I did my first live gig as a drummer about 3 months after I first picked up a pair of sticks. I don’t remember much about the playing (which is probably a good thing, frankly!), but I can clearly remember how incredibly nervous I felt.
A few weeks ago, I facilitated a corporate event for an amazing organisation called Goal 17, and was equally as nervous … but … it was a very different sort of nervous.
The nerves I was feeling at that first gig were about being underprepared – a sense of not being good enough, of the potential embarrassment that might result.
The nerves I felt at the Goal 17 event were about wanting to do the best job I possibly could – it was about giving all the participants an amazing experience.
This difference is crucial for a number of reasons, the most significant of which is the focus. In the first case – the ‘underprepared nerves’ – the focus was on me; it was about what I might get wrong. In the second example – the ‘caring nerves’ – it was about the other people; I didn’t want to let any of them down.
Another important difference is what you can do about the nerves. If you’re feeling underprepared, then you can do something about it … you can practice, you can work at it, you can get better, and reduce the nerves.
Regarding the caring nerves – the bad news is that they never really go away! The good news is that they probably shouldn’t – as Tiger Woods once said before a tournament, “If you don’t get nervous, it means you don’t care.” While this might seem scary, it’s something we can all learn to embrace.
So, the next time you start to feel nervous about something, ask yourself ‘why?’ If you know you’ve not actually put the work in, then you can do something about it … and if you’re nervous because you care, then remind yourself that is a good thing.
It’s like everything else – if we adopt a growth mindset, then we can deal with our nerves.
Next time you’re feeling nervous, ask yourself – why? And what can I learn from this?