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Psyched Up

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Psyched Up

How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The latest scientific research explains how to “psych yourself up” for a critical event.

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Management expert Daniel McGinn explains how to boost your confidence before a crucial interview, athletic competition, speech or performance. Think back on something you feel proud of having achieved. Turn on music or find somewhere silent so you can reflect. Consider the steps salespeople, performers, athletes or even surgeons take before they hit the spotlight. Some have set routines; others practice rituals or turn to good luck superstitions. Their examples prove that you don’t have to show up nervous and undone; you can be “psyched up” and ready. McGinn summarizes extensive research about preparing for critical events and illustrates his points with numerous anecdotes. He may bury his insights in a welter of details, but the insights are nonetheless worthwhile and helpful. Everyone who makes public presentations will find beneficial ideas in McGinn’s suggestions.


Getting “Psyched Up”

Many people work for themselves, and their success can depend on the initial impression they make on potential clients. You could work up to 2,000 hours a year, yet find your overall success depends on just one interview, sales pitch, presentation, or meeting with a boss or client.

By age seven, Noa Kageyama was a skilled violinist. He attended a music camp at Ithaca College. At the end of the camp, the children had to perform. Kageyama watched another young violinist experience a severe anxiety attack. Seeing this, Kageyama felt nervous for the first time. He had never experienced such anxiety. Despite this, he played successfully without any major issues.

As he grew older, Kageyama never experienced “a full blown panic attack,” but he did feel anxious. His hands would sweat and his “mind would wander.” He felt irritated that he wasn’t playing as well as he might have played without the anxiety. As a graduate student at Juilliard, he attended a class titled “Performance Enhancement for Musicians.” He discovered that musicians must learn to deal with anxiety. The experience “led him to quit playing violin altogether.”

About the Author

Harvard Business Review senior editor Daniel McGinn has written for a number of leading publications including Wired, The Boston Globe Magazine and Newsweek.

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