It was four hours before high noon but I already started to feel some tension in my neck and a few nagging thoughts of failure were starting to enter my mind. I was feeling the "heat," aka pressure. I knew I had to stay calm and focus on my task if I were to keep my promise -- sending the last chapter of my new book to my editor by 12 p.m.
Taking a few short breaths brought me back to the reality of the situation: I had about an hour's worth of edits to do so I had plenty of time. I relaxed with that realization. Armed with my one- day old MacBook air, I was confident that I would outdraw pressure. No reason to sweat.
I was breezing along. All I had to do is tap the save key, and attach it to an email. No quick draw needed here. At least that is what I thought. Then, the nightmare began. Something had gone astray -- a glitch already? -- for some reason, the program would not save my edits nor would that little apple stop spinning around. I waited a few minutes. Then I waited some more, and then some more.
I immediately called the Apple Store I bought it from in Stamford and after an agonizing, incredibly long minute, I finally got through. "My computer is not working. I bought it yesterday. I am coming down right now and want it fixed," I said in my most angry customer voice I could muster. I packed up and hurried to my car. It would take me a good 25 minutes to get the Apple Store and another 25 minutes to get back.
In just a few seconds, I flashed up the scenario of missing my deadline, angering my editor, and having my book's publication postponed a month or two. "Not acceptable," I told myself. "You still have plenty of time, just stay focused on your mission," my internal thoughts commanded.
Easier said than done. Making a left turn out of my driveway, gloom and doom thoughts resurfaced -- these thoughts -- I call them pressure distortions because they intensify feelings of pressure -- are tough to knock out. Got to distract myself from anxiety that was starting to get the best of me -- I knew I had to do that.
Ah I would reduce some pressure feelings by calling ESPN sports radio -- I do this frequently and they know me as "Hank from Connecticut." But like so often the case, when you are under pressure, a bad choice is made. Only after a minute or two of being on hold, I noticed the red flashing light behind me.
"Officer, I'm sorry for talking on my phone. I am under a lot of pressure. I gave him a quick summary of my plight hoping he would be merciful and concluded by telling him, "I didn't even notice you were behind me." "That's what concerns me," he told me as he wrote out the ticket. He did wish me success for my book.
The ticket was upsetting but I had learned that getting angry would only give pressure an edge in its effort to derail me. Pressure is powerful enough -- it didn't need an extra bullet. I visualized a funny image and was back on route.
I finally got to the Apple store. Tick-tock, tick, tock. I could feel pressure approaching. I felt worse when I was told that the computer had to be turned off and I would lose the edits that took me 40 minutes to do. Nevertheless, I quickly realized my best option is to go home, do the edits over. High noon was still two and half hours away. I took a minute to remember that I've met most of my deadlines, felt a burst of confidence, and once again focused on my mission.
An hour and a half later, I made my final edit but when I attached the document to email, it wouldn't attach. Now I have a problem, but because I learned to anticipate the unexpected, I smartly purchased Apple Works -- a group of saviors that I was told could help me solve any problem my MacBook Air could generate. With hope, I called them and suffice to say, the voice on the other end talked me through what turned out to be a very simple procedure. It worked. A few minutes later, my final chapter was in the computer of my editor.
Later that night, I reflected on how I won my showdown with pressure: I stayed calm, kept my focus, used my thoughts productively, remembered my past successes, prepared for the unexpected, and slowed myself down to avoid needless anxiety. Pressure never had a chance.
Nevertheless, there was a downside. I would have to pay that ticket -- a hundred bucks. Well, I'd be sure to have my day in court -- not to ask the Judge to let me off the hook -- but to tell the Judge, Sheriff, and anyone else who would listen about my new book to be published by Random House. It's called, Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters the Most!
I'd like to hear about your pressure moments and how you deal with them.