The Heat is On

Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best.

While I dare not try to remember how long ago it was, I remember being at an archery competition at Lilleshall in Shropshire. It was a head to head competition, meaning that the mornings were spent shooting a qualifying round with the “actual” competition happening in the afternoon. While I was reasonably good as a junior archer, the broken collar bone I suffered when I was 16 seemed to curtail my progress and I never seemed able to regain the standard I was at.

Considering how much sport I’ve played in my 30 plus years, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have had too many bad injuries. The broken collar bone was one. That was sustained playing football a few hours before our school match of the season. I was supposed to be playing in goal but, despite playing on for a while, I eventually had to give up. I was replaced at short notice and we lost 7-1. Then I blew up one of my knees taking a corner, also playing football and was out for about a month. Now I just have these recurring back injuries.

But I digress. On the first day of the competition was the singles. I qualified about par and was drawn against someone who was on the national development squad at the time. He beat me fair and square. I think he technically did require the final pass of arrows, but it was still pretty comprehensive.

The second day was the “fun” team head to head. We were put in teams of three based on our scores the previous day. I was put in a team with a Scottish international and an English international which, thinking about it now, means I was obviously pretty bad! I remember thinking at the start that this probably gave us half a chance. Isla, the Scottish international, is still one of my mates as we were both at the same club for many years and spent a lot of time together in the pub!

We progressed steadily through the rounds in pretty bad weather conditions, knocking out teams containing other club mates and, eventually reached the final. My form had been OK in the run up to the final. We were shooting against a team containing the guy that beat me the previous day in the singles and a one armed guy who was my direct opponent, in that we were shooting the same pass each end. This guy, and I can’t remember his name, was amazing in his technique. I think there was a point or two between us in the first two passes and I didn’t want to lose. The last pass was one of those where everything went right and I scored maximum points. The guy that beat me the day before got angry and we ended up winning the tie pretty comfortably.

I’ve never really been one to think he feels pressure in anything but personal situations. In this competition, in the final where there should have been pressure, I performed better than I had done for a while, and probably since. I remember that I was focussed and clear on what I should have been doing. I’ve been at job interviews where I’ve seen applicants panic and I’ve seen colleagues nearly burst in to tears when they need to do a presentation. I have always been pretty confident in the few interviews I’ve had and am probably still the only person to have told his Chief Financial Officer who he wanted win to X-Factor (including pictures) during a presentation to the whole of European Finance.

That said, the pressure of a first date, the pressure of talking to someone I’ve never previously met 1 on 1 and other situations that I’ve previously described as “real life” and I’m not great. They’re also situations where I actually think I have something to lose. And the difference is that in work situations, or in sport competitions, I can be better prepared because I largely know what the result will be and I can plan better.

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves.
This is our last dance.
This is our last dance,
This is ourselves.
Under pressure.
Under pressure.

Under Pressure by Queen

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