What Eagles QB Nick Foles, Whitney Houston and you (can) have in common

Super Bowl 2018 is in the books, and even though I only caught a few glimpses of it, it’s clearly a great story – the underdog team with a former second- string quarterback beats the mighty Patriots. But that story isn’t my focus here. 

You see, I’m into performance – what separates the bad from the good from the spectacular, and just how spectacular happens. 

I’m also a Pink fan, and yesterday I took a moment to watch her performance of Sunday’s national anthem. No question, she did a great job – she hit all the notes, brought verve, strength and focus. Then something compelled me to pull up Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl national anthem, which I have seen before - more than a few times. As each time before, I was transfixed. 

What makes this performance such a standout? 

  • The woman had supreme talent.
  • She had clearly done a lot of singing.
  • From beginning to end, she appears amazingly relaxed, loose and easy and yet super powerful.
  • She’s having an absolute blast. 

As far as in-the-zone moments, this is one of the best: she’s operating in her absolute sweetest spot. She knows what she does so well, and she just does it.

Nick Foles, in postgame interviews, was asked how he could deliver a win in such a high stakes game. His comment?  “I just played the game, did what I had prepared for. I didn’t watch the score or the clock, I just played the game.” Like Whitney, he tapped into preparation and natural talent, playing loose, negating pressure and inviting fun.  He knew what he knew how to do and he did it. 

Chances are that you are neither a Grammy award – winning singer nor an NFL football star (wouldn’t that be cool if you were).  What you do have (or could have) in common with both Whitney and Nick is your ability to stick the landing on exceptional performance, which requires positioning yourself where your best talents and skills, motivation, interests, curiosity and a relevant external need intersect. 

Think about the last few times you’ve delivered a killer performance.

Were you leading a meeting where there was massive disagreement and you moved folks to consensus? Were you selling a difficult idea or motivating for a big change? Were you heads – down in a project or coming up with a solution to an intractable problem? What were you doing so well, what skills were you using, what made you truly engaged or motivated in that moment? 

Here’s the big point… high – performing individuals are pretty darn clear on these questions. They start with curiosity – which are those high performance moments? (Conversely, by the way, they can also identify what are the activities that don’t jive with their strengths, or deliver satisfaction.) From there, they discern what they do best, what they enjoy and care about, then actively seek roles, experiences, moments where they can play again and again in that space.  

Your takeaway?

If you haven’t already, spend some good time and thought getting clear on you–and then determine if you’re in the place, the role and the situation in which you can thrive.  If you do, you’re well on your way to your own version of an exceptional, natural, and above all, joyful performance.