About to Lose Your Cool? Curl Your Toes

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Getting grilled by hostile lawmakers is an experience few of us will experience in our careers. But a recent inside account of how former AIG Chief Executive Ed Liddy dealt with that challenge offers a revealing glimpse into what it takes to reach the top.

The account comes from former AIG general counsel Anastasia Kelly. She resigned in December to avoid a pending government ceiling on her pay, and resurfaced last week as of-counsel at the Washington D.C. law firm DLA Piper.

Kelly's February Q&A interview in Fortune provides a wealth of new details about the insurance giant's culture and the downward spiral that led to a series of government bailouts of the company. But there is also the following anecdote.

In March 2009, when public fury at bailed-out financial institutions in general and AIG in particular was at its height. Liddy testified before the House Oversight Committee. Kelly told Fortune:

When Ed stood after the hearing ended, he almost tripped. I said, "What's the matter?" And he said, "I have this thing I've done in my career. When I know I have to control myself, and it's very difficult, I curl my toes in my shoes. That hurts, and it keeps me focused on doing something to keep myself from blowing up. But I've never before had to curl my toes for five hours."

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