Over-Prepare & Let it Flow
Having been a 50 freestyler, the shortest event in college swimming, it was not commonplace for me to need to train the meters my coach enforced. Yale Swimming Coach, Tim Wise, had me train with the distance swimmers and attend more than the required workouts to "over-prepare" my body and mind by swimming over 15,000 meters/day for weeks on end, concluding with a training trip in Puerto Rico. Sounds like a tropical break from the depths of Connecticut winters, but trust me it’s quite the opposite. The final workout was over. If we weren't so tired, we'd be celebrating. Tim said “Ok, Gill, on the blocks – 50 freestyle for time.” I looked at him like he was crazy and started crying in my goggles. There was no gas left in my tank. The whole team was out of the water watching and I was their captain – I needed to lead.
My best friends Morgan & Caroline were in the water below my block. Caroline smiled. Morgan yelled "Go, Meggie, under 27." I gave him a glare, like “You're crazy, Morgie, no way...” At that moment, my mind was able to call on what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi calls flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. I remember every stroke of that single 50-meter lap, which should have been the toughest race of my life; my body and mind in extreme pain and exhaustion. Yet the engagement and enjoyment was of one of the greatest moments in sports performance for me. It was also one of the fastest swims of my life.
Flow has stayed with me. Studying and learning to call on flow has been a huge influence in my business life. Recently I visited the Forbes office in San Francisco where I was told I was going to be featured as the Food & Beverage 30 under 30 honoree. The editor sent me links to last year's video interviews and I was given a time to show up. The week leading up, I prepared by calling various beer industry sources. I felt I had a unique opportunity to share a two-fold message about the beer industry that hadn’t been shared by Forbes - craft beer is single-handedly contributing to the growth of the beer industry in America - and the role the Los Angeles market and its brewers are playing while simultaneously contributing to the growth of their communities. Like my 6 hours of training/day to prepare for a 22-second swim race, I over-prepared by answering every question the editor had ever asked a Forbes honoree with stats from some of the beer industry’s top leaders. I was ready.
When I showed up at Forbes, the editor told me the format changed. None of the questions would be the same, there'd be no pre-interview, and we would only be given a few seconds to answer. A Forbes Hot-seat. In this moment I was able to call on Tim's lesson. Instead of panic, fear, or anxiety, I felt joy, engagement, and total flow. It is better to over-prepare leading up to a big event, even when there are surprises and things that don't go your way. I enjoyed every bit of my day at Forbes; the surprises, challenges, Forbes staff, and of course the inspiring other 30 under 30 honorees. While the environment changed, the over-preparedness paid off, and I felt at ease and in Flow with my entire Forbes experience.
Special thanks to following folks who helped with my prep for Forbes: Julia Hertz at the Brewers Association, Jenn Litz at Craft Business Daily, Andrea Riberi at The Nielsen Company, Bump Williams & Jeff Nowicki at Bump Williams Consulting, all Golden Road distributors & especially John Anderson of Ace & Mission Beverage Co, George Couch of Couch Distributing, & Tony Yanow, Phil Jamison & Paul Burgis at Golden Road Brewing