“Music of My Mind was my favorite album at that time, I’d never heard anything like that. I’d never even heard those sounds before, with a synthesizer. Before I could get nervous, I just didn’t believe it was him, I actually hung up on him three or four times. He finally said, ‘You know, we keep getting disconnected.’ He was very kind.”
Stevie asked Ray to come on tour with him, opening for The Rolling Stones, and they ended up collaborating on the song “Maybe Your Baby” for the album Talking Book. “Stevie said, ‘You don’t have to audition. I already talked to everybody, and they say you’re my guy.’”
In the studio, Stevie heard the songs Ray was writing at the time, and he ended up producing some of them. The two even sang some duets together. That’s when Ray really came into his own. That magical experience with Stevie Wonder built his confidence and reminded him of his success, and he could continually tap into that to stave off anxiety.
“When I left Stevie’s band, people would say, ‘You can’t do this. You’re not gonna be able to write hits.’ I’m not even hearing that. Stevie Wonder spent three days of his own money and his own time working on my songs. I know I can write songs. I know I can. Even though everybody else in the industry said it’s not possible, you know? I must be doing something right.”
Losing sight of who we are and what we have done is an amnesia that can foster unfounded performance anxiety. Tap into your previous successes. It’s not false confidence; it’s a reality check because you’ve done it. These are the proven moments in which your clarity and capability have already worked. They’re real confidence builders and can break down doubt and anxiety. When you’re in this moment, the reasons for the anxiety are not important; a sense of resolve, relax and refocus are.
♫ Action Step: Remember the Time ♪
Recall a time when you were clear, capable and confident about your performance. What made that experience great? What can you do to replicate it right now?
Matt Glowacki was born without legs; that never stopped him. He’s a Paralympian, entrepreneur and public speaker—but his scariest moment came during something many of us can relate to—reinventing his career. He compares it to debuting a new album with a different sound—and no real way of knowing how fans will take the change.
For years, Matt was known as the “diversity guy” on the speaker’s circuit…until his wife, Shannon, suggested a speech on happiness. It really resonated with him, because to talk about happiness, he would have to be authentically happy.
“The first thing I do is a little bit of visualization. Instead of worrying about what it’s going to be like, I think about the last time I was successful and how that felt. That makes me have confidence in the material and in myself—that I can do the job. I have to find that place in myself.”
Matt also calls his wife to tell her how he feels about her, and how she makes him feel, because so many of the characteristics of happiness come from how you interact with people in your life. “We share stories about our relationship, and the stories make me happy.”
Finally, he tunes out everything negative and turns on the things that make him happy—he turns off the news and turns on the music. Matt loves the new happiness program. When he was the diversity guy that was how people related to him, based on common experiences. Now he’s the happiness guy.
“I’m Mr. Smiles. They want to show me that they know what happiness is, too, so they bring the happiness themselves. It’s easy to feed off that, and it just gets bigger and bigger. I basically tell them along the way that they’re gonna be happy, and this is what happiness feels like. I grab them by the hand and help them along in the process.”
Matt recalls a success experience every time he wakes up to motivate himself to get moving. “My life is about momentum. When I’m sitting there in the morning, and I turn on the TV, I make a decision that my momentum is going to stay in bed. But if I get up and do the things that I need to do in the morning, then I feel a bit of momentum to carry the day. I’m going down the hill, like a big wheel rolling. In the beginning, you have to push it to create energy, to create momentum. Thinking about what I need to do to prepare myself starts that momentum. Then, I get into the visualization, and the energy starts pulling me into the moment. When I start feeling the energy, that’s where the magic is.”
For musicians, this concept is like being in the groove when we play with a band. It makes me feel like I’m part of this flow and part of this energy, and I love it. I’ve heard athletes talk about the same thing, and I’ve witnessed partners pitching an idea to a potential customer and riffing off of each other. My attorney and business partner, Stephen Stern, calls it “brain jamming” when we exchange ideas, feed off of each other and create a groove from that momentum that fosters confidence.