Perhaps it’s a new-client meeting where you hope to land a big contract, or you’re a newly minted public speaker, and this is your first big gig. Whatever the circumstance, the pressure to perform can trip us up. Rather than inspire us to reach for excellence, to bring our very best, most powerful, and authentic selves to the table, we become anxiously stressed and quickly lose focus.
We forget that what truly matters is the task at hand. The outcome of the meeting is, at this moment, completely irrelevant — more than irrelevant, it’s counterproductive to its own success.
It helps to stop for a moment, identify and accept the performance anxiety, and then move on. We must see the anxiety as the roadblock that it is, not as a helpful friend correctly identifying and defining the moment that awaits us.
You can’t hit a home run if you’re not present, at the plate, facing the pitcher with the best swing you’ve got — and the only swing relevant is the one you’ve got now. If you had it down pat practicing in the privacy of your yard, you’ve got it when facing the crowds; nothing’s changed except your mindset, so change it right back.
This is one path to effective action, and it’s a powerful path, but there’s another path as well, the path of humility. Ego is the true culprit behind our performance anxiety, causing us to excessively worry about our image. But we can choose to leave our ego at the door by asking ourselves a simple question: Is it really about me, or am I just playing my part in something much bigger than myself?
The good news is that these two paths –bringing forth our personal power and humbly replacing our self for something bigger — aren’t mutually exclusive. True effectiveness is a masterful blend of personal power and humility. Some days, some situations might call for power, and others for humility, but the most challenging tests can only be met by a harmonious blend of the two.
This week’s Parshah begins with just such a moment — the dramatic showdown between Pinchas and Zimri.
Pinchas was a descendant of both Yosef and Aaron. Yosef was the quintessential Tzadik; deeply connected to his deep spiritual roots, nothing, not even the greatest moral challenges, could shake his incredible inner fortress of strength.
Aaron, on the other hand, was all vessel. He was the conduit of blessing; he was the agent of the people. His priesthood was a gift from above, not an expression of his personal achievements.
Pinchas brought both strength and humility to bear on the problem now facing the Jewish nation. He humbly marshaled his personal power and marched unopposed into Zimri’s tent. It’s not that no one wanted to kill Pinchas; they most certainly did. But they did nothing to stop him. Acting as the vessel to bring out his own inner power, not for his honor but for the honor of God, he was unstoppable.