When I was in my late teens, I made a mistake at the Worlds playing with the SFU Pipe Band. A bad mistake. There’s a lot of evidence we would have WON the World Championships that year if it wasn’t for my mistake.
The mistake was in the last bar of the final tune. For a split second - perhaps because I was “glad” the set was over - I lost focus, got distracted, and before I knew it I had made a big “blooter.” This had never happened to me before. I had played the set hundreds and hundreds of times. I had played at the worlds several years before this with no mistakes. What happened? I was heart-broken. I let the team down. To be honest, this poorly worded paragraph is extra-poorly-worded because it’s so painful to revisit this!
For the next year I lived in fear any time the band would perform. And it showed. The first contest of the following year, I got cut from a contest early in the season because I was too far into my own head to perform up to standard.
Luckily, I had great teachers and team-mates within the SFU band to gradually pull myself out of my performance rut. I remember Alan Bevan teaching me about visualization tricks. Andrew Bonar had a humorous “devil may care” approach to mentally preparing for performances.
Over time, I learned the ins and out of becoming a solid performer. I learned how to mentally prepare ahead of time for important events, and I also learned what to do in the moment to make sure my preparations paid off. Since that mistake in my teens, I have not made any major mistakes in key competitions (don’t worry, I’m knocking on wood as I write this).
[In the picture: This is my brother Alex and I at the 2004 Worlds. I am on the right. If I'm remembering correctly it's right after my big mistake.]
Fast Forward to This Last Summer: Enter Dr. Fiona
So, fast forwarding to this last summer, my business partner Carl introduced me to a person named Dr. Fiona McConnochie - a specialist in… BAGPIPE performance psychology? Amazing! He showed me some of her work and I immediately recognized what I was seeing - it was a simple, fun, organized distillation of many of the techniques I had painstakingly developed over many years to battle performance anxiety and mistakes.
We have to make this a course! I screamed (ok, fine, I just typed it in all-caps).
And that’s exactly what we did.
Without much effort at all, Dr. Fiona has distilled all of the key concepts of high-achieving performances into an easy-to-follow video course. Rich with video, and interactive (informal) quizzes and writing exercises, this course is designed to teach you the art of properly preparing for a performance to maximize the probability of a good result, with no meltdowns, distractions, anxiety, silly mistakes, etc, etc.