There’s a metaphor almost everywhere, offering itself as a teaching for those who open their eyes to see it.
Playing tennis this morning. I am not a tennis player. My wife and I whack the ball around with the idea of keeping the volley going. No matter if the ball bounces 2 or 3 times, falls outside the lines—we don’t care. I have no idea how to play, but have good eye-hand coordination, and, although kind of slow, I am nevertheless reasonably quick. So it works out.
Anyway, there are two ways for an amateur to play. Probably fifteen ways, but today I am aware of two.
Style One—saving your energy, you go after balls only enough to get close to them, you reach, you stretch, and you whack the ball. This style feels athletic, and it looks like you are hustling to get to hard-to-get-to shots. Good all the way around. Except that you are always in kind of a funky position to hit the ball, you have less control, and although you can return a lot of them, you don’t hit the sweet spot as often, and you get less velocity on the ball. But again, it can look real good.
Style Two–when you see the ball coming, you hustle hard to reach the spot where the ball will be, plant your feet, get grounded, square yourself up, and focus on your grip, set an intention for your follow through. So then when the ball actually arrives, you are the Walmart Greeter Man, you’ve been WAITING since the store opened for that ball, you see if coming from a settled position, not on the run, you get a much better look at it, a much better whack at it, the percentage of sweet spot hits goes up by a LOT, and you get more velocity and follow through. It looks like the shot is easier when you do Style Two, and in a sense, it is. But it is not less work—it is actually MORE work, because you don’t just hustle when you HAVE to, you hustle on every single shot, in order to be there to greet the ball from a grounded position.
You look less flashy, but you play a much more solid game.
So, in life.
Running last minute to meetings or classes, maybe even a few minutes late, running deadlines out past the eleventh hour, reaching, stretching, maybe looking like a multi-tasking star as you lean WAY out, just barely reach the ball, theatrically manage to get some racket on it, and send it over the net as you stumble forward from the momentum. Pretty dramatic.
And you are not in the greatest position to field the next volley back, especially if it comes behind you.
The Heavy-Handed Lesson?
You can’t get to everything, but you can get to a lot. You can’t always hit the sweet spot of every challenge in your day, but if you hustle to get in front of it, and you are waiting for it, the odds go up immeasurably. Other amateurs might still be wowed when you catch one at the very last second and launch it, but the other professionals will know you should have been there a long time ago, and met it with more authority, and confidence, and certainty.
You’re not as invisible as you think. Unless it is to yourself, and you don’t even know that you are a Style One player.
Might be a good idea to ask yourself that question, even better to be honest…
Jim Nolan, President