Stakes and pressure

The moment you focus on what’s at stake, you feel pressure. And, pressure has all the characteristics of the resistance – it is useless, toxic, and paralyzing all at once.

No one is above dealing with pressure. Pre-2017 Roger Federer, even then likely the greatest tennis player of all time, used to inevitably crumble when he played Rafael Nadal in a grand slam final. You could see the unforced errors coming even before the game began. That changed a few games into in the fifth set of the 2017 Australian Open Final. You could sense it from the way he played. Federer was above the stakes. He was seeing past the stakes and was focused, instead, on enjoying himself.

What followed was exhibition tennis – a backhand that was once the source of most of those unforced errors morphed into his weapon of choice. And, there’s been no looking back since then. Federer has won 3 of the last 5 grand slams – effectively cementing his place as the great player of all time.

Great players across sports have had similar awakenings toward the end of their careers and have served up some of their best performances when we expected them to go quietly into the night.

There’s a thing or two for us to learn as we focus on the next important meeting/presentation/performance review. It is okay to be aware of the stakes. But, we’re better off focusing on being the best version of ourselves and having fun with and in the process.

Doing so makes it most likely we will produce work that has the kind of impact we hope for.