In my first job out of college, I was hired as a “New Media Specialist.”  I designed websites, created print collateral, and other general media work. I had also just started doing voice over work. It was limited to recording in cramped studios where it was just me and the engineer. It was still a little unnerving, but there was no one there to watch.

This same company also produced live events.  These were corporate business meetings that featured multiple speakers. On one particular event for about 500 BMW dealers, I went along as a production assistant, meaning I was there to do whatever was needed.

The event producer knew I had started the voiceover work, so he asked if I wanted to be the “voice of God” who introduced the keynote speaker from backstage.  Wow!

The time came for me to do it.  I was already extra nervous; I had never performed a voiceover for this many people before…and never live.

The sound guy placed the microphone in my sweaty, shaky hand.

“One minute warning!” I heard from the producer.

“45 seconds!”

“30!!”

Just then, the president of our company, not one to mince words, walked by and whispered into my ear: “Don’t “f*ck it up.

Apparently he was not familiar with positive motivational techniques, because he managed to plant a very scary and distracting picture in my head only seconds before I had to perform.  I was suddenly thinking about saying the wrong words, my voice giving out, and every other potential blow up I could conjure.

Despite these worries, I managed to pull it off…no thanks to that boss.

Ever heard the saying, “What you focus on expands”?  It basically means that, if you picture yourself or worry about screwing up, you’ll probably screw up.  Why?  Because that’s what you’re subconsciously telling your brain to do.  Your brain can only carry out the orders you give it, and by thinking about screwing up, even if you tell yourself not to, that’s what you’re programming it to accomplish.

If you’re ever in a situation where you are trying to encourage somebody, including yourself, do so in a positive way. Don’t tell them not to do something. Instead, encourage them (or yourself) and plant a positive image. Something like, “You’re going to do great. You’re going to there is no one else we’d rather have doing it then you. We believe in you.”

Find ways to take the pressure off.  Help them (or yourself) not picture what could go wrong, but how it will go right.  Encourage them to stay centered and just do the genius thing they are capable of doing, even if you aren’t sure exactly how they’ll do it.  Chances are much higher that they’ll do it right.