The other day my son had to perform for a town holiday celebration with his preschool class. He was nervous. It wasn’t the first time he’d been part of a performance, but previous attempts had not gone well. (When he was three, he came out on stage with his class and promptly walked down the steps and sat with my wife and I.) On another occasion he alternated between crying and fighting with another kid on stage. This time, he said he didn’t feel good. I explained that feeling nervous was normal and that the feeling would go away once he was on stage, and after the performance he would feel excited and proud. It worked. He didn’t bat an eye. He was front and center and loudest of the bunch.
Nervous? What’s the worst that could happen?
Dale Carnegie said: If you have a worry problem, do these three things:
1. Ask yourself: “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
3. Them calmly proceed to improve on the worst.”
I actually had the worst thing happen once. When I was a kid, my baseball team was playing for the championship. We were down by one run and I was on third base. The batter up made the second out, and I took a slight lead off third base, just to keep the catcher (my best friend) honest. What happened next has never happened in baseball and will never happen again. The catcher threw to the third baseman. I easily stepped back on the base, safe by a mile. The umpire, not as svelte as his Pro Bowling days, tripped, stumbled toward us for several steps, and was suddenly out of control. He started to scream as he knocked me and the third baseman down, and I realized his scream was, “You’re out!” Both teams stood in total shock, until our opponents burst out in cheers. To this day I’m convinced that he called me out because he was so embarrassed by his stumbling act that he wanted the game to be over. So he crushed a little kid, both figuratively and literally.
What’s the worst that can happen? At twelve years old, that was pretty much it. I didn’t want to go to school the next day. I didn’t want to face the kids from the other team. But when I did, they patted me on the back. They agreed that it was the wrong call.
Nerves are normal, but you can’t let them hurt your performance. Dale Carnegie’s advice works. What is the worst thing that could happen? One day in 1985 the answer was, “You could make the last out of the big game and have a 300 lb umpire flatten you.”
– Thanks, as always, for reading! Do you have a comment? Do you have questions on how to get my novel The Grandfather Clock? Are you a former little league umpire with a guilty conscience? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.