Our colony was conducting a Double Tennis tournament. My team made it to the semi-finals and then we lost.
I played worse than the worst player in the tournament.
And then I spent the entire day thinking about it.
Questioning my shots, my strategy.
Nothing really explained it.
Except the fact that I was under immense pressure.
We were the top seeds.
We were the ones who were expected to win the semi-finals.
Heck, we were the ones who were expected to win the tournament.
And on the day of the match, the pressure got to me.
But I handle pressure really well.
I have been in high pressure environments, have been through really tough situations at work and life. So how was this pressure different?
Pressure is of two kinds:
One, the pressure that you feel everyday, because of your environment.
Imagine yourself in a top college, surrounded by super sharp kids.
Every single day, their conversations, their choices, their mannerisms, their opinions add pressure on you.
But this sort of pressure elevates you.
This pressure inspires you.
When we say that competition ups our game, this is what we mean.
If you are amongst people who are much much better than you, on a daily basis, the “pressure” helps you.
But the second kind of pressure is pressure of the moment.
Pressure of performance for a specific event.
Think of exams. Or interviews. Or a presentation. or, in this case, a match.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you know, what you think, if you do not perform well in the moment, you will fail.
This pressure is damaging.
This pressure hurts.
This pressure doesn’t up our game. It reduces it.
And I realized, I haven’t had an opportunity for a really long time to experience the second kind of pressure.
I haven’t given an interview, sat for an exam, given an investing pitch presentation or anything like this, in a really long while.
My pressure is the first kind – of constantly surrounding myself with smart people and feeling like a duffer more often than not.
That’s what did not work for me!
The best performers are trained in the second kind of pressure. Singers, dancers, sportspeople – they become the best because they know how to handle pressure that is generated in the moment. BUT they are masters in the first kind of pressure as well. Always training with the best, always competing with those better than them.
Unfortunately, most of us are subjected to only the second kind of pressure, while growing up.
Examinations, interviews, tests!
If we do well, we pass. If we don’t, we fail!
And we come to hate pressure, understandably so.
We think pressure is bad.
In this case it is.
But it isn’t if we were to think of it as the first kind.
If you want to elevate your game, bring long-term pressure into your life.
Surround yourself with people better than you, EVERY SINGLE DAY!