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Annie Oakley won with nerves of steel

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Sharpshooter Annie Oakley was reserved, competitive, rational, and a consummate performer. But none of that quite explains how she showed absolute calm during shooting competitions.

Her first biographer, Courtney Ryley Cooper, asked Oakley’s protégé, Johnny Baker, about it. Even though Baker was technically Annie’s rival, they were close friends. Here’s what he had to say:

The minute she picked up a rifle or a shotgun, it seemed that she made a machine of herself; every action went like clockwork. And how was a fellow to beat anybody like that?”

A few male sharpshooters should’ve been able to beat her, but they hardly ever managed it. They lost their nerve. Annie Oakley did not.

Tip: To perform under pressure, do what other sharpshooters do. Breathe deeply, take your mind off the situation (think about something else or make a joke), then just aim and shoot.

— Adapted from The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America, Larry McMurtry, Simon & Schuster.

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