CM 089: Daniel McGinn on Performing Under Pressure

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Blog Post - Dan and PsychedMaybe performing under pressure is easier than we think.

In those moments before an interview, an exam, or a presentation, we often feel our worst. Yet Daniel McGinn, author of the book, Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed believes we can decrease and even repurpose those anxious feelings to up our performance.

Senior Editor of Harvard Business Review, Dan has written for Wired, Inc., The Boston Globe Magazine, and Newsweek. In this book, he draws on the fields of performance and sports psychology and shares quick and simple techniques we all can use.

In this interview we discuss:

  • Why we should take a page from pre-performance rituals of top athletes
  • How we can leverage stress before a high-stakes event and maximize our performance
  • What it means to fine-tune our emotions before a high-stakes event
  • The role that centering plays to enhance high-level performance
  • How pre-performance routines distract us from feeling anxious and prime us for the event
  • Why that lucky pen, ring, or tie really can make a difference in our performance
  • How the words we choose and the connections we make to something bigger than ourselves can help us psych up our teams
  • Why a highly experienced, highly motivated team may not need a pep talk
  • How listening to certain kinds of music can improve our performance in all kinds of tasks
  • How a sports DJ is impacting two of the top sports teams in the U.S.
  • Two factors that make a song motivational – how its musicality — beats, tempo – resonate with us and how emotionally connected we feel to it
  • How our self talk, our visualizations, and our mental rehearsals before an important event can improve our performance
  • The important role priming — physical and emotional – plays before a high-stakes event
  • Why we should reflect back on past successes to increase our confidence in a new performance task
  • How we can sit there feeling worried or we can develop a set of practices to give us confidence before a high-stakes event

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Improving Acute Stress Responses: The Power of Reappraisal

Yuri Hanan and the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning

Don Greene and centering

The River and Laura Donnelly and Hugh Jackman

Malcolm Gladwell

Peak by Anders Ericsson

Stanley A. McChrystal

Sports DJ TJ Connelly

Eye of the Tiger

Nate Zinsser

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

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Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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