A Lesson From Tiger Woods

A Lesson From Tiger Woods

With a title like that you would naturally expect this lesson to be about golf, and you’d be partially right. It is and it isn’t. It’s about golf, but it’s not about swing thoughts or how to error-proof your putting. Instead, this Lesson from Tiger Woods is about Welcoming Your Butterflies.

When Tiger was about to return to competitive golf after nearly eight months absence following knee surgery, he talked about the layoff. Said Tiger: “I miss that rush of playing and competing, I really do. Getting on that first tee and feeling it. This is what I do for a living and this is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life. And not being able to do it at the highest level was frustrating at times.”

It was about then that someone in the press corps had the temerity to ask the greatest golfer of his generation whether he just might be a bit nervous. “The day that I’m not nervous is the day I quit. To me, nerves are great. That means you care. I care about what I do and I take great pride in what I do. So, of course I’ll be nervous. That’s the greatest thing about it is to feel that; to feel that rush.”

It is Tiger’s ability to channel his nervousness, combined with his skill and work ethic that has made him a World Class athlete, the winner of 14 major tournaments and a seemingly endless string of professional victories. And, what Tiger understands about the role of nervousness in golf also applies to media interviews and important presentations. As communication consultant Tom Antion puts it, “Fear is your friend. It makes your reflexes sharper. It heightens your energy, adds a sparkle to your eye, and color to your cheeks. When you are nervous about speaking you are more conscious of your posture and breathing. With all those good side effects you will actually look healthier and more physically attractive.”

Sounds good, right. But just how do you tame your butterflies and get them flying in formation? As a long-time golfer (read duffer) myself, I’d experienced that first-tee nervousness that’s always made worse because the foursome behind you seems to be analyzing ever hiccup in my swing. But I’ve also noticed what most golfers do as they’re preparing for that first swing. Most of us put our driver behind our necks and rotate back and forth. In the process, we’re simulating the turn that is the basis for every good golf swing, but the turn does another important thing: It deals with the tension that we tend to store up across our shoulders and down or spinal column.

Whether or not you have a golf club handy, you should do the same thing before speaking or being interviewed by a reporter. In the process, you’ll release much of the tension you’ve stored up. The other thing you should do in preparation for your speech or interview is to breathe deeply. A combination of deep breathing and the golfer’s turn can lesson the negatives of nervousness and make way for the positives.

Then, use your imagination. Think about someone whose opinion you respect coming up to you after your speech or interview and saying, “You did a really good job.” It sounds a little touchy-feely, but by thinking positively, you make less room for thoughts of failure. In essence, you’ll be following the advice of another legendary golfer. Jack Nicklaus, who owns the record for wins in a major (18) that Tiger hopes to eclipse, equates his phenomenal record of achievement with his ability to visualize success. So, embrace your nervousness and visualize success.

A lesson from Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus.

David Snell is the principal of Snell Communications and the author of the e-books: Big Speeches to Small Audiences and Mike Fright: How to Succeed in Media Interviews When a Mike Wallace Wannabe Comes Calling. His e-books (available at www.snellcom.com) are based on his rich mix of experience including thirteen years as a correspondent for ABC News, three years as Public Relations Director of a large urban university and more than twenty years as a Communications Consulting helping Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and law firms improve there communications in presentations and media interviews. Snell gives tips on how to succeed in media interviews in his video series – Media Minutes – seen on Youtube and other video sites.

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