Cate and the Comedian: How to Perform with Freedom Under Pressure – IX Skill #6

By: Jim Murphy

This is the 6th in a series on the 7 skills of Inner Excellence.


  • True freedom is an inner liberation; a sense of joy that’s not dependent on results. 
  • To gain this freedom requires giving up the desire to control what you cannot control (which is the majority of your life) and focusing on your heart, your passion, and the fire empowering it all: love without limits. 

Cate and the Comedian: How to Perform with Freedom Under Pressure

“Love, as I can see it, is the strongest energy on earth. I love hockey all the time, I’ve always loved it, and had no problem to sacrifice anything to it. That’s the most important thing.” – Jaromir Yagr, Voted top 100 hockey players of all time

Cate Campbell, world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle, was the favorite going into the 100-meter freestyle event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She broke the world record a month earlier. In Rio, she broke it again in the first heat and again in the semi-final. She placed 6th in the final. It broke her heart.

“I don’t want to reflect on it. Every time I do, I am overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame,” Cate said, as tears filled her eyes. “I spent too much emotional energy in the lead-up and even in the race. I let my head get ahead of me… It’s always hard, when you’re in form coming into an event, not to think about outcomes. I think I just let my imagination run away with me a little bit.”

Let’s compare this to Jerry Seinfield describing when he first heard about the possibility of a career as a comedian:”OMG, I want to do that. But what if I can’t? What if I’m not funny? I remember thinking, well I wouldn’t have to be that funny anyway. I just have to be funny enough to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread and jar of Skippy peanut butter a week. I could easily survive on that. It was all I ate at my parents house anyway. Even if that was all I had, it would be a better life than any I could envision. I was more than happy to accept being a not-that-funny comedian over any other conceivable option. Without realizing it of course, this attitude is the exact right way to start out in the world of comedy. Expect nothing… accept anything.” 

Cate struggled under the pressure to win. Her loss filled her with embarrassment and shame. The comedian was willing to live off Wonder Bread and Skippy peanut butter indefinitely, and as for his performance, well, we all know how it turned out… he started a show about nothing. 

So what was different between them?

The comedian was willing to take whatever his work brought him. He expected nothing, and it delivered. He loved his work for the work itself, just to do the work… to be immersed in comedy. Cate’s love for her sport was conditional. She loved it for what she could get out of it, and there was only one option available (Olympic gold). He loved comedy. She loved approval. (Note: Cate’s focus in this case is by far the majority in my experience).

Real love is giving what you love the freedom to give you back whatever it wants. A mother loves her child no matter how many time he dirties the diaper—her love is not based on his performance or his response to her. 

Cate’s love in this case was conditional. The comedian’s was not. This made all the difference. 

When you can love every part of your sport or work, not just the fun or rewarding parts, but the painful parts (that are here to teach you), and love it as a whole, unconditionally, then you have a chance to experience real freedom.

Love Jim

Picture your next performance or the next event in your life that in the past has made you nervous. What do you have to do to shift your mindset to a more empowering one?  How can you utilize the fearless energy of love in your next performance? 

“Love, as I see it.” Yagr, Yaromir. Inner Excellence. Chapter 10. The Hero and the Goat. How to Have Poise Under Pressure. p. 218.

“I don’t want to reflect.” Campbell, Cate. The Daily Mail. 24, August 2016. 

“OMG, I want to do that.” Seinfeld, Jerry. Is This Anything? Simon and Schuster. 6, October 2020.

Thank you to Ricky Scruggs who told me, “Love is giving liberty to whatever I’m loving to do good or evil in my life.”

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