As a kid, I remember watching Johnny Carson do his monologue on the Tonight Show. Aside from all the jokes, some good and others lame, what really struck me was how dramatically Carson changed in mere seconds from back stage to the bright lights. After the curtains parted and sidekick Ed McMahon barked out his patented “here’s Johnny!” Carson would stroll out to his mark—literally a gold star on the floor of the studio directly center stage—before greeting the audience and starting his monologue. Even as a clueless kid, I could sense a huge change in Carson as he transformed from a reclusive conservative Midwestern guy to a world-class and very worldly comedian, who seemed to relish the challenge of a joke bombing in front of a live audience, not to mention the millions of people out there in TV land. It was as if he morphed into some kind of superman right before our eyes. 

Carson’s seemingly magical transformation reminds me that perhaps the greatest challenge for students in Master Sommelier exams has little to do with technical skills; that it’s not about a student having a ream of theory information committed to memory, possessing top flight tasting skills, or being able to open a bottle of Champagne flawlessly with the utmost panache. Maybe the greatest challenge of all is the mental aspect of the exams in that one is required to be their personal best, to bring their “A game,” at a specific time on a given day. 

What if we could all be like Carson and somehow tap into our most powerful resourceful states on demand? Imagine how incredibly valuable that could be for someone taking an exam or any number of situations beyond such as a job interview, an important business presentation, or that ever tricky first date. To be able to be our best self in any of those situations would be priceless. But how?

The good news is that we already possess all the resources we need to be successful in any of those contexts. After all, at some point in our lives we’ve had days where everything went right and we seemed to be unstoppable. The challenge then is how to get to those times and resources that accompany them—exactly when we need it. The best news of all is that there is a simple technique that when practiced allows anyone to tap into their top resource states quickly and effectively. It’s called the “Circle of Excellence.” 

Using the “Circle of Excellence” allows us to instantly access any of our most powerful memories and resources enabling us to have the confidence to do a great job on the exam, make a fantastic presentation, or close the big sale. Beyond that, using the Circle also allows us to have more emotional flexibility so we can access the right resource at the right time, and literally be our best self more often. And that, meine freunden, is a wonderful thing. Here are a few of the powerful resources people often include in their own personal Circles. The list is potentially much longer:











Giving Credit Where Due

The Circle of Excellence was first shown to me by good friend and coach Kris Hallbom. It incorporates techniques of Neuro-linguistic Programming as developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Personally, I’ve never found more effective way of tapping into powerful inner resources when needed. You may too. Here is a step by step guide to creating your own Circle of Excellence.

Disclaimer: as with doing any work like this, I always have one piece of advice: DON’T SCREW AROUND. When going for those top resource states, pick the biggest, juiciest, and most amazing memories you have and amp them way up. Don’t hittem’ to the infield, as they say in baseball. Swing for the fence!

Creating Your Circle of Excellence

1. Context: think of a situation you find challenging where you’d like to be more effective and resourceful. That could be taking an exam, making a presentation, going for a job interview, or similar. 

2. Standing comfortably with your hands free, imagine a circle on the floor in front of you, large enough to stand in. Use your imagination to make your Circle bright with your favorite color or colors. Take a moment to make your circle unique with an amazing design. Mine is deep cobalt blue in color with gold stars and a golden sliver of a new moon.

3. Think back to the challenging situation or context and ask yourself what emotion or resource you’d like to have that would really make a difference. For many, confidence seems to be at the top of the desired list. With that in mind, go back to a time in your life when you felt really, really confident.  If you’re not sure what confidence is like for you, use my definition: for me confidence is a combination of the feelings of “I know what I know” and “I can”. 

4. Step into the memory of that time as completely as you can. See what you saw at the time; hear what you heard, breathe the way you were breathing–really feel that sense of confidence throughout your mind and entire body—head to toe. Amp it up!

5. As you’re feeling confident step forward into your Circle and associate those confident feelings with being inside your Circle. 

6. Now step outside your Circle.

7. Repeat! Go back into the confident memory and amp it up even more. When you’re at the peak of the confident feeling, step back into your circle. When you feel the confidence starting to peak step back out. 

8. If you’d like to add something else to your circle, now’s the time to do it. Simply chose another powerful resource such as clarity, focus, or compassion. Repeat steps 3-7 and use your Circle to create a powerful connection or an “anchor” for each resource.

9. Next as you stand outside your Circle, think about something that could remind you of your Circle; something that could trigger you to step into your Circle and powerful resource states. The trigger could be a phrase, a situation, a time of day—anything that will automatically cause you to “step” into your Circle. 

10. Now step back into your Circle and go forward in time to the challenging exam, interview, or event. See yourself stepping into your Circle at that time and being successful with the resources inside your Circle. 

11. Future pace: then see yourself stepping in your Circle in a week, a month, six months forward in time, each time tapping into confidence and your powerful resource states whenever you need them. 

12. Step out of your Circle. Now imagine reaching down and bringing your Circle into an imaginary chest pocket so you can pull it out and toss it out in front of you whenever you need it. 

13. Practice! Repetition can be a beautiful thing. Add more resources to your Circle and imagine using it in more situations and contexts. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it will make.