She said “I read that last thing that you wrote about leadership. You should write more stuff like that, it was really good.”
Then when we were walking home I started burbling about the great revelation I had after reading the Andre Agassi biography Open and Ashley said to me ‘have you written this stuff down anywhere? There’s real wisdom in what you’re saying.”
I went home and thought and prayed about it and the truth is, the social media and marketing stuff I usually write about has been great but it’s very fluff and surface level for me to write about. Writing about leadership and people means giving more of myself and opens up a whole lot of insecurities about being a good enough writer, my authority to talk about such things and whether it will all just come out as vain self help. I’ve always been a student of Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, John C Maxwell. Brian Tracey and other great motivators and I never consider myself as being at their level. And I’ve thought the only other way people will listen to you if you talk about such topics is if you are the CEO of Hewlett Packard or a former Super Bowl coach or the like. Maybe it’s all a bit try-hard.
So anyway, do you want to hear my Agassi story?
After winning the US Open and reaching number one in the world, Andre was burnt out and his ranking was crashing out to around 150. Agassi hated tennis and everyone had written him off - he’d peaked and was over the hill at age 30. He met with a former player and coach Brad Gilbert who destroyed his game and basically told him he had to start over playing satellite tournaments (now to give you some perspective, I was a pretty rubbish high school tennis player and even I played satellite tournaments- they are a couple of kids hitting up in a public park on concrete courts).
Gilbert told Agassi his perfectionism and win at all costs outlook was making him lose and that he had to just go out there and hit the ball.
Just hit the ball. Put the pressure on the guy down the other end. Just hit the ball.
Here’s one of the greatest shot makers, a world number one and a US Open champion and he’s being told to start over on concrete courts and just hit the ball.
So Andre turned up to some high school tennis courts in his private jet and started over. He lost badly to unranked players and had to put up with jeering on the sidelines of how the mighty had fallen. His coach Brad was elated. The more Agassi lost, the more his perfectionism was being crushed and the mental work was being done in him. The more he fought his urge to hit big winners all the time and ‘just hit the ball’ the more he developed the mental discipline to endure the pressure of big points.
I was burbling this story to Ashley (who is an architect and very high achieving person herself) and realised that many of my stresses and bellyflops had been caused by trying too hard and trying to hit winners all the time “we just need to learn to turn up each day and hit the ball. It’s not that you won’t ever hit winners or that you are passive and uncompetitive but by taking the mental pressure off yourself, you develop the endurance.”
Losses are actually healthy and necessary because they make it OK to not win all the time and you then have the mental strength to climb higher. Agassi told sports reporters at the concrete courts he was on his way back to world number one. They all laughed at him. He regained his position and went on to win all of the four major grand slams.
I went for a walk this morning and suddenly it hit me… I was doing an Agassi. I wasn’t writing about the things that really mattered to me because of my own perfectionism and thinking my match play wouldn’t be good enough and the sports reporters would laugh at me. I needed to - just hit the ball.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to write about social media and marketing stuff so much and I’m going to add value to people by giving out all of the good stuff and learning and wisdom that has been imparted to me over the years. I’ve got many mental demons telling me how ridiculous that is but I’ve had enough doors closed on me to not be as afraid of failing as I used to be.
I’m going to get out there and just hit the ball.
PS -thanks Ashley