Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 10th 2015 Contents DECEMBER 10 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG15
The other day someone asked
me how I deal with pressure.
Without thinking over my
response, I said that pressure
is a privilege which really is a
great way to think positively
and proactively about any challenge.
I later looked up "pressure is a privilege"
to find out which bright spark had coined that
phrase. It turned out, very aptly, to be the title
of a book by the legendary tennis player Billie
Jean King. With 39 Grand Slam titles to her
name, including 12 singles wins, King certainly
knows a thing or two about handling pres-
I recently hosted this year s Necker Cup
tennis competition on Necker Island, during
which amateurs play against the world s leading
tennis stars and legends, including Tracy
Austin, Martina Navratilova and Marion Bartoli.
For those of us who love playing tennis but
never made the grade as professionals, the
Necker Cup is a unique opportunity to test
one s mettle against the sport s very best (plus
all the proceeds go to supporting good causes
like Virgin Unite).
Even amid the fun, friendly atmosphere of
the Necker Cup, you can still feel the pressure
to perform well. After all, who wouldn t be at
least a little apprehensive when preparing to
serve to Novak Djokovic or partner with Rafael
Learning to harness pressure s positive
aspects is a valuable skill in tennis and in
everyday life. When we are faced with exciting
scenarios and situations, dealing with the
stress that they bring can lead us to be more
alert, alive and attentive. It can help to improve
our performance. And remember: when the
stakes are higher, the rewards are greater and
the journey is more enjoyable.
I learned to perform under pressure while
dealing with something that has caused me
much stress and anxiety over the years: speak-
ing engagements. These days, I give speeches
and attend events all over the world, yet I
started out as a very nervous public speaker.
I struggled with it from the first time a teacher
told me to stand up in front of my classmates
at Stowe School and recite a poem.
Being dyslexic, I really had a tough time
whenever we had to do this. What s more,
our headmaster used to ring a gong whenever
we paused too long or made a mistake, and
then we were forced to march off the stage
to a chorus of boos and jeers. I found myself
being gonged offstage with depressing regu-
Rather than give up on public speaking, I
eventually learned to convert the intense pres-
sure I put on myself to do well into positive
energy. Since I m not gifted at reading off for-
mal speeches, I treat the occasion as an infor-
mal conversation, which I am good at.
Today, I can happily share my thoughts with
audiences by handling speeches and public
appearances as one big discussion, whether I
am in a room with two people or 20,000.
Of course, I still feel nervous when I m
onstage, and I still stutter over a word or two,
and I even forget my lines sometimes, but as
long as I remember that it s a conversation
rather than a performance and I try to have
fun, things usually work out OK.
These days, I love putting pressure on myself
to keep the crowd engaged, as it helps to keep
my standards high.
That said, there is such a thing as too much
pressure. You need to balance high-pressure
periods with plenty of time for rest, reflection
and recuperation, or else you won t be able
to switch off and get perspective. This is partly
why work-life balance and spending time away
from the office is so important.
In the business world, pressure can come
from many different directions at once. Maybe
you suddenly need to deliver a high-stakes
presentation, a supplier hasn t delivered on
his end of a deal, or an employee is failing to
live up to expectations; whatever the situation,
you might find yourself suddenly shrinking
under stress, rather than thriving under pres-
sure. But if you take a moment to be mindful
and recognise that pressure can, indeed, be a
privilege, you may be able to manage the out-
comes in a smarter manner.
The only way to get better at tennis is by
practicing, over and over again. The more
times you serve, the more technically proficient
you will become.
More importantly, you ll become more con-
fident. The same can be said for thriving under
pressure as an entrepreneur. Practice makes
perfect or as Billie Jean King says, "Champions
keep playing until they get it right."
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, e-mail address and the
name of the website or publication where
you read the column.)
Pressure is a privilege
Pressure can be a positive, if you keep
these key factors in mind:
• Don't regard pressure as a simply a
burden to struggle against. Dealing
with pressure can help to improve your
performance, since it forces you to be
more alert, attentive and alive.
• Don't forget to have fun. Dealing
with stress can be enjoyable if you turn
the pressure you're feeling into positive
• Don't stay stuck in a constant state
of stress. Remember to switch off and
balance high-pressure situations with
ample time for rest, reflection and recu-
Links Archive December 9th 2015 December 11th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page