John, I’m heading to nationals for weightlifting and, before big meets, I tend to get nervous.  As a former NFL player, I imagine you felt similar.  My question is: how do you deal with anxiety and nervousness? Thanks for the help.


Webster’s dictionary defines nervous energy as, “an excess of energy that you have when you are apprehensive or worried.”

Adrenalin is defined as a “hormone that is secreted by the adrenal medulla in response to stress and increases heart rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure, and raises the blood levels of glucose and lipids.”

Know the difference.

Nervous is the feeling you get when you are unprepared. For me, this was Calculus II during my sophomore year at Berkeley.

Adrenalin is the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you are about to run out on the field to 80,000 screaming fans…that state of mind where everything is heightened, you can move faster, hit hard and play at a level you didn’t thing was possible.  Few things in life replace that feeling after playing on Sunday.


My first few years in Philadelphia, I played guard next to a very good center named Bubba Miller. As our veteran leader, Bubba would break Friday’s practice with the phrase, “The hay is in the barn.” Bubba grew up in the south and played college ball at Tennessee but, growing up in California, I had no idea what that meant.  After a few months I asked him, “What the hell does…‘the hay is in the barn’?” mean?

He laughed and said something derogatory about me being from California, then said the phrase is a farming phrase meaning there is nothing left to do, the work is done. Basically, the hay had all been cut, bailed and put in the barn and there is nothing more to do. He ended those Friday practices with that phrase because we had worked hard all week and all that was left to do was run out on the field and play football.

In life there are certain events, conversations and decisions that affect your life for years to come. One decision, whether it is right or wrong, can set your path for years to come.

For me, I can look back at moments in time that were pivotal to setting my present course. The conversation I had with Bubba that day helped mold my mindset when it came to training, preparation and life.

Do the work, put in the hours and the suffering, leave nothing to chance and when the moment of truth presents itself you can feel confident that “the hay is in the barn” and there is nothing left to do but get out of the way and let greatness happen. If you do this, the feeling in the pit of your stomach isn’t nervous energy…it is adrenalin.

Here is the kicker: only you know the difference. You know if you have done the work, suffered and done what needed to be done to be successful and get the job done.

I had “butterflies” in my stomach before every game I ever played. I always believed the day I didn’t have this feeling was the day I got my ass handed to me on national television. The adrenaline allowed me to play at a high level despite injury, adversity, weather…you name it.

Now if you are nervous because you have not done work and sacrificed, then I am of little help to you. There is no song or special ritual I can recommend to take away your nerves because deep down inside, you know the hay is not in the barn.

My only advice is to do the work, trust the process, be honest with your preparation, have the sense to get of your own way and let greatness happen.