Pressure is everywhere in the business world, but it doesn’t have to cause you grief. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks about handling pressure from the boardroom to the interview chair.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, with Ray Zinn. As you heard there, on the intro, the longest serving CEO in Silicone Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to hear from you again.
Rob Artigo: Well, you’re an expert in so many areas and I know you’re going to enjoy talking about this. We’re gonna talk a little bit about pressure and how it effects results when we are trying to get something done. Job interviews, sales pitches, even tests put us under pressure, of course, everybody knows. There’s test anxiety out. I know, for example, I’ve heard anyway the Bar Exam is famous for wiping out test takers before they even get started. Some cases where people have such extreme anxiety over it, they get sick during the test.
So, how can … Let’s talk about some of the ways we can cope with pressure so that it doesn’t negatively effect the results. But it can, pressure can dictate the results, agreed?
Ray Zinn: Right. So, let’s talk about pressure for a minute. And so, because that’s the key to this whole thing about stress. Yeah, stress is something we bring on ourselves. Now granted, there are issues like illness, and loss of a loved one, or problems at work, or … that can induce it, but it’s something that we have to cause in order for us to get stress.
And so, there’s a saying that goes, “Worry about things you can change, and only be concerned about the rest.” So what that means is that if you can something about it, then do it, change it. But if you can’t, then all you can be is concerned. Now, I know that sounds kind of flaky, that hear you are, you’ve got this cancer and what can you do about it? Well, you can go through the treatments. You can go to proper … get proper medical help, and that’s the part you can worry about. But if you can’t control it, if it’s something that’s outside your control, whether it be somebody else’s decision or any other event that happens that you cannot change or control, then you have to take a more philosophical view, meaning that you have just sit back and say, “Wow, these things too shall pass,” smile, grin and bear it.
And so, it’s a matter of training yourself. It’s like these marathoners that can go through the wall, as they see it, 16 miles. They … The body wants to fall apart, and they’re able just to break through it. I like to watch this program on TV called America’s Got Talent, and here are these very young people come on, even older people but primarily the young ones that seem to have the stress, and here there’s thousands of people watching them and millions, maybe, watching them on TV and these kids, amazingly, the judges often ask them, “Are you worried, are you stressed out?” And, “Oh, yeah. I’m very stressed out.” Well, that’ll affect your performance. Stress absolutely affects your performance.
In fact, when I was doing debate the thing that I would do to throw off my opponent was to get him angry, get him upset. If I could get him angry or upset, then he would not be able to concentrate or think about his argument, and I would take the upper hand. So when are stressed, then your ability to perform diminishes dramatically, even up to as much as 80% of your performance is effected through stress. So, you wanna be able to deal with stress and fight it, just like the marathoner who can break that 16 mile barrier because he’s trained his body, his mind to be able to push through it.
And so, what I call dealing with stress is pushing through stress, pushing through the problem, understanding that if you can change it, change it, if you can’t just work … grin and bear it and say, “These things too shall pass.” So, it’s a matter of training yourself to go through the wall, to break the barrier of stress.
Rob Artigo: Let’s go back to my introduction and let’s pick a few of these out. And that was, job interviews I mentioned in the intro. So, what can we before a job interview that can elevate, mitigate some of that pressure that can have a negative effect on your performance?
Ray Zinn: I’ve interviewed thousands of people, and I can tell those who are prepared and those who are not. If you come and you are sitting straight up in your chair, and you understand the job, you’ve done your homework, you know about the product or the company, and the last thing you wanna do is badmouth the company you came from, or badmouth the supervisor you had. They wanna know that you’re an easy person to get along with. So, if you be a little jokey, if you have a good … a nice little good joke you can tell, tell a little joke. Like we do the intro on these podcasts, is to calm us down. Maybe you’ll sit in a car and sing a song in your mind, or sing it out loud, or as you’re walking up the steps into the building, sing a song.
What you wanna do is get yourself relaxed. They have this music that they call soothing music. So, soothe yourself, maybe pop a mint in your mouth, something soothing. Take a deep breath and just make sure you’re psychologically prepared and are ready to do it. Think something good, think of a good meal you had or a good evening, or an outing that you’ve had. That calms you down. And so, if you’re feeling stressed change the mood, change the way … your position in the chair, or change your position in the way you’re viewing the room. Maybe think about how could I change the color of this room, or how could I … Just get your mind relaxed. It’s just like, when your body’s under tension you’re not gonna be able to do well in some athletic event. So relax, relax.
Rob Artigo: Among many of the professions that I’ve worked in, and still do on occasion is, I’m a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild. I have a SAG card for acting. I’ve done a couple of commercials and some television stuff, and here and then done movie acting and that kind of thing, and the auditions are always terrifying, particularly when you’re starting out because you know you’re gonna stand in front of at least one person, but possibly two or three, and maybe a panel of people and have to perform. And what I noticed was that sometimes I didn’t perform very well because I was just … I was literally a wreck inside and I couldn’t … Like you said throwing off your opponent in debate by making them nervous and freaking … get them to freak out a little bit so they can’t concentrate on what they’re trying to do.
What I found was, if I wasn’t fully prepared, if I didn’t totally know the lines then I was liable to fall on my face and feel … I’d concentrate on the fact that, “Oh, my gosh. I’m not prepared.” But if you are prepared, and you visualize going in there and being successful, and I imagine it works the same for a job interview, before you go in there you can sit there and close your eyes a little bit, meditate on it a little bit, imagine yourself going in there and walking yourself through the process, and while you’re doing that imagine yourself feeling relaxed, being comfortable and being confident. And then, walking out of there, here’s the key to me, when you walk out of the room, in your mind, you’re walking out of there feeling, “Wow, I did a great job. How wonderfully relaxed and professional I was in that experience.”
I mean, I suppose, Ray, that’s something that you’ve seen work in many situations.
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. So, you’re interviewing me and … as I’m interviewing you. That’s a good response to the question. But again, the whole bottom line to dealing with stress is like running a marathon. You have to work on it. I used to say to my family, “Pray for problems.” In other words, when you’re used to dealing with good problems, and you solve them, then you become an expert at solving problems.
And so, dealing with stress is like solving problems. You have to practice. So, get yourself into a stressful situation. Work at it. Find it. Find areas that put you under stress, and then work on it and become an expert. That’s mitigating the effects of stress.
Rob Artigo: We’ll close this out here in a second, but let me go to sales pitches real quick here, because you are an expert sales guy. You came up through the ranks as a sales guy, and I know that you have an enormous amount of experience there, but you’re also a guy who’s heard countless pitches. So to the stellar-sellers out there who wanna step up their game, what’s an example of a pressure point that can derail a seller’s pitch that we can mitigate somehow?
Ray Zinn: Well, if you’re in a difficult sales situation where you’re the underdog, and that’s usually the difficult one, what you have to do is you gotta show you’re on top. In other words, take the high road rather than argue about your product, or try to demean your competitor’s product. Just stay positive about what you are offering. If you’re confident in your sales ability and the product that you’re selling, stay on that. Don’t let them derail you. Don’t let … If they start bad mouthing you or your product, just ignore it, just keep staying on the positive side.
Rob Artigo: Don’t let your opponent throw you off kilter because they’re badgering you, or trying to throw you off your game. You can do a good job without being distracted by them.
Thank you, Ray, for your time once again, and you can find out more at toughthingsfirst.com, Tough Things First on Facebook, and the book Tough Things First is available at major book retailers and Amazon, of course. You can check out Ray’s new book, The Zen of Zinn, out there and it’s a collection of short writings, and I think, Ray, it sounds like it’s something that, maybe a daily reflection kind of book.
Ray Zinn: Yes, it’s a passion of mine to come up with these thoughts every day that help me. And so, I decided to share them with the world.
Rob Artigo: Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.