As most of my friends know, I am a huge tennis fan. I grew up watching some of the greats in the late 70’s and 80’s as a kid, and never really stopped watching and following the game. I remember missing school one day in September because my Dad and I were up until midnight watching Jimmy Connors on his epic run in the 1991 US Open. He orchestrated several come from behind wins at the age of 38 to make a run to the semi finals that year. It wasn’t just amazing sport, it was amazing theater. I wanted to be like Jimmy, as many other people did.
Fast forward a couple of generations of American tennis and several names stand out. One in particular comes to mind, and that would be Andy Roddick. He came along in the “era of Roger” and suffered many a loss (as did everyone else) to Federer, and doesn’t get the credit he deserves because of this. Roddick was world No. 1 for a bit, made three Wimbledon finals, losing to Federer in each. He won the 2003 US Open, and was in the top 10 for nine consecutive years. Sounds like a great resume, right?
It is. There is no question about it. BUT…Andy was consistently in the shadow of a few others during his time, and was looked at as a guy who had a huge serve and nothing else. To quote him from an interview:
“I used to hear a lot that all I could do was hit a serve. I couldn’t volley, I can’t hit a backhand, I don’t return well, and then people would turn around and tell me I am underachieving….I am the most successful bad player ever.”
If you read only the information in the paragraph above the quote, you would never guess Roddick would hear anything but praise. Not true…welcome to life. This is my main point in this blog, you need to focus on you, do what you do to the best of your abilities, and block out the noise. Yes, we all have room for improvement somewhere, but unless you are getting advice from someone who truly knows what they are talking about (hardly anyone), then it should be classified as noise. People who barely know how to hold a racquet (sportscasters, sports writers, fans i the stadium, etc.) cast judgement from the outside looking in. Think about that…someone sitting in the stands is telling Roddick that he is doing certain things wrong. That makes zero sense, and yet many of us fall into the trap of not pursuing things we want because of even just one person doing that to us.
If you put into perspective what I just said, I hope it helps you understand what I am trying to do with many of my blog posts. YOU need to block out the noise and focus on what you are doing. YOU need to ignore the haters, the doubters and the naysayers, because their feedback does not matter. AT MOST it should be used as fuel for the fire, but I personally would rather just tune it out. Now, this ALSO APPLIES to the fans, the idolizers, etc. who tell you that you walk on water. That is not true either. Don’t fall victim to the noise the haters make, but similarly don’t drink the Kool-Aid of the adorers who shower you with praise. You are just a human being, like everyone else. Yes, you may have a talent for something or are on your way to separating yourself from the masses, but that doesn’t make you a better person. It makes you better at that particular skill. Period. Some of the most successful athletes I have ever been around are absolute hack human beings. Don’t get it twisted.
We should all take a page out of Roddick’s book when it comes to this stuff. He never lost his sense of humor, in good times and bad. After his crushing fifth set loss to Federer (again) at Wimbledon, he went into the press room and did part of his job. He sat there fielding questions, made a few jokes as always, and held his head high. He knew he had given everything he had that day, and he came up two points short. He got outplayed by one of the greatest of all time. When asked to share thoughts on his marathon match that day (four hours plus and a 16-14 loss in the fifth set) he said: “I lost”. In reality, that did kind of sum it up. It was an epic performance by both players, some of the highest level of tennis that could be played, and he came up just a tad short.
We all want to win, to be great, to be remembered, but things don’t always go as planned. The moral of this story is, that if you do your best, that is enough, regardless of the outcome. Roddick has success at the highest level, and yet people still think he underachieved. In my opinion, if his peers didn’t make this statement, know one else who says this stuff has the right to be heard. If you have not ever done so, please read the famous Man in the Arena quote by Teddy Roosevelt and you will know what I mean.