You’d think you truly know people, and at the least expected moment, you’d find out new things about them. For me, that’s the blogging community. Take Loronar, from 35 Yards Out, for instance. His post about the existence of raid fright as a parallel to stage fright evoked responses from the community who had also experienced raid fright.
My goodness, that really opened my eyes. I did not expect such people to actually experience that. I suppose it makes them better people to freely admit it and to know that they’re not alone. Heck, I’ve experienced raid fright as well, and I’ve had it affect my performance early on in my WoW experience.
But no more. I’ve moved on, I’ve learned to channel that fear into positive. In the past weeks, I’ve really felt that I have turned a corner on my WoW performance, and I realize that I attribute it to my real-life personality.
You see, I have experience in public performance, both in drama and music. Even though these experiences are limited to high school, I must say in my defence that in high school, everything is so much bigger than it is. Imagine performing a script in front of the whole school during opening night of the play, or playing a complicated jazz solo in front of a panel of judges at the annual school band competition. When you’re so young, there’s just so much pressure, and somehow I learned to thrive.
I’m going to use the band example, simply because it was perhaps the most pressure-driven situation that I have ever been in. This was a region-wide jazz band competition, and it was my senior year at high school. This was my final chance to perform in this setting before I had to move on to university. For our competition reportoire, we performed three songs, the third song requiring me to perform a unique solo.
Now this solo is not that complicated or difficult note-wise, but it required a very unique techniqe called “growling,” where you literraly growl into your instrument while you play, so that the sound that comes out sounds scratchy and dirty, which is the intended effect.
It was a very difficult thing to do at first, but I was the only person in my instrument section who initially had the best grasp on it. We spent the entire year practicing these three songs, but for the whole year, I was under intense pressure to learn the technique and the solo. Another fellow trumpet player had the opportunity to play the solo lead part of the second song. He was amazing, he was ripping it up during each of our practices. I had full confidence in him.
Then came the competition. Him and I were both focused on our own tasks at hand, doing equally important roles in different songs. When the time came for the band to perform, we started off really well. The first song was great, and to put it into a raiding analogy, we cleanly one-shotted the song.
But hold on. The second song came, and it was time for mister big-shot trumpet to take the spotlight and solo it out along to the rest of the band accompaniment. And my goodness, he lost his chops (ability to play his instrument) early in the song, and it looked like we were about to play the entire song without a melody. In WoW terms, our main tank died early in the fight.
I don’t know what came over me at the moment, since all I could think about was my own solo that was coming up, and I was scared for my life that I would end up failing as well, but I realized what was happening to him, and I started playing his solo alongside him, so it sounded like he was playing it. (WoW: I, the offtank, picked up aggro.) And I could see in his eyes that he was starting to regain his confidence and was able to finish the rest of the song by himself. (WoW: He got battle-rezed and regained aggro, and we were able to down the boss either way.)
I felt really good about what I did, and it certainly helped me perform my own solo in the next song, and we nailed it cleanly (WoW: another one-shot on the last boss).
In the end, we didn’t get a gold rating, but we received a very solid Silver+ rating. It was a result that the entire band felt proud of receiving. I in particular was praised as the hero that day, and it really affected how I viewed myself and how others in the band viewed me. I felt that I really turned the corner, and it continued on to additional amazing band performances in our following concerts.
Looking back, I believe it was the following things that I did that allowed me to overcome my “stage fright”.
I took initiative. To me, it was originally about my own selfish view regarding how I was going to perform, since it was a difficult performance. But what good would my performance do (with regards to getting a good band score) if the solo before me is a flop? I realized then and there that not only did I have to be accountable for my own actions, but for those of others. I had to show a willingness to be a part of the team, and to contribute even to things that don’t concern my own role in that team.
I channeled my adrenaline. Sientifically, adrenaline is something your body creates you get when you are frigthened by an intense situation. This chemical that spreads throughout your body increases physical and mental performance, giving rise to a “fight or flight” response by the individual. In nature, this allows prey to run away from a predator, and similarly, it allows predators to catch their prey. It’s up to the individual then, to be able to use their increased abilities based on the adrenaline that they get in pressure situations to be able to perform to the best of their abilities. This, unfortunately, takes a bit of experience to be able to control effectively. Thus, the only way to be able to channel your adrenaline into positive energy is to simply put yourself into more pressure situations, so you can get used to it and use it for constructive use.
I enjoyed what I did. It wasn’t just the excitement of being in that situation, but rather the thought that I was one of very few people to have the opportunity to be in that situation. Not everyone can play a trumpet. Not everyone who can play a trumpet have the opportunity to play in a band. Not all bands have the opportunity to compete at the regional high school level. Whether you’re entering Black Temple for the first time, or heck, even Karazhan, just remember that you are one individual amongst only a fraction of the tens of millions of WoW subscribers who get to experience that content. Enjoy it, and revel in your accomplishments. It will give you confidence and energy to continue exploring and experiencing new content. But most of all, it will keep you wanting for more, and that thirst is perhaps the most important motivator in successful performance in pressure situations.
I practiced and worked hard. Some individuals are naturally talented, much like that other trumpet player who earned the right to play the amazing solo. But talent does not necessarily equal to success. My band worked hard as a band to get the right sound, and because of the long hours of practice, I was even able to learn the other guy’s solo. At the time, I figured that it wasn’t really of much use to know how to play it, since I didn’t have to know how to play it, but it turned out to be critical to our success. You have to work hard to constantly improve yourself, so that when the time comes that you have to do what you need to do in order to succeed, you will be familiar with all aspects of your required task, and will be more likely to be focused on that task.
As shown above, the ability to perform under certain pressure situations is not something you either have or don’t have. It takes time and effort to make that jump in confidence and skill. But when you finally manage to turn that corner, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for you to continue succeeding and improving in that field of performance. If it weren’t for my experiences with the band, I probably would not be able to turn the corner in WoW, and I wouldn’t be having as much fun as I am right now.