Do you know Michael Bungay Stanier?

He’s a fantastic human who runs a Toronto-based company called Box of Crayons and is author of The Coaching Habit. I love his mind and it’s always a treat when I’m able to spend a night going on a long walk with him to catch up. More recently, we even did a fun joint piece on Heleo about asking ourselves bigger questions.

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It started when I told Michael that before I give a speech I always write a tiny little note to myself on a cue card in all-caps. Usually it simply says: YOU’RE GONNA NAIL IT! Maybe with a swear word or two tossed in for good measure. And then before I go onstage I empty my pockets of everything else except that cue card so the cue card acts like a little power-up if I need it.


Well, if I’m approaching a tricky piece of new material or get asked a tough question in the Q&A, I just tap my hand on my pocket, feel the cue card, and remember the message. A bit Stuart Smalley? Sure. But it works. I tap my pocket, I remember I’m gonna nail it and then I try to.

(In a way, it’s the same reason I always wear the watch my wife Leslie gave me while I’m travelling. I don’t need the watch. I’m never far from a bright screen flashing the time in an airport or hotel. But the watch is a grounding force. It reminds me of my wife when I’m somewhere far away … and reminds me she’s there with me.)

And there is something powerful about these little physical reminders, isn’t there?

So what did Michael say when I told him about my cue card and watch? Did he tear and cry?

No. Actually, he one-upped me! He showed me his little pocket cue card trick he uses whenever he enters an anxiety-provoking situation. Say a big cocktail party or conference mixer. He calls it a “This Not That” sheet and gave me permission to share it with you here.

Check out the picture:

It’s a powerful reminder to focus on the behaviours he can control in any situation. And it helps level, set and guide how he acts when it matters. He simply stuffs this in his pocket, refers to it occasionally and it provides bowling-lane bumpers on behaviours he’d most like to display.

Does it work?

Well, the answer is yes. Either that or we both discovered we’re cue-card-carrying weirdos by coincidence.

I’ll understand if you think odds are still out.

So these days I buy 100-packs of cue cards in bulk from the dollar store. They’re grocery lists, to-do lists, gratitude lists, and importantly, little affirmations I can use to remind myself of how things will go (or how I want them to go) before stuffing them in my pocket for a day or event.

I say when you’ve got nothing in your pocket except a message from your past self encouraging you, it’s actually quite powerful.

It’s the power of the pocket cue card.

What will you write on yours?

Neil Pasricha is the bestselling author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. His new podcast 3 Books is a Top 100 Ranked iTunes Podcast where each chapter uncovers and discusses the three most formative books of inspiring individuals. Check it out at