My friend, Dr. Rob Gilbert, Ph.D., is a professor of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Montclair State University.

I told him I write songs, but I get stage fright when I'm singing them. I can barely move my fingers.

He invited me to come to his classes and sing my songs. Athletic performance is similar to musical performance: you have anxiety, and you have to perform.

Rob had five classes so I sang a bunch of songs in each class.

I was terrified in the first class, anxious in the second, tentative in the third, steady in the fourth, and feeling much better in the fifth.

A formula for peak performance

According to the magazine Scientific American Mind, there are only a few proven ways to achieve peak performance.

One is to rehearse under performance-like pressure, which means in front of people.

Rehearsing in front of people acclimates you to the pressure of performing. It also transfers your content from your cerebral cortex to your cerebellum, which is responsible for lightning fast motor activation.

The second rule of peak performance is to give yourself one-word instruction. You'll be a miserable golfer if you instruct yourself to bring the club back, pause at the top, shift your weight back, pull the club down gently, and point your chest in the direction of the hole, all while keeping your eye on the ball.

3 important "don'ts"

Oh, and three important "don'ts": don't concentrate, don't take your time, and don't monitor your performance. Be well-rehearsed, give yourself one-word instruction, and get on with it. Ever watch top golfers putt? They line it up and let it go.

It's true, when performers have not yet mastered a skill, the presence of onlookers may feel terrifying--but it's a necessary challenge. The good news it that once performers have mastered a skill, they are helped by the presence of an audience.

Beginners become masters by persisting through failure. As the Japanese say, "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

Nashville, here I come.