An English literature professor once gave me a piece of writing advice that’s stuck with me to this day: When you’re having trouble getting your thoughts out, imagine that you’re the writer you most admire. What would they say about this topic, and how would they say it?
It sounds simple — too simple, almost. But I imagine it works, at least for me, because it takes some of the pressure off. For little old me, it might be a struggle to come up with a brilliant insight, but for that fabulous writer I admire? No problem. And suddenly I’d have filled the page, if not with something brilliant, then at least with something coherent.
I recognised a similar exercise while reading “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You,” a book by former Marine and current mental toughness coach Andrew D. Wittman. (The book is available on Wittman’s website, but not on Amazon.) The author, who also holds a Ph.D. in theology, calls it the “3-minute drill,” and has his clients go through it before a performance event.
The first step is to locate the person at the very top of your field — the “champion.” Maybe it’s the best manager, or salesman, or athlete. Then learn everything about them, by watching them perform and reading everything they have written.
Here’s how the drill breaks down:
Minute 1: Say only the things the champion would say before performing.
Minute 2: Walk like the champion would walk.
Minute 3: Breathe like the champion would breathe before the big event.
Finally, pick another champion and repeat the whole exercise.
You can liken this strategy to the practice of pretending you’re smarter than everyone else which, according to science, actually works to make people think you’re intelligent. In both cases, you stop acting like “yourself,” whoever that is, and act like the person you want to be until you convince others that you are that person.
At the very least, you’ll temporarily feel less nervous and more competent. At the very best, you might eventually become some version of that person.
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