Think of the last time you were nervous about something.
Perhaps it was public speaking.
Or starting a new job.
Firing an employee.
Traveling to a faraway destination.
Proposing to your spouse.
Meeting with investors.
All of these experiences are moments in time. Moments in life. They’re new, novel, unknown.
As well as the nerves we may have felt during the experience itself, you’ll probably also remember the nerves we had in the lead up.
Pacing backstage as the speaker before you finishes up; the elevator that takes you to where all those new colleagues are located; asking that staff member to step outside with you for a private conversation.
But do you remember how you slept the night before?
Perhaps you got your full 8 hours, not even the slightest disturbance.
More likely, you probably tossed and turned a little.
Maybe you were wide awake for a half hour or so, or woke up way earlier than usual.
Perhaps you had a completely sleepless night – eyes wide open for hours, brain whirring and spinning, irrational alertness.
Now, imagine how you’d feel the night before competing in a big sporting event: the Super Bowl; a World Cup final; the bout to become the world heavyweight boxing champion; an Olympic Games’ 100m sprint for the medals.
Pre-Game Nerves. Something new, novel, unknown. A moment in time. A life moment.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes, with experience and reps, the pre-game nerves start to shift.
The restlessness, nerves and energy move elsewhere. They go from pre-game to post-game.
It may not feel like it at the time, but unlike pre-game’s ability to paralyze, post-game’s purpose is to propel forwards. Post-game is about processing, reflecting, synthesizing, augmenting.
When post-game starts to shows up, pre-game probably still bring nerves and excitement, but it’s a groove to ride rather than an overwhelming wave. Pre-game has shimmering energy; gentle anticipation. Pre-game is a sense of business as usual, but with enough kinetic energy to remind of the importance of staying in the groove.
Over time, as experience and experiences grow, the surges that come from post-game restlessness settle into the subconscious: the synthesis and integration occur without you even realising.
There are different games of course.
Some are infinite; there is no pre or post-game visible to the mind’s eye.
Others may occur just a handful of times in a lifespan – if at all. Here, pre-game and post-game are unlikely ever to be in sync – nor should they be.
Yet the majority of games are played time and again.
The company all-hands.
Tonight’s gig on the new tour.
The strategy session with the team.
Kicking off the next creative project.
For these games, perhaps the goal is to find the magic combination of pre-game’s light effervescence along with the attuned absorption the post-game brings.
There are many ways to get there, but in the end it just comes down to one thing. Practice.