Tom Nies: Anxiety and its antidotes

Thomas M. Nies, Founder and CEO, Cincom Systems Inc.

Golf is a sport that forces the athletes participating to relax and calculate how a shot might be affected by the traps and slopes of the fairway or on the green of a course. There’s a measure of self-doubt and anxiety that can creep in very easily while you’re selecting the correct club, assessing how the wind might affect your shot and preparing to swing, but to become a winner, one has to cope with these challenges and remain confident in their abilities.

What makes anxiety so bad?

Anxiety develops and grows in the human faculty of the subconscious. It heavily affects and agitates various emotions. Since the subconscious and emotions are nonreasoning or non-intellectual human faculties, logic or reasoning are inadequate means to manage or assuage anxieties. Experience, self-discipline, self-control and other means of coping are necessary aids in successfully dealing with the torments of anxiety that can be debilitating and even paralyzing to human thought and action.

Learning from golf

The world of sports and athletic competition is widely followed precisely because of the uncertainty involved and the anxiety produced. However, anxiety generates not only interest and emotional experiences for fans or supporters, but can also influence outcomes or results for participants who may have self-doubts about their capacity to cope with the challenges.

This anxiety is perhaps most readily seen in professional golf, especially in the major championships.

In such situations, the desire to achieve and the pressure to perform are at their peak. Moreover, the more real the opportunity to win, the greater the risk of the emotional distress the anxiety inevitably causes.

It often happens that the most proficient golfers who have shot great rounds in the beginning of a tournament may succumb to the anxiety of having the talent, desire and finally, the real potential of winning. They may shoot their worst rounds of the tournament on the final day, allowing golfers who may not be early contenders due to poor first round scores to overtake the original leaders.

It is often not fair to say that these golfers lost their tournaments more than the other golfers, not affected by the same anxieties, who were able to play at their normal, high-quality level of performance.

What does it all mean?

What does all of this professional golf analysis have to do with business? It most certainly is not meant to criticize any athlete who has suffered anguish from unsuccessfully coping with anxiety. Rather, it is meant to show that while skills, talents and desires are important to gaining success, the personal control of the psychological and emotional factors that anxiety produces is also of immense importance. This anxiety is similar for anyone who seeks to achieve success in virtually every field of endeavor.

It’s contagious

While personal anxiety may be largely self-induced, it is also contagious. The fears and doubts of one salesperson can easily be transmitted because they come from the subconscious. If one person begins to doubt, everyone can begin to doubt very quickly. Not allowing this fear to creep in is pivotal in a business to create a supportive, encouraging environment. Debilitated, discouraged and disheartened persons and organizations very quickly become disoriented and disabled.

Build on it

Human strength and character must be developed to be able to usefully and positively manage anxieties rather than allow the anxieties to debilitate and paralyze persons or organizations. The self-confidence that enables a person or an organization to perform each necessary execution as though they have already achieved success — even before that stage is reached — is vital.

Everyone in a business must concentrate on developing the skills necessary to compete at the highest levels to be able to excel in competitive environments.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. For more information, visit