Being nervous is good (really, nervousness gets a bad rap)

(It’s been couple of weeks. Blog and website trouble. Big lesson: know your limitations as an IT guy. *oy*)

I talk to my students about the idea that ‘nervous is good’ when you’re performing. For me, there are two ideas at work in that statement: 1) Being nervous is a natural response: it’s OK, it helps you, don’t fear it, and 2) Being nervous means that you’re taking the gig seriously, and you will do what’s needed to prepare for the gig. In the past couple weeks, I was guilty of violating that 2nd reason.

For one of my cover band gigs, I have a ritual that I listen to the tunes that I don’t know as well on my iPod before the gig. For whatever reason, I didn’t do that on the way to one of my gigs, and I felt it. It was like the music was happening to me more than I was happening to the music (which is much the preferred method 😉 Not a good feeling at a gig, and it showed in my playing—I was not at my best.

So for me, this is one of the things that nervousness helps us with—not only does it give you a shot of adrenaline that helps you be your best, but it keeps you humble and focused on doing everything you need to prepare for the gig.

And of course, this does’t apply only to music—it applies to many areas of life. Maybe it’s a presentation at work, a talk you need to have with your boss or a co-worker, a phone call that you dread making, or having ‘that’ talk with someone in your family. The list goes on and on. 

Folks that let nervousness stop them from doing the things that challenge them, I feel that they’re missing out on a big opportunity. That’s why it bothers me that many people holds nervousness as a ‘bad’ thing, a thing to be avoided. It’s just a thing—a human thing. Your body is making you nervous for a good reason (usually to prepare for something challenging) and you can use that to your advantage.

(Of course, I’m not talking about extreme situations, where nervousness makes your muscles cramp up and your breathing difficult. This is about the typical nervousness that most of us have.)

In fact, doing things that make you nervous on a regular basis is GOOD for you. It keeps you sharp, it keeps you humble, it makes you do your prep work. All things that you need to be at your best. 

The other side of that idea is this: it means you getting better and better at something that’s challenging for you. People sometimes are surprised that I’m almost always calm when I’m about to go on stage. But, the reason that is the case is because I do it a lot—performing on drums at a high level in front of people makes me nervous, and I do it on a regular basis. That makes me much better than if it was rare that I performed on drums in front of people because I was trying to avoid being nervous.

So there you have it–being nervous is a good thing, a human thing. No need to avoid it.

What is something in your life that makes you nervous? How can you turn that around and embrace the nervousness and focus on how being nervous helps you in that situation?

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