How To!

How To Be a Badass On and Off the Court

My aversion to competition is holding back my tennis game—and my career.

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Episode Notes

Juliet knows she’s one of the best tennis players in her community league, but whenever she gets on the court, she’s paralyzed by self-consciousness. Did the crowd notice how bad that shot was? With all eyes on her, Juliet keeps bungling big points and losing matches she should win. On this episode of How To!, new host David Epstein brings on Sian Beilock, president of Barnard College and the author of Choke, to walk us through the science of why sometimes we play our worst when it matters the most. For Juliet to ace her game, Sian says, she needs to practice being self-conscious and then learn to push past it. It’s all too common for women to shy away from natural competition for fear of “not being nice,” but playing to win doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk—advice that applies to Juliet’s life off the court as well.

If you liked this episode, check out “How To Perform Under Pressure.”

Do you have a seemingly impossible problem? Send us a note at or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might have you on the show. Subscribe for free on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Podcast production by Derek John, Rachael Allen, and Rosemary Belson.


About the Show

What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Amanda Ripley (bestselling author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Have you found the advice on our podcast helpful? Send us a note at or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might play it on the air.

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