How to Outperform Yourself

Not such a long time ago, in a conference room not so far, far away, I remember being incredibly nervous about presenting to a roomful of seasoned attorneys and professionals. I was allotted a minimum of time (maybe 3 minutes) in which to deliver a maximum impact. My boss was there, my boss's boss, friends and acquaintances - all eyes would be on me.

Have you ever been plagued by self-doubt going into a big opportunity? Big sale, big speech, big interview? You picture others performing at a much higher level than you and worry that even if you deliver your best, you will not impress. This is a serious problem.

Fortunately, there is a free, low-calorie method to help you perform above and beyond your own expectations (or for many of us, self-imposed limitations) for yourself. I jokingly call it "Channeling Liam Neeson." My wife teases me about my bromance with Liam. He's played some amazing characters - Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars, Bryan Mills in Taken, and let's not forget, Bad Cop in the Lego Movie. But seriously, it's about embodying the persona of someone who you know would handle the situation masterfully.

You see, when you are inexperienced and haven't yet developed enough confidence, you often feel you have no template for success. And when your reaction is to be plagued by self-doubt, you've already boxed yourself into a poor to mediocre performance.

Instead of struggling though it with uncertainty, flip a mental switch and become a character that you know would just kill it. Embody his or her attitude, demeanor, body language and style. Have them serve as your template to guide you and ultimately help you perform at a higher level than you thought possible.

In reality, this is less acting and more a shift in perspective, because it is ultimately you in the room, at the table, or on the spot. And if a character doesn't appeal to you, try a role model or mentor. Many musicians, martial artists, and professionals initially start out by imitating their teachers. In fact, sometimes the imitation is so intense that they imitate every tick and mannerism - even ones that have nothing to do with the performance! Along the way a funny thing happens - you start to internalize and assimilate their abilities as your own. You are no longer imitating. You have arrived. It isn't Liam up there and it isn't me pretending to be Liam. It's just me and he is merely a bridge to help me realize my full potential.

So now we're back in that conference room, the previous presenter is wrapping up and I'm about to be introduced. There are many Liam Neeson characters to choose from, but I go with Bryan Mills from Taken. Cool under fire, deadly efficient, and in charge of any situation. As I switch into Liam-mode, my breathing slows as I imagine his would, my senses sharpen, and my resolve increases exponentially. Three minutes later I had left a trail of light-hearted laughs, memorable catch phrases and still living, well-informed colleagues. Mission accomplished.

So the next time you don't feel up to the task, channel Liam (or another appropriate persona), kick some butt and "that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you..."

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.