The other night, I was watching the first round of American Idol auditions in Hollywood. Yeah, philosophers have to take some time off, too, like everybody else. And one thing was clear from the segment. No amount of talent will show through clearly if jangled nerves get in the way. People who had been great in local auditions were close to choking in Hollywood. They forgot the words, or wandered off pitch. Some looked horrified just to be on stage. And there they were, chasing their dream, with a real chance to see it come true - if they could perform at their best. And many couldn't. The judges actually pointed out the problem. Everyone was too much on edge. They needed to shed the dread and relax a bit.
And here's the irony. We get nervous because we care. But because we care, we have to release the anxiety and learn how to have fun doing the job.
Long ago, before walking onto a stage in front of a hundred or a thousand people, or often a great many more, I would feel my heart rate increase and I'd say to myself, "Oh. I'm getting nervous." Then, one day, I learned to say instead, "Ok. I'm getting ready." The first interpretation of what I was feeling always concerned me and made things worse. The new interpretation will always boost me and makes things better.
So when you're about to do something you really care about, try what I do. Don't get nervous. Get ready.