This is a series about conquering stage fright. First, we talked about the importance of knowing yourself. Then, we talked about the fear factor. Last week, we talked about creating positive experiences to help fight the panic. This week, we’re looking at the importance of knowing what you’re doing.
Some of you may know that I’ve been in Australia for the past few weeks. Tonight on the news, there was a report about the preparations of Australia’s leading artistic gymnast Lauren Mitchell for the 2012 Olympics. After winning gold medals at the 2010 World Championships, Mitchell said she immediately began preparing her routines for London 2012.
She has been working on them exclusively ever since.
Sometimes we forget the levels of training and dedication that experts devote to their pursuits. In order to win a gold medal, Lauren Mitchell is working every day to make sure that she knows every split second of the routines she will perform later this year. And I am willing to bet that she is working on two different fronts:
- The specifics of each routine – the protocols for each move she is going to make. FM Alexander would call this the “means-whereby.”
- Her general condition, or the means whereby Miss Mitchell uses her body. (Don’t worry if the distinction seems tricky – this bit is for the Alexander teachers out there!)
Today I want to talk about the specifics – we’ll save the more general for next week.
If there is one lesson to take from Lauren Mitchell, it is this. Excellence takes work. If we want to be good at something, we need to do the work. For Miss Mitchell, it means breaking down her routines into split seconds, rehearsing each and every movement. It means making sure that she knows every movement so well that she barely needs to think about them at all.
So if I am to perform a new piece of music, I should know every note intimately. If I am giving an after-dinner speech, I should know not just every joke, but the position of every comma.
How well do you know the piece you are about to perform? What difference does it make to your nerves when you know it really well? Let me know in the comments.
*In the chapter I am looking at from Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, ‘Uncontrolled Emotions and Fixed Prejudices’, you will see that FM uses both ways of writing the words ‘means whereby’, and he seems to make a clear distinction between the two uses. See Irdeat Complete Edition, pp.341-2.