Thursday, 22 January 2015


Many years ago I witnessed the unique way that the famous cellist Paul Tortelier prepared himself for a performance.

As I was entering the foyer of the concert hall where Tortelier was imminently due to perform I was greeted by the sight of a strikingly tall man with angular features, hat and coat clutched firmly in hand, purposefully striding towards the exit. This man was none other than the great cellist himself!

I stared after him in surprise, thinking that perhaps the great virtuoso had experienced an attack of stage fright, or that someone or something had offended him so much that he had felt compelled to make a swift and dramatic exit.

The seasoned concert-goer accompanying me showed no such surprise. She simply watched the great man leave and nodded to herself knowingly. Then, after a short pause, she turned to me and said, ‘Don’t worry, he always does this before a performance. It is his way of managing his nerves and energising himself before going on stage to perform’.

And she was not wrong. Ten minutes later, with my friend and I seated and expectant in the concert hall, Paul Tortelier strode dynamically to the centre of the stage, grabbed his cello and began to perform. The effect was immediate. It was as if Tortelier had gathered up all the energy and momentum of his last minute walk and focused it all upon the one instant of time that was the opening of his performance.

Tortelier’s intention had not been to make a dramatic exit but a dramatic and memorable entrance. Having achieved this, he immediately and virtuosically built upon the initial energy he had created: one vibrant and dynamic moment led to and built upon the next to create some of the most exhilarating cello playing I had ever heard.

Tortelier’s method of energising himself can be applied more generally. If you want to approach your problems and challenges creatively, stimulate not only your mind but also your body. Create a sense of physical momentum and energy that you can carry with you into creative problem solving sessions and other demanding situations. Take a brisk walk or have a light workout in the gym before that important workshop or presentation. At the very least take a few deep long breaths before diving into the problems before you.

By giving yourself a physical run up to your problems and challenges you will maximise the energy that you can focus upon their effective resolution.

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