Mitchell Kimbrough
Mitchell Kimbrough

President & CEO

Posted on Mar 23, 2015

Breathe Through Your Eyelids

If it gets you into the right mind set, if it helps you keep your head straight, I don’t care what your baseball pitcher-like superstitions are, give yourself over to them - completely.

Previously, I wrote about luck surface area. Out in the web-o-sphere, the luck surface area concept has been discussed as it relates to how you can put yourself and your passions out into the world in a way that will make room for the good that serendipity can bring into your life. I am interested in the power of this phrase and of phrases like it to spur us on to new creative thoughts, and to help us meditate on important concepts - in new ways.

One of my luck surface area flights of fancy was particularly fun. In Baseball there has long been a tradition of leveraging superstition in order to change one’s mental state. Players have embraced peculiar rituals and talismans to help them reach and retain a frame of mind necessary for optimal performance. They aren’t alone; in the business world, some do the same. I have a friend who is in sales. On occasion, he has to play pitchman to someone who is likely not at all interested in his product. To reach an optimal frame of mind, he listens to death metal, really loudly, in his car. When he does, something happens that leaves him in a more powerful frame of mind. He is transported to a mental place where he can handle his fears of rejection and indifference better. He feels like the bigger, stronger version of himself.

This is a dance with luck. This is a flirtation with the gods, faeries and forest nymphs of good fortune and abundance. This is luck surface area.

Imagine that you are navigating your way through complex tunnels. Somewhere within the network is a cavern with fresh water that opens up into sunlight. You could allow yourself to become paralyzed with anxiety and frozen with fear and not even take the first step forward. Or you could find a way to rise above your fear and get into a more helpful, relaxed and confident state of mind where you can more easily leverage your advantages. In this state of mind you might realize that while you can’t see much, you can hear water in the distance, or locate the source of a fresh breeze. Situations like this require you to be fully in the present. The time to prepare is past. Now it is time to reintegrate your lifetime accumulation of skills and knowledge and put them to use. Traditions, superstitions and talismans can help us, in a Pavlovian fashion, to switch over from cerebral operation to gut control. Study of the human connectome indicates that put to use frequently enough, these rituals might even rewire your brain. In fact, this seeming irrationality might someday be explained by science. So, if it helps you to feel more capable, more positive, luckier, then use it. Do what it takes to get your head straight. Little things can help you to persevere and reach your goals, despite dead ends and darkness that may be along the way.

Even for an experienced business person, making contact with a new client for the first time can be intimidating. I fight off my irrational fears with my irrational superstitions. Irrational after all just means without reason and we all know that instincts often outsmart reason. My positive, fortunate, lucky state of mind is powerful. I know from experience, when I show up in a dark place, feeling small and insignificant, I do not present my best self and I am judged accordingly. When I show up feeling confident, worthy, relaxed and able - the meeting goes well. Something good comes from the encounter. What are these tricks and talismans I use to help me to channel my confidence, professionalism, aptitude and capability you ask? Well, mine won’t work for you. You’ll need to find your own.

Luck surface area can be increased by silly superstitious habits. It works for me. The fact that I know they are silly and not real has not decreased their efficacy, which for me is something that I can’t deny. However silly and shallow they seem, these tricks have a proven, if funny, Pavlovian ability to remind me of my better, greater, more worthy, abundant self. They get my head straight so that I stand a little taller and look people in the eye a little longer.

I used to regret my various crutches, but what I’ve realized is that everyone who has a job that requires them to psych themselves up has strategies that help them rise to the occasion - even when they aren’t feeling it. I’ve stopped judging myself and given in. You may feel the same way I do. If there is some part of your business or personal life that requires you to puff yourself up and inflate your own sense of courageousness from time to time, then I say embrace it. Laugh about it. But do whatever you need to in order to increase your luck surface area.

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