Have you ever been walking up a set of stairs and when you think about what your legs are doing, you stumble and have to grab the handrail to save yourself from falling? Defending VCDX is the exact same thing, on the day of the defense you want to be in “the zone”, going with the flow, thinking on your feet and making it happen. You want to let your subconscious take control and perform the task at hand.
In the early days of my VCDX-DCV journey, I used to “over-train” and spend a significant amount of time stressing about the defense and going through what-if scenarios, spinning my wheels. And now here we are 6 years later. What have I learned, you ask?
What is my thought process now?
- I know that the nervousness I feel leading up to the defense is normal. I know that as soon as I need to perform, those feelings drop away and I will go into “the zone”. This is my process, there is no need to stress about it.
- I know that there are no guarantees in VCDX (or NPX or DECM-EA), all I can do is my best and let the chips fall where they may. Not many people have the stones to go down this path, so by attempting VCDX I am already succeeding.
What does “The Zone” feel like?
- I am completely in the moment, reacting to my immediate environment. I have no thoughts about what happened in the past or what is coming in the future.
- There is no fear, there is no nervousness, just a readiness and a confidence to handle whatever is about to happen.
- It is an enjoyable feeling and there is a rush associated with it.
- Questions will be asked and I will answer with facts that seem to magically appear.
- It feels like my conscious mind is a bystander to what is coming out of my mouth.
- Sometimes additional facts will magically appear a few minutes after a question was asked and I will quickly backtrack and re-address that question.
- At the end of it, I cannot remember exactly what happened or exactly what I said.
- In the days after the defense, the details will slowly come back to me and I will postmortem my responses.
How do I prepare?
- Think of your preparation like training for the Olympics. You want to peak on the day of the defense. This means the heavy lifting is in the months before you defend. The final week before the defense is fine-tuning and tweaking.
- I start by putting the VCDX blueprint into a spreadsheet.
- I rank my skill/knowledge level for each blueprint area.
- I create a plan of what I need to do to master each blueprint area.
- I slowly grind through that list. I treat it as a marathon, not a sprint.
- I know I will have slow days and I know I will have days of inspiration where I will make massive strides in progress.
- I know about half-way through building the submission documentation, I will hit a wall where it feels like I am stuck in quicksand. When that happens, I will take a break and inspiration will hit me again a few days later.
- I know that spending a few hours a day will mean I have the entire submission finished in 3 months.
- I know that once I submit, I will have to get the presentation ready and then spend at least a month preparing for the defense.
- I practice getting through the first few slides of my deck, once I get started, it all flows naturally. My deck is really a set of key talking points I want to hit that will kick-start a discussion, no more, no less.
- I know that I will want to have at least one mock defense with an SME who has already achieved that VCDX track. The feedback is invaluable. Quality is better than quantity.
- Once I have ticked those boxes, I know I am ready. There is no need to over-train and exhaust myself.