Sow good actions. Cultivate positive habits.
The past few months I have been taking tennis coaching sessions to improve my service and forehand. Every week I get in front of the coach who after the initial stretch and warm up routine, puts me through an extensive one on one training.
This training includes showing me a new variation of a shot followed by hitting the ball from left to right, front and back. The same shot each and every time requiring the same precision and focus to get it into the desired spot. It is not easy, and the first few never even land near where its intended. But slowly another 20 shots in, the direction and pace is steady, and by the end I am hitting the ball exactly where its needed with the right pace, spin and racket speed.
After which, we play a quick serve set where the purpose for me is to hit as many shots in the same whilst at play so I put what I have learnt in training into practice.
What have I learnt from this that I can apply to real life and business?
1. Listen, watch and observe
As amateurs or learners, it is important to keep an open mind and be willing to listen, watch every movement and observe the nuances in the little changes that can make a big change to how a professional or an expert would play that shot or execute that task or project.
2. Sweat it out
Nothing comes easy and the fastest way to learn something is to get in action and keep doing the same thing over and over again so its becomes natural to the body and mind.
Hard work will always pay off as long as its done with sincerity and humility. Sometimes it takes months to learn to play a shot well, and sometimes it can be learnt within a few minutes.
3. Unlearn and re-learn
It is harder to unlearn but its an essential part of learning where one needs to drop bad or poor shots or ways of doing things, to learn efficient and smarter ways of playing or executing. This continuous Un-learn and re-learn process is the foundation of improvement.
4. Make mistakes
Mistakes will happen, but the idea is not to shy away from it but learn from it every time it occurs. I tend to think quickly on what I did wrong. Did I drop my racket too low, or hit the ball too close to my body or not position myself well enough?
Making those changes on the next shot helps me find out the best natural way of playing that shot to the best of my ability.
5. Find your own pace
Many a times I will get frustrated at not being able to play a certain shot how I’ve been practicing. Then when I think back on it, or calm myself down, and find my own pace, then it comes smoothly and without effort.
This has been the biggest learning for me, where I have found to learn at my own pace, and it’s where the mind is willing to adapt the body.
6. Test it out in reality
It is one thing to keep hitting the shots as desired whilst practicing and even during the coaching session. It is another thing to be able to execute that in the real match when playing a stronger or faster or skilled opponent.
That is where the litmus test lies, to be able to hit the ball as and when needed to where its meant to be, at the precise time. Pressure can bring out the best in us if we know how to manage and channel that aggression.
7. Have fun
The most critical element of doing anything well, is to have fun and enjoy the challenge. If all is woe and doom, then forget learning, you’re burning yourself and there is hardly any gain to be made.
If the mind is taught to take pleasure out of the pain, then the body will be able to cope with stress, movement and fatigue better; and be able to perform at peak during a critical match where that extra 1% is enough to snatch victory.
8. Practice makes perfect
There is a lot of truth in this, as practice means you’re changing your habits. And over time, new and smarter actions lead to better habits which lead to perfection.
Natural talent exists in everyone, but the true champions are those that are willing to push, push and push to achieve success. A great example of which is Novak Djokovic who won the 2015 US Open fighting against Roger Federer, arguably the most gifted tennis player ever.
Novak played to his strengths and kept his mental focus on the important points, comparatively to Roger who can hit every shot and then some, but was unable to convert on the big points.
Ability would put Roger ahead by a mile, but the continued persistence borne out of good actions and positive habits helped Novak win the crown.
Hope that you find this post useful, and the comparison with learning to play tennis to that of everything we learn productive.