A few years ago, I did a series of TV commentaries for CNN’s financial network.  Later, I hired an actress to critique my work.

The actress said some complimentary things, which I remembered for approximately 10 seconds.  Then she offered some constructive advice:

“You need to be more like the actor, Marlon Brando.”

This I believed completely.  I always believe corrective feedback—even when it makes no sense.  Some might call that a character flaw, and, of course, I’d agree completely.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Marlon Brando was famous for mumbling.  Sometimes he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth.”

“You want me to put marbles in my mouth?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “but you’re over-enunciating the words.  I want you to be more nonchalant.  Brando’s attitude was, ‘Hey, I’m Marlon Brando!  If you can understand what I’m saying, great; if not, too bad.’”

From this feedback I derived a theory about peak performance.  I call it “Loose-Tight.”

“Tight” means setting high standards and striving to do your best.  Tight is familiar to high-performers.  Tight is your inner mountain-climber.

“Loose” means letting go and relaxing.  Once the show starts, whatever happens, happens.  Loose is your beach bum.

To be exceptional—whether giving a presentation, interviewing for a job, or just doing your daily work—you need both.

Suppose you’re giving a presentation. “Tight” means you’ll be well prepared.  But if you’re too tight, you’ll sound scripted and tense.

“Loose” means you’ll be good at improvising.  But if you’re too loose, your audience will question your gravitas.

So you need the combination, but it’s not a 50-50 split.  Start with tight.  Put in the time, effort and discipline to master your performance.  Practice, practice, practice.

Then, if necessary, get some marbles.

Tip:  Peak performance isn’t just about stressing and straining.  It’s also about letting go.

P.S. Adapted from You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World, the #1 Amazon Best Seller in business communication, Kindle edition (as of 5/22/19). Also available in print and audio.

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