Don’t Be a Tea Bag (They Only Work in Hot Water)

Every so often I run into clients who, upon hearing that advance preparation will improve their performance, announce, “Oh no, I’m better on the fly/under pressure,” or—my favorite—“Oh no, I’m like a tea bag. I only work in hot water.”


Now don’t get me wrong. I love pressure—high stakes situations turn me on.  

But someone who performs well under pressure does so because they control everything they could control ahead of time.

After all, even Jason Bourne—one of Hollywood’s biggest high-stakes heroes—had to do a bit of advance physical and mental prep in order to announce:

“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking.”

So what do I recommend you do in order to prepare?

First: Practice out loud. Whether it’s a presentation, a job interview, or a negotiation, you don’t want to find yourself halfway through a sentence only to discover you have a big plot hole.

Second: Videotape yourself and watch with the sound off. Does your physicality match your message? Do you look animated if you’re talking about something exciting? Do you look regretful if you’re meant to be apologizing?

Third: Control what you can control. If you’re giving a talk, did you call ahead to ask about what kind of microphone/podium/chair you’ll be working with? If you’re negotiating, have you decided what you’re willing to give away and picked your walkaway number? If it’s a job interview, has your suit come back from the dry cleaner? (Did you take it yet?)

You get the idea.

Because, at the end of the day, the only thing that works well in hot water is a tea bag.

If you want to prepare not just like a boss- but like THE boss—check out: “Born to Perform: What We Can All Learn From Bruce Springsteen.”