Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Know What You Fear to Overcome Fear

The ancient Greek god Pan was a half man, half goat being. He stood on two beefy hairy legs, had a human torso, a human face, and had the twisted horns of a goat.

Besides, his unique looks, Pan was known for two things. Firstly, he was lecherous and spent most of his time seducing the pretty goddesses and fairies. Secondly, Pan was also wickedly playful and mean.

Pan lived in the forests among the rolling hills and plains of the beautiful Greek countryside. Whenever he was bored, that is, without his female company - he would amuse himself by playing tricks on wary travellers at night. When the tired travellers were trudging through the dark valleys on dark moonless nights, Pan would rustle the bushes and make strange noises.

The poor travellers would imagine that there were wild and ferocious animals stalking them, about to pounce on them from the bushes. They would be so frightened that they would run for their lives. This state of great terror of something unknown, imaginary, and false is known as, panic, after the Greek god Pan.

This reminds me of the time I was a young officer in the Singapore Air Force’s Tengah Air Base back in 1981.

Tengah Air Base had a very long and proud history. It was from Tengah that the British Royal Air Force defended the Empire during World War Two. In turn, the Japan Army Air Force ruled the skies for the Emperor from Tengah during the Japanese occupation. After the war, Tengah resumed its role as the centre of British air power until it was handed over to the Singapore Air Force.

When officers sat down to chat, the topic very often drifted to ghost stories of Tengah’s past residents. Stories of torture, executions, and pilots who never returned from their missions. People remembered which unlucky colleague had lived in which room. We traded stories of strange sightings and unusual noises.

When we returned to base at night, there was a 15 minute walk between what was known as the West Gate and the Officer’s Mess. The walk took us through a golf course with rolling greens and ancient giant trees. At that time, the base was undergoing massive and rapid rebuilding. Most of the lights had been removed for the reconstruction. And every time we returned to base after the weekend, the landscape would have changed. Trees would dug up or roughly hacked leaving grotesque shapes in the dark. Gaping holes would be dug out where there was none just before the weekend. The excavators and cranes would look like menacing monsters in the dark. When the wind blew, the leaves would shake angrily and their long shadows would dart here and there unpredictably.

My imagination would mix these shadows and sounds with the ghost stories I heard. My heart would pound, I started to sweat, my walking pace would pick up. As I walked, more and more strange shadows would appear and I would hear more unexplainable sounds. Suddenly, I would pick up my pace and dash until I reached the relief of bright lights of the mess.

That my friends, is the sheer panic that the poor victims of Pan felt.

Someone said that panic or fear is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real.

So if fear is False Evidence Appearing Real that means we ourselves created it, and it usually comes from the unknown.

But some fears are real. When we see a car coming towards us, we better feel fear, and we better get out of the way, fast!

But how much of our fears are created by the rustles and noises that Pan is playing tricks on us with?

Are you afraid of what might be there, rather than what is really there?

A common False Evidence Appearing Real is the fear of failure.

Goran Ericsson former manager of the England football team once said, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”

Paraphrasing US President Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address, “There nothing to fear but fear of False Evidence Appearing Real”.

Failure hasn’t happened yet, but just the fear of imagined failure is enough to stop people in their tracks. Or lower their aim. Take a safer route.

Imagine if Columbus was fearful of falling off the edge of the earth, where is America today? If Steve Jobs was afraid that people might not appreciate the iPhone, would Apple ever be the world’s largest company?

My friends, next time you hear rustles in the bushes at night. Before you run off in panic, shine a light on it, check out what it is. Maybe it is a tiger and you better run. Maybe it is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Power of Visualization: Onami the Great Wave!

Onami was a powerful sumo wrestler who lived in Japan about 100 years ago.

Onami was so strong and skilful that he was able to beat his own teachers during wrestling matches in private training. Indeed, Onami never ever lost a practice match.

However, Onami has a problem of stage fright. Crowds made Onami nervous.

He was unable to perform at his best during public matches in front of large audiences. During public matches, Onami was beaten even by his own students and also by untalented wrestlers only half his size. Onami’s stage fright became so serious that he lost twenty consecutive matches.

Troubled by his stage fright problems, Onami consulted a wise Zen master.

The Zen master told Onami, “Your name means Great Wave. Imagine you are a Great Wave. Visualize yourself sweeping your opponents aside like a powerful unstoppable wave.”

Onami did as the Zen Master said. He spent the days and nights visualising himself as the Great Wave, an earth shaking wave, big as the ocean itself, sweeping his opponent aside with great unstoppable power.

When the day of the competition came, Onami went into the ring of a public match with this mental movie of himself as the Great Wave. The moment the referee started the fight with the wave of the fan, Onami the Great Wave surged forward with tremendous power. He swept his opponent away with an unstoppable shove.

Visualisation is a powerful yet simple method to manage your feelings and your body for peak performance when facing acute challenges such as during a crucial contest, final examinations, or during public speaking.

For example, when making an inspirational speech, imagine in detail that you are Martin Luther King. When playing goalkeeper during a soccer match, imagine in detail that you are a cat. You can imagine anything you want as long as it gives you power.

Try it, you will be amazing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

1-Minute Public Speaking Tip - Manage Your Nervousness

Pauses are as important as spoken words in our speeches, yet many of us hesitate to use it.

The main reason why we do not use enough pauses is because we tend to rush our speeches.

The reason for rushing is because we are anxious. All of us feel anxious. It is only human.

Fortunately, there are simple techniques we can use to manage our nervousness.

When you are at home, imagine you are at the meeting. Recall a situation where you feel particularly confident. It could be during a speech you made previously. Next imagine yourself stepping up to the rostrum.

At the imaginary rostrum, immerse yourself and enjoy this feeling of confidence and positiveness. Choose something to remind you, to feel this feeling. You may use this rostrum or anything else you prefer.

Repeat this process, a few times with different situations where you feel confident, until it is second nature.

So at the actual meeting when you step up to the rostrum, you automatically recall these positive experiences flooding you with feelings of confidence.

With this positive feeling welling up in you, launch into your speech opening with confidence and gusto!