I once had a conversation with basketball great and entrepreneur Ervin “Magic” Johnson. In the middle of our chat, I asked him this question: “Were you ever nervous before or during a big game?”

He looked at me and quickly answered, “All of them. But I had worked hard and I was prepared. Because I was prepared, I knew that my confidence would kick in when I needed it to. And it always did.”

His body of work as a basketball player and businessman has proven that his confidence did kick in.

What I learned from this simple exchange, and by working with world-class entrepreneurs and the highly successful, is that they are usually confident people. And their confidence almost always comes from them being prepared.

But there’s a huge caveat.

You see, they don’t prepare in the manner you might imagine. Sure, they study, observe and execute. In fact, they might practice or rehearse, say, an investor pitch for hours. They go over key points over and over. But, what’s really different about them is how they prepare.

How so?

Well, to start, they do what Stephen Covey suggested in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: they begin with the end in mind. In other words, they see the end result and then make changes to match that desired result. By the way, if you haven’t read this classic, do so immediately. There are few books that will change your perspective. This is one of them. 

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Allow me to share with you what I mean.

Let’s say that you are launching a new heart-health app and you are preparing to speak at a meeting of health care professionals.

Okay, first, you would picture the end of your keynote address.

You would see, in your mind, how such an address might end. Actually, see how you want it to end.

Here’s how to do it.

First, apply what I call the 5-5-5 rule.

Specifically, what actions do you see the audience members taking five minutes, five hours, and five days after your talk is over?

Got it?

Again, what actions do you see the audience members taking five minutes, five hours, and five days after your talk is over?

Let’s drill down even deeper.

Specifically, what do you see? Are they surrounding you asking probing questions? Are they asking for the name of the product that helped you lose 103-pounds or requesting that you come speak at their meeting? Are they going to their computers or mobile devices and downloading your new app?

Again, what do you see? Say it out loud and then write what you see down.

Now, a subtle twist: what outcomes do you desire?

Now, this is key. Write in excruciating detail the specific actions you want them to take.

See yourself having a conversation with a lady who is carrying a copy of your latest book, even if you don’t have a book. What exactly is she saying to you? What is she wearing? What’s her personality like? Make the exchange as real as possible in your mind.

Don’t skip this step. It is critically important.

You see, what you are doing is creating a vision for your speech or some other activity. You are seeing the end. You are seeing what you hope the future will look like.

Now, once you’ve done that, work backwards.

“What specific statement did I make that caused the lady to approach me? Or, was there a story that I told? What was the possible trigger?”

Continue with such questions until you have a clear vision for your talk.

Got it?

This simple exercise will, among many other things, reduce your fear and increase your confidence. Now, it won’t eliminate fear. But, it will most definitely help you manage your fear and build your confidence.

Here’s how:

When you build the future, in your mind, you will be seeing and feeling your speech, media interview, book signing, or what have you for the first time. As such, your actual television interview or other endeavor will be the second time you’ve delivered it. First, you delivered it in your mind, right? The second time is when you delivered it live. There’s a sense of familiarity.

See, the more you rehearse in this way, the better you will feel and the more confident you will become.

Makes sense?

Of course, your speech or meeting won’t always go as you envisioned it. That’s called life. Still, this exercise will give you the confidence you might need.

Do this and your confidence will increase. Increase your confidence and you will take action. Take action and you will experience an uncommon level of success.

Now, go fill your second cup.

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