In last week's Washington Post Sports section, Amy Shipley recounts swimmer Katie Hoff's surprisingly disappointing race, "more than 10 seconds off her personal best."
The article groups together a number unfortunate circumstance including her recent illness, missed training time, and the fact that she is working on her stroke.
But at the end of this list, she quotes Hoff's coach, Bob Bowman. (who incidentally is also Michael Phelps coach)
"Physical problems are not her only ones," he said, "She was just not there, probably psychologically and physically."
What can speakers learn from this?
No matter what baggage you bring to the table, take a few moments before you speak to get yourself present.
Do your Green Room Trigger.
Take deep breaths.
Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground.
Do whatever it takes for you to get in the here and now.
Simply being there - being present - can be the difference between stumbling over your stumbling blocks, or as the saying goes, using them as stepping stones - and thus reaching to even greater heights.