I’m a drummer. That’s who I am, has been since before I can remember. Turning that into a career hasn’t always been easy (though it’s generally been a lot of fun).
But not always. About 28 years ago, I experienced a moment of such anxiety that I couldn’t judge my internal sense of time, find my rhythm or even breathe—all things that are vitally important for a drummer to do—despite years of building up to that moment.
I was frustrated and angry afterward. But I’ve come to see my trials as opportunities. So, I decided to overcome my fear—or at least learn how to use it to my advantage. That journey lasted years, as I uncovered the three steps to conquer, harness, tame and manage my “stage fright.” And a couple of years ago, my team came up with “Overcoming Life’s Stage Fright” as a topic for some of my speaking gigs.
After all, I could be one of the more qualified people in the world to take on the subject. Over the course of my life, I’ve performed for nearly a billion people. What better way to thank everyone who has made that possible than by sharing my philosophies as a musical performer and inspiring people in all walks of life to overcome their fears?
Suddenly, writing this book became less a dream than an inevitability.
I knew these three core concepts worked to transform people’s fears of performing into confident top performance. I knew these core concepts are at the foundation of all top performance. I wanted to scream and shout about it; I decided to write a book instead! During a short break from that tour, sitting on our cozy Chinese day bed one night, my wife, Lisa, and I had a conversation that busted the whole thing open—about how everyone experiences fears, freak-outs and extremely nervous moments, but how in some jobs it’s much more consequential.
Lisa said, “Why don’t you run these concepts by some top performers in other industries to see what they think. Get their ideas, experiences and endorsements.”
What a great idea! I ended up talking to nearly 50 people, top performers in all areas of life. I was eager to hear about how other performers dealt with their performance fears. I wanted to see if their methods resonated with my beliefs and rituals. Do they have their own steps? Are theirs the same as mine?
Meanwhile, I was in the middle of a world tour with Foreigner, so I was working my three steps every night in front of thousands of people. The tour made it easier to facilitate some interviews on the road, as I had down time between cities to reflect and write.
See, I face those moments on a stage. I may choke and get fired, but I won’t die. But what if someone’s life actually depended on me? What happens when a surgeon gets stage fright mid-operation, or a pilot, or a firefighter?
That’s when I expanded my interviews to include top performers in all areas of personal and professional life who have heightened experiences with performance anxiety. And that’s when this adventure became way, way bigger than me…my interviewees include Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos), Jeremy Piven (Actor), Guy Fieri (Celebrity Chef), Stewart Copeland (drummer for The Police), Robbie Gould (Chicago Bears Kicker), Fong Sai U (Rapper- The Roots), Laura Okmin (Fox Sports Anchor), Alan Bean (Apollo 12 Astronaut, 4th man to walk on moon), Dr. Paul Stoltz (best selling corporate author, voted top 100 thinker), Tim Sanders (Chief Solutions Officer for Yahoo!, best selling author, speaker) Kendall Grove (Ultimate Fighter champion), Marc Cenedella (TheLadders’ CEO), Leigh Gallager (Fortune Magazine) and many more special people.
What I really ended up defining reached way beyond overcoming fears. It is really a blueprint, a path to top performance…so here it is- Conquering Life’s Stage Fright: Three Steps to Top Performance.