In the minutes before any race, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps would step on and then off his starting block repeatedly while listening to a specific playlist, usually with music from Eminem or Young Jeezy.
Before heading into an operation, neurosurgeon Mark McLaughlin sits by himself and listens to a Bach cantata, then walks swiftly into the operating room. Comedian Stephen Colbert chewed a specific type of Bic pen and lightly high-fived all of his crew members before filming episodes of "The Colbert Report."
Many would find those rituals superstitious or odd. But according to Daniel McGinn, senior editor of the Harvard Business Review, they work. Having a pre-performance routine, he writes in his recently published book, "Psyched Up," is key to reducing anxiety and building confidence.