I knew that from my past experience as a air rifle shooter. When you take part in competition, you should be in a meditative state of mind. You have to know that you're competing, yet you cannot think you're competing. If you cannot treat the competition like it's just normal, routine practice, you cannot perform well. It's just that when you treat the competition like it's oh-so-important, you start to act and react different. Your heart starts to race when you get a bulls-eye and sink when you miss your shots. These emotional roller coaster creates a cascading avalanche of emotions on subsequent shots, and before you know it, you're a totally different person. Very different when you're doing your usual practice. In usual practice, you're just mindlessly shooting pellets after pellets with no regards to the actual score. You might even be having fun.
I think this can apply to a lot of situation.
1. SMOL had a fantastic year 2014 in his trading performance, and some well-meaning readers suggested increasing his capital size so that the profits will multiply, I'm very glad that he chose not do it. When you're trading with $1000, it's going to be very different trading with $10,000. Until you know how to trade with $2000, then $3000 and progressively increase your trading capital, you're going to act differently and react differently. And that makes all the difference between a 6 bagger or a 6 begger trading performance. I think it's because he don't have to trade for a living, that's why he can trade for a living.
2. There's an examination in university days that I remembered clearly. It's a statistics paper. Not a big deal, it's just mathematics and in my engineering course, there's plenty of those that I have to take up. However, I wanted to do very well for that paper (I'm not sure why). Outside the examination hall, before we all went in to our respective seats, I did something that I never did during all my papers - I started revising. I don't know why I did that, maybe it's because everyone around me all studying (but that never bothered me in the past...) or maybe I really really wanted to do very well for that paper. When I went in and sat down in my seat, I suddenly had a panic attack. Seemingly simple things suddenly became complicated to me and I couldn't do them! I skipped to the next and the next and the next, scribbling out some semblance of an answer but I just couldn't do anything. At that point in time, my mind started painting scenario of me failing the statistics module, having to repeat it again and the next semester I'll have an even heavier workload and I'll fail them all. A small oh-shit moment creates the next bigger oh-shit moment.
That's when I realise I'm panicking. Damn.
They say recognizing we have a problem is the first step towards solving it. I closed the question booklet, and sit back on my chair, took out my water bottle and sipped a mouthful. I just chill-laxed for about half an hour doing nothing except seeing people around me scribbling like crazy. I started humming some music mentally. No point panicking, I thought. What's the big deal? At most just fail loh. When I felt relaxed enough, with a comfortable tune in my mind (it's Madonna's Rain, if you must know), I started attempting my paper. The first question that stumped me suddenly looks do-able. I gave it my best shot, thinking that there's no harm trying. I'm going to fail anyway, so I might as well try. As I did more and more questions, I realised that there's nothing complex about these questions at all! Every question that I did boosted my confidence and I remembered that I thought to myself, I might have a chance after all.
When the results are out, I didn't do that badly. I got an A in spite of my panic attack. But I gave myself an A+ distinction for the great recovery in the middle of the examinations. And I never read my notes ever again before I entered the examination hall. I pay more attention to my mental state from then on. When I don't mind failing, I don't need to fail anymore.
The point here isn't to encourage everyone to accept failure so that you won't fail. It's just that I know that I've performance anxiety. It's part and parcel of having experienced success for a big part of my life. The more you achieve success, the more you have to lose when you experience failure. You're afraid that your excellent track record is broken. You're afraid that others will brand you as a has-been from now on. It's not a particularly strong feeling in me, but I know it's there, hiding deep inside my psyche. It's just whether I'm honest enough to recognise that.
I need to overcome this irritating behaviour, where I stop trying things after I've accomplished what I perceived as my greatest work, my magnum opus. I give a few examples:
1. After doing some digital painting, I never did it again. Deep down, I'm really afraid I couldn't do another one like these again.
But when I started doing this, I've totally ZERO expectations. I didn't expect it to turn out great. And the irony is when it did turn out great, I stopped being great. I simply stopped trying because deep down, I'm afraid I won't be able to produce such great works again.
2. My poem/short stories. Again, I thought this is my magnum opus. I just couldn't bring myself to pen another one. Perhaps it's also the same reason...when I achieved some success, I suddenly become afraid to try like a newbie.
So, I really understand what the first sentence of this blog article means. The moment you don't need to excel is precisely the moment you start excelling. May I change certain words to crystallise the gist of the sentence? The moment you stop trying is precisely the moment you stop excelling.
So try, try and try. Never ever let success stop you from trying. This is a mental limitation that I need to overcome - how to see the world in the eyes of a newbie when you're no longer a newbie. As a full time tutor, this is perhaps one of the greatest ability I can ever master. If you've taught a subject for 10 yrs, you're not going to teach it the same way when you're in year 1. It's just different. You take little things for granted. You take student's confusion with great impatience. After you taught them once, you expect them to know it immediately. But that's not how people learned. You no longer teach as if you're a newbie tutor.
If I ever did that, that'll be the end of me. Stay humble, stay foolish and stay newbie...even when you're not.