OUT-STUDY THE BASTIDS!
Tennis coach Brad Gilbert was once the #4 ranked pro in the world. He was not a natural. His breakthrough, after a very spotty career about to tank, came when he acknowledged to himself that he wasn’t a natural. His response could have been to turn in his racquet. Instead it was to hit the books. Or, rather, write one.
Gilbert was the guy, who when the other guys went for a beer after a match, hung around watching more matches, talking tennis with anyone and everyone … and writing it all down. He began his black book, and took notes on everything, especially other players he’d faced, or might face. The result: that eventual #4 ranking, and then a superb coaching career, working with the likes of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.
No surprise, one of Gilbert’s coaching secrets is continuing his own studies, as well as converting his players into Students (sometimes no mean feat with those “naturals”). Coach Gilbert acknowledges that there may well be a few, like John McEnroe, who can get away without hitting the books … but for us mortals that’s scant consolation.
Needless to say, all this translates one-for-one, to the World of Work you and I participate in. I loved the line from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: “When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: ‘Finish your dinner—people in China are starving.’ I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: ‘Finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your job.'” Age 12, 22, or 62 … tennis or finance or engineering … this “simple” lesson bears repeating.