It was the mid 90’s in the middle of the Internet boom. The pace was frenetic and we used to talk about time passing at Internet speed. I was growing my first startup, GlobalX, running hard, working 7 days a week, and juggling way too many priorities. On this particular day, I had raced out of the office, late for a meeting and as I waited for the elevator I noticed my heart was pounding a million miles an hour.
As the doors opened and an empty elevator greeted me, I stepped inside and the idea to stay still just came to me. To continue reading this post, click here >>
I didn’t press the ground floor button and the doors closed but the elevator didn’t move. I started deep breathing to actively slow my heart down and I just focused on my breath. Luckily no one called the elevator so I got to stand for about 2 minutes before I finally hit the button to go. The elevator didn’t stop on the way down and I got another 30 seconds of peace and then I walked out into the street feeling calm.
Some stress is good. Keeps you focused and ready to perform at your peak, but the bad stress is the kind that clouds your thinking and makes you anxious.
I once heard someone describe this process as clearing the calculator. It’s what speakers and athletes do before a performance. For me it is a grounding ritual and I do it several times a day, even if I am not stressed (sometimes you don’t even realize you are stressed until you stop and step back). I can now do this pretty much anywhere and with anyone often without their knowledge, whether it be in the middle of hundreds of people on crowded train or in the middle of a business meeting. The ability to be able to calm myself at any moment is very useful for being effective under presser and critical for avoiding the bad kind of stress that shortens lives.