MY CONFIDENCE SECRET (or How I Met NY Yankee Coach Joe Torre & The ‘Elvis Factor’)

When I first began giving speeches as a young executive in the corporate retail world at H-E-B Food-Drugs in Texas, I experienced various severity levels of anxiety.

My key life experiences at that point had been journalism, private investigation and construction.

In high school and college I performed as an Elvis Presley impersonator at high school auditoriums, gymnasiums, local night clubs and dance halls. But giving speeches as a young adult was rare and limited to small groups of no more than 20 or so people.

The desire to be a good public speaker was there, but the anxiety was overwhelming. I went to a life coach and learned something called “NLP.” Over the years I became a certified NLP practitioner and actually taught it for awhile.

NeuroLinguistic Programming, or NLP, is a powerful tool that can be used in many ways to improve our lives.

NLP gave me tools needed to be a good presenter. At H-E-B my training classes for leadership, facilities management and store managers consistently scored the highest ratings from attendees.

As a founder and first elected president of the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (now CONNEX), I gave scores of speeches across the country.

My largest audiences were over 10,000 for the National Retail Federation at the Javits Center in New York, and 8,000+ at the McCormick Center in Chicago.

Enthusiastic and ready to give my first speech in Las Vegas.

Through the powerful tools of NLP and practice, I became a popular speaker at various conventions in places like Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle and Nashville.

The point is, NLP gave me a toolbox of ammunition to fight fear and gain confidence. It transformed my life in various ways.

NLP can be applied to many situations in our every day lives and has proven techniques for diagnosing and intervening in certain situations.

(I’ll be writing more about these techniques occasionally. If you’re interested just look for and click the “NLP” tag. Be sure to follow Clever Journeys below.)


The first NLP technique I learned is called “Anchoring.” An anchor is a unique stimulus that involves multiple senses to stimulate and stir our brain to remember and recall a particular resource.

It’s a way to get in touch with a specific feeling, recall and recreate it in the body at will. For me, I’d simply rub my fingers together or touch my ring and recall the excitement and enthusiasm I received from audiences performing as Elvis. It became my warm-up before each speech and I couldn’t wait to present before each group.

The simple little change that I felt and experienced after I put anchoring in my tool box was just a small building block to the foundation that I needed to become someone strong and self empowered, capable of leading others and creating futures others thought impossible.

It was healing.

The NLP Anchoring process can be broken down into four steps.

To provide reference, let’s use confidence as the desired feeling. We can all use a little more confidence. As you read through each of the steps, take time to reflect and respond.

1.Recall a time in your life when you felt confident.

Let your mind run a movie of that memory. What did you see? See it now. Feel what you felt at that time.

If there were sounds, hear those sounds, tune into what you were saying to yourself and how you felt about that. Make the memory vivid and as real as you possibly can. Use your imagination.

Now kick it up a notch to expand all the senses. Make the colors brighter, the images larger and the sounds more clear and vibrant.

Kick it up a notch.

I’d psych myself up by playing Elvis  music in my mind. In the Green Room of the Javits Center I listened to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 2001-A Space Odyssey on earphones while I waited to be called to speak.

Joe Torre, the legendary New York Yankees baseball coach, who would be on stage after me, asked what I was listening to. I unplugged the earjack from the recorder so he could hear. He laughed. I told him why I did it. He deemed it “The Elvis Factor.”

“Go get ’em Elvis,” Torre grinned as he slapped me on the back to send me to the stage with a thumbs up. I was psyched!

After my speech, he stood up and greeted me back in the Green Room with an enthusiastic handshake.

“Now how am I going to follow that?” he laughed. Somehow he did and he was awesome. The good part was bringing home a signed Joe Torre baseball to son Jack later that week.

Remember that in Anchoring, whatever you can do to make the image unique and more powerful is most effective for best results.

2.Choose a place on your body where you will touch yourself or use an object to remind you of that feeling of the time when you felt confident (I tap my fingers together or rub my ring with fingers from the opposite hand.)

You can also visualize a symbol or an expression that represents the meaning of what you want to anchor. I visualize and make an “OK” or “Thumbs Up” sign with my hand to myself. Some people put a fist up high and say, “Yes!” or “Go!”

Now combine that touch with the actual memory. Right before the point in the movie when the feeling is the most intense, you fire off the anchor by using the unique touch or any other method of anchoring that you have chosen.

3.Repeat the process.

Again, think of the time when you felt confident and fire off the anchor by touching the object, visualizing the image, hearing the sounds, feeling the sensations in your body or creating that unique touch.

4.Test it out.

Fire off the anchor. Expect to be instantly transported to a time in your memory when you felt confident. If not, repeat the process until you get the desired feeling on demand. Soon it will come naturally.

Remember to have fun!

NLP is a great process and it works surprisingly well – magically transforming negative situations (or collapsing negative anchors) and installing new empowering ones.

Today is a good time to say a little prayer and then get started using some of those awesome memories to be the best person you can be.

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