With the arrival of fall, the stars are still visible when we take our morning walk, and the sun is setting a little earlier with every passing day. Squash, pumpkins, and apples are on display at my local Farmer’s Market. A new season has arrived.

Fall Day

And, a new season has arrived to this blog! We’re kicking off with a great feature that introduces cellular knowledge and how that kind of knowledge works for you during a presentation, important meeting, or any situation that normally increases your anxiety and eats away at your confidence. As we move forward, the blog will be more organic with posts coming out when they tie into relevant projects rather than a “it’s Tuesday and I have to post something” kind of post. We want the information we share to be timely, applicable, and hit at a deeper level to generate engagement with each one of you. We’ll offer strategies that you can put to use right away as well as ideas and suggestions to help you consider things in a new way.

Welcome back and I hope you enjoy our first post of the new season!

What do a Pilot, Physician, and Classical Pianist Have in Common?

When you board a flight and quickly glance into the cockpit for a glimpse of the pilot, do you feel a little safer if the crew is close to your own age? Ever been to an orchestral performance where the solo pianist is enveloped in a cloud of perfection, their body seems totally at ease, and their fingers move effortlessly? If you need surgery, is one of your first questions going to be “how many times have you performed this operation?”

Occupations like pilot, musician, and doctor may seem totally different but there is one thing they share. The people who perform these jobs have thousands of hours of practice, simulation, and repetition of exercises. Not only do they have an intellectual command of the knowledge needed to perform their work, they have muscle memory and cellular knowledge that transcends fear, anxiety, or uncertainty when it matters most.

Every one of us has experienced this “out of our head and in our body” sensation in our daily lives. In the morning we brush our teeth, blow dry our hair, and get the coffee going without even giving it a thought. Our fingers follow a certain path as we dial a phone number or punch in a password at an ATM machine. And, we all know what it feels like when we stop and think for a second. When we try to access the intellectual knowledge and interrupt the cellular knowledge, we hesitate, forget, and make mistakes.

We have all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”. Many of us have come across Malcolm Gladwell’s work and have read that to master something, we need to practice for 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours sounds impossible at best for many of us. But, the one thing that rings true regardless of the amount of practice: repeated and regular practicing of skills over time causes neural pathways to work better and we develop cellular knowledge. By working on routines and repeating exercises, we learn skills and can unconsciously apply this cellular knowledge (muscle memory) in key moments.

Take a moment and think about the situations that matter the most to you. Does thinking about these moments create anxiety or fear about how well you’ll perform? Do you have an interview coming up? Is there a loved one in your life that you need to have a difficult conversation with?

Besides working on your script (e.g. your bullet points or the intellectual knowledge) try practicing these three things (at least a few times) to give yourself a shot at being fully present and better prepared:

  • Warm up your voice before it’s time to speak. Sing scales or turn up the radio and sing along if you are driving to an appointment where you’ll be speaking.
  • Put that rock star outfit on a few days beforehand. Walk in the shoes you’ll be wearing, raise your arms, sit down, move around. Totally eliminate those moments of self-consciousness that can creep in when you’re trying to make a great first impression.
  • Practice sitting up tall, opening your arms, keeping your feet planted on the ground. Stand in front of the mirror and go through what you’ll say. At first you’ll feel foolish, but after a few times through, you’ll see yourself relax and even develop presence.

The more times you practice for a situation, the more cellular knowledge you’ll develop. Remember the goal isn’t to be an expert (very few of us ever achieve that level of mastery) but to have some level of muscle memory to access and give you confidence when you need it most. However you relate to it (muscle memory, cellular knowledge, unconscious knowledge) being embodied and being more fully present translates to a greater level of confidence, personal presence, and success!

I’d love to hear about the times you have experienced unconscious knowledge and the ways you have worked to develop this. Maybe you have a specific athletic skill (e.g. I am good at tennis, I have run a marathon and know that when my mind wants to quit, my body carries me on) or a routine that you go through every time you step into an important meeting. Leave a comment below and let me know how having muscle memory helps you when it matters most.

Until the next time,