Back in 2018 I was playing in a punk-rock band here in Richmond called Sleave.
We frequently played at house shows and venues for dozens of people, it was a blast. But when I first joined the band I was pretty anxious and would stand on stage barely moving a muscle, staring down blankly at my guitar, and making zero eye contact with the crowd.
I’d get all in my head, fumble the chords, and play the wrong notes—it was embarrassing. I felt awkward and lame.
Until one day I got so fed up with my performance that I decided to do whatever it took to develop kickass showmanship.
So, twenty minutes before our next show, while my band mates were enacting their normal pre-show shenanigans, I sneaked away and did three intense rounds of Wim Hof breathing, 50 push-ups, 10 burpees, a vinyasa yoga flow, lion roars, and a calming meditation to top it all off.
Man, that shit got me pumped, grounded, and ready to go.
By the time I took my first step on stage my body was beaming with energy and my confidence had shot through roof. Throughout our set I was jumping up and down, doing taekwondo kicks, staring the crowd in the eye, pumping them up, and walking around the stage like I owned the damned thing, it was legendary.
That’s when I realized the importance of being in “state”.
If you’ve ever watched a Tony Robbins video then at some point you’ve probably heard him talk about state.
Your state is how you feel—and not how you say you feel but how you actually feel in your body.
When pick-up artists or dating coaches talk about “being in state” they are referring to a cool, calm, and confident demeanor that allows them to express themselves effortlessly in social contexts.
Now, I’m not saying you need to feel like a million bucks all the time to be social or approach a beautiful woman on the street, (as that is a sneaky form of state dependence), but it sure as hell helps.
What’s crazy though is that most people have no idea they can actually influence their state. And out of those who do, even less of them actually take the time to do it.
So let me show you how this works.
There are 3 main knobs you can adjust to influence your state: physiology, focus, and language.
Physiology knob: doing burpees before playing a show.
Focus knob: writing down what you’re grateful for to shift your attention onto what you have instead of what you don’t.
Language knob: using empowering words or affirmations to interpret your experience in a positive light.
With training, you’ll learn how to leverage all three of these knobs and shift your energy into whatever you want with relative ease.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
The first knob is physiology.
As a rule of thumb, the more open and relaxed your body is the more it will tell your mind that you are safe and in command. The more closed and tense your body is the more it will tell your mind that you don’t feel safe and are not in control.
Likewise, with your breathing, the more shallow it is, the more it will trigger your body to be in a sympathetic nervous system state (i.e. the flight, fight, or freeze response). But the slower and deeper your breathing, the more it’ll activate your parasympathetic nervous system and calm you down.
As Tony Robbins likes to say, and I’m paraphrasing here, “you don’t have anxiety, you do anxiety.”
This is absolutely true. A large part of knowing you’re even experiencing anxiety is because of how your body is reacting. It has a particular way that it moves and sounds to embody the state of anxiety similar to how an actor changes his behavior and tonality to appear anxious.
So what would happen if you chose to leverage this phenomenon and change your body language to imitate the behaviors associated with courage, confidence, and calm?
Well, your body would start to believe that that’s the way you’re actually feeling. From a biological perspective it would not know that you are playing a trick on it, it would simply pick up on the biological signals telling it that you are safe and confident and it would mobilize the proper hormones and neurotransmitters to match your biochemistry to your body language.
This is HUGE.
Do not underestimate this fact.
There have been many research studies showing that holding power poses helps increase testosterone and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone).
Here’s a few examples of some power poses you can emulate whenever you want to shift your mood.
Next time you feel off, try holding one of these with a big cheesy smile on your face for 2 minutes and tell me you don’t feel better.
The next knob is focus.
This one has less to do with your body and more to do with your attention. An easy way to demonstrate this is by thinking about the glass half full or half empty question.
The truth is that the glass can be seen as half full or half empty and both are correct. But the interpretation—and corresponding feelings associated with that interpretation—are different.
You can cling to your beliefs about the glass being half empty and you’d be correct, but you’d be choosing to take on the negative outlook over the positive one.
You could also choose to see the glass as both half full and half empty, but this is tricky for the conscious mind to do; it usually leads to cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the same motivating factor that seeing the glass as half full does.
The point here is that there is no right perspective, life is only perspectives and you get to choose which lens to look through.
And when you do, life will be filtered and colored through that lens.
This happens due to a part of your brain called the reticular activating system, or RAS for short, that acts as your flashlight in a pitch black room. It determines what your conscious mind focuses on.
Your conscious mind can only process about 60 bits of information per second. This means that as you’re reading this sentence, you’re not paying attention to the sensation of your underwear on your skin nor your reflection on this screen. There’s literally not enough bandwidth in your conscious mind to do these things simultaneously without sacrificing performance.
Your unconscious mind however can process over 11 million bits of information per second and is vastly superior to your conscious mind when it comes to multi-tasking. This is why it’s so easy for you to drive a car at this point: you can calculate speed, press the brake pedal, flick your turn signal, pull the steering wheel, and side eye the slowpoke granny in a beige Toyota as you whiz past her—all at the same time.
This is only possible because your conscious mind is not actually focused on every tiny detail. You’ve learned to trust your unconscious mind to handle it. But think back on when you first started driving a car and how exhausting it was: your conscious mind was switching back and forth rapidly from task to task because you had not yet developed unconscious competence.
When it comes to the topics of self-image, self-esteem, and state, it’s the same process at work. When you were first born, your conscious mind was trying to keep up with all the new information you were receiving not just about the world but about yourself. You were still discovering who you were and what you were capable of.
But over time your identity started congealing and you developed an unconscious competence in being the way you are. Your conscious mind no longer needs to think about playing this character you call “you” it just does it automatically. And if this “you” just so happens to be anxious, worried, insecure, or fearful then your RAS is set to seek out information to reinforce that narrative.
In other words, if you have a belief that says, “I’m awkward,” then your RAS will look for evidence to justify that claim. Even if 99% of your interaction with a woman goes well, your RAS will focus on the 1% that didn’t and say, “see, there it is, the proof that you’re awkward.”
This is dangerous because, over time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your expectation to find evidence of you being awkward will lead to you enacting more awkward behaviors and therefore give you even more evidence to support that belief. You see how this works? It’s a vicious cycle.
That’s why you’ve got to learn to take control of your RAS (flashlight) and point it at the positives. Pay attention and give credence to the moments where a girl smiles at. you or laughs at your joke. These moments go a long way. At the beginning, your RAS will fight you on this because its default setting is focused on your current negative beliefs. But as you train it, you will shift it, and finding positive feedback in your environment will become your new norm.
The last knob is language.
Language is the tool we use to carve reality into bite sized pieces that we can manipulate to communicate ideas to others. It’s almost like every word is a cookie cutter that slices life into unique shapes.
But what happens when the cookie cutters we’re using cut life into disempowering, victim-minded slices?
This is a subtle point that often goes unnoticed by most people.
People start to put themselves in a spell with their own “spelling”. They don’t even realize that they are weaving a story with their language, and that their words shape their reality.
Let me give you another example.
Have you ever noticed that the sensations associated with anxiety and excitement are actually pretty similar. If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster then you know what I’m talking about.
Roller coasters invoke a nervous system response very similar to that of approaching a beautiful girl. So why do men love the sensations of a roller coaster but run from the sensations of approaching a stunning blonde?
The main difference is in how they interpret those sensations. In the case of the roller coaster, they might describe their feelings as excitement, eagerness, or giddy anticipation, whereas in the case of approaching women, they’re more likely to call it fear, anxiety, or nervousness.
Do you see how making a subtle shift in language colors your experience completely different.
Next time you’re about to approach a woman, give a public speech, or do anything nerve-wrecking, try interpreting your feelings as excitement and see how that affects the way you respond to them.
The best way to utilize all three of these knobs is to create what I like to call your pre-approach ritual. This is what Tony Robbins calls priming.
Your pre-approach (or pre-socialization) ritual is the intentionally designed routine you will enact before approaching women or socializing to get you into the right state.
Too many socially anxious or shy introverted people do not do their due diligence when it comes to preparing themselves for socializing.
They simply waltz right into uncomfortable social situations without the least bit of preparation.
The best state to be in is one in which your body is energized but your mind is still.
If you struggle with socializing, you most likely experience the opposite: a low energy body and a hyperactive mind.
But by experimenting with your three knobs, you can fine tune and discover the particular ritual that gets you into the optimal state for socializing or approaching women.
I’ll share with you my own pre-approach ritual incase you need a little inspiration for yours.
Personally, I like to start with some form of exercise to get my heart rate up. This usually looks like busting out 10-20 burpees to some hype music. I then do a little stretching to loosen my body and get myself limber. I lean back and make sure to open up through the front side of my body since that’s the first place to close when anxiety strikes.
Then, depending on how I feel, I may do a few rounds of Wim Hof breathing if I need the extra boost. This usually shakes me out of whatever bad mood I was in and wipes my slate clean.
At this point I take a cold shower while blasting some Kendrick Lamar or something with equal power. As the chilly water runs over my skin I start to bark, howl, and roar like an animal. I pound on my chest and shout powerful incantations like: “I am confident! I am courageous! I am powerful!” In my earlier days I would say whatever I felt I needed. Sometimes that would sound like, “Beautiful women find me attractive!” or “I can connect with anyone! I’m a social savage!”
Then I usually practice speaking out loud in front of the mirror a few times saying things like “Excuse me, what’s your name?” or “Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you” with a strong, confident, powerful, yet, friendly tone. I makes sure I dial this in so I’m ready to socialize.
I then cut the music, sit down in lotus position, and begin to calm my nervous system. I check in with how I’m feeling and appreciate any parts that are feeling anxious, nervous, or scared for trying to protect me. I tell them that it’s OK for them to feel the way they feel and that I got their backs no matter what happens, and that we are going out to have fun and be ourselves with zero expectations, zero need to perform, and zero need for approval.
I go into much more depth on how to speak to your different parts in my last letter. You can check it out here if you like.
I then summon the parts of me that are playful, curious, social, and conversational and let them know that I need their help and support for the night. I tell them that they are allowed to come out and play.
Then I just sit and focus on my breath until I forget about everything except the present moment.
Finally, as I’m driving to the event, I play some of my favorite music to sing to in order to warm up my voice further. I then begin to envision myself walking into the room looking confidently into people’s eyes, smiling, and having a good time. I picture myself making them laugh and spreading positive vibes everywhere I go. This always gets me into the right energy of giving rather than taking that is so critical in approaching women.
When I arrive to the party, venue, or gathering I immediately immerse myself in conversation and slip into the social flow so I don’t sike myself out; I take full advantage of the emotional high I just cultivated.
What I don’t do is grab a drink and hang out in a corner trying to conjure up the courage to approach someone while the high of my pre-approach ritual slowly fades and the incessant, anxious thoughts return.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is, at least at first. Getting into the social flow is not easy. It takes training, preparation, and practice. But with time it becomes second nature, even if you consider yourself an introvert.
Being introverted is no excuse for not knowing how to talk to people, just like being extraverted is no excuse for not knowing how to sit still for five minutes and read a book.
At this point in my life, I rarely need to enact my lengthy pre-approach ritual. A simple minute in the car breathing and honoring my feelings before heading into the social event is usually enough to get me into the right headspace. But I have my off-days like everyone else and it’s nice knowing I’ve got a custom fit pre-approach ritual in my back pocket for when I need it.
One last tip, sometimes if I’m feeling off during an event or just need to revitalize myself, I’ll head to the nearest bathroom and splash some water on my face or go outside and find somewhere to do some Wim Hof breathing. This is a killer hack that has helped me shift the tone of my night when things were headed down a fun-sucked path.
So what are you waiting for? Go create your own pre-approach ritual, put it into practice, and go out and have fun!
If you want help implementing any of the things I’ve talked about, then shoot me a DM on Instagram and let’s chat. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the next one friend.
Breathe deep, face fear, become whole,