The anticipation today in the UK is palpable. A nervous, anxious, excited feeling that grips your stomach. Its the semi finals to the world cup (in the UK there is only ONE world cup - football! (that's soccer to our US readers ) I’m not a huge football fan, but even I am anticipating tonight’s match with eager anticipation. I have a tug of war going on in my head – at one moment enjoying the excitement, the next I’m trying to be pragmatic if we don’t get through. I then reprimand myself for not thinking positively and not believing in the team – we can win, we are just as good as Croatia and France. Are we? Doubt again.
Luckily I’m not one of those footballers tonight. The positive effects of the physiological advice given to Gareth Southgate’s team are obvious. His mantra of instilling in the team; “write your own stories”, is indeed something they are achieving so far. And it’s a fantastic mantra. The risk of walking the same path as others; of falling over the same traps; of history inevitably repeating itself can be one that is hard to overcome. Especially if you focus your attention too much on what has gone before, and not enough on what you can achieve next.
Similarly, sometimes the task can seem too big, too scary and we can be paralysed by fear - in mind or in body.
All this anticipation got me thinking of a poem I first came across around 20 years ago, when I was on a Professional Development course, based on Dale Carnegie methods.
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but you think you can't,
It is almost a certain - you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you've lost;
For out in this world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you're outclassed, you are;
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can!
The book this was in was Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich. Although he didn't reference the poet in his book its actually called "The Man Who Thinks He Can" by Walter D. Wintle.
The book passed me by at that age. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, or maybe I was too young for it. Although I have gone back to it since, and I would recommend it. For the anecdotes if nothing else.
The Dale Carnegie course, however, instilled in me a much greater lesson. It enabled gave me the power to believe in myself and not be tripped up by fear or doubt. The nucleus of this belief came on the very first day of the course.
As I entered the room on the first day it became apparent that my name wasn’t down, the course had been running for 2 or 3 weeks, and I’d missed the first few sessions. The course booking had been made last-minute, so I didn’t question this. But it soon became apparent that the task of the day was to stand up and present to the room a topic you’d prepared over the last week. Of course, I had not prepared anything because I hadn’t been there last week.
Sweat was starting to run down my back, as the realisation set in that I would have to get up and speak to 50 or so individuals, none of whom I knew, on a subject that I hadn’t even though of yet. All I could think about was how I could get out of it. Could I ask not to take part? Could I turn around and run out of the door? Hide in the toilets? However, trying to bow out was not an option. I knew the course was expensive. At the time I worked for my Dad's small company, and I couldn’t go back to work saying I’d quit the course before I’d even started. Plus, the whole point of this was to get outside of your comfort zone. Everyone around me looked nervous, although they’d prepared their topics and probably practised. No-one seemed comfortable.
There was no escape, I would have to go for it.
I have no idea what I talked about for 5 minutes that evening. I don’t remember a word of it. What I do remember is the elation I felt afterwards. It was undoubtedly a terrible presentation, but it didn’t matter. I’d just stood up and ad-libbed, and lived to tell the tale.
Just after I got off the stage, the organisers realised I shouldn’t be in this class after all. There was an “unofficial” Dale Carnegie class about to start their first week a few floors up in the same building – I was meant to be on that course.
You are kidding me!!
But it didn’t matter. It gave me an anecdote to tell when we came to do the public speaking session in that course a few weeks later, and probably for a good while longer than that.
OK, so its not quite like getting into the semi-finals of a world cup. But for me it was a small victory. Sometimes you need to believe in yourself, look fear in the eye and #writeyourownstories