto’s passage is a great description of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow” state. Flow requires a goal, feedback, skills equal to the challenge that is presented, and uninterrupted time.

Put all that in place and then commit your “entire soul” and you can bring the spirit of a samurai to whatever you do.

SMART as Hell Exercise

  1. Identify: What is your ‘battlefield’?
  2. Reflect: What do you look like as you enter battle? Do you carry an ‘unworried expression’? If not, what does your expression look like?
  3. Ask: Am I focused in these situations? What am I focused on? What is my goal in these situations?
  4. Reflect: What do I need to change to have an ‘unworried expression’?
  5. Identify: What you’ll do differently to be more successful.
  6. Act: On what you’ve identified.

Share your comments, questions, or reflections below.

 

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