Monday, September 9, 2013

"Life is Bigger Than any Scoreboard"

The October 2013 issue of The Red Bulletin includes Stefan Wagner's interview with retired tennis champions Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Agassi declares, "It is an illusion to think that setting goals and achieving them makes you happy." That may seem like a strange statement coming from someone who was once the top ranked tennis player in the world but Agassi insists that a person should not define himself by external measures: "True excellence is the person who understands that success won't come sometime in the future, but rather here, now. As soon as I understood that, a few important things became clear: It's not what I do that's important, it's how I do it. I won't accept not giving my best. I won't accept not wanting to be better."

Agassi asserts, "Success isn't what comes out, but what you put in. Doing things completely or not at all. Caring about what you do...When it comes to tennis: Find out what you're responsible for and concentrate on that. Work on your fitness, on your stroke. Don't lie to yourself and look for shortcuts. Success isn't a result. Success is a way of living that you choose for yourself. When you see success as a goal, you'll never be successful. Because it becomes like an addiction. You can never have enough. Never."

Graf agrees with her husband, adding that she defines success "by how you feel when you go to bed at night."

This is what Agassi tells young tennis players who ask him for advice: "There are a few things that are important to me, simple things. For example, that there is only one important point you play in life; that is the next one. And that you should concentrate on the things you can influence--you can control your attitude, your work ethic, your concentration. If it's windy or hot or something aches or you're tired from the match yesterday, then you have to accept it." It can be difficult to understand and accept that outcomes cannot be controlled but a person who can internalize this wisdom will have a more peaceful mindset than a person who is constantly at war with himself and the world around him, trying to change things that cannot be changed.

It is natural to dream about having a great triumph and to relish such a triumph after it happens but Agassi cautions, "The moment of victory can't be better than the moment of preparation. Learning that is pretty much a question of survival for a tennis player."

Graf adds, "Life is a good teacher, whether you're a tennis player or not. You just have to ask yourself one question and answer it honestly: Is the life I live the life that I want to live?"

Agassi concludes, "Children have to push themselves every day. For themselves, not for anyone else; certainly not for a scoreboard. When you see the result on a scoreboard, that's a bonus. But what's on the scoreboard shouldn't be the meaning of life. Life is bigger than any scoreboard."

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I am not a fan of Red Bull. It's a shortcut and a drug. Kudos, though, to Stefan Wagner, Red Bulletin, Andre Agassi, and Stefanie Graf. This was a fabulous article/interview on Success. Thanks for posting about it! I'll make sure my son reads a copy, once he learns to read.