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The issue with tips from people much better than us
I’m not big on sports inspo stories, being hopeless at doing sport, or watching it. But I’ve loved the work of Nick Kyrgios for quite a while. Lately he’s become Australia’s own realistic philosopher king, with essential lessons for everyone.
We’ve all sat in conferences where the sports legend relates what went through their mind as they stood on the blocks in the Olympic final.
All their decades of focus and training coming down to that one moment of truth as they took on the best in the world. How they pushed through the agonising pain in the final metres and took the gold. Incredible stories.
I’m keen on high achievement tips and more disciplined than average. But I can’t relate to stories from these people, because I know they’re so much better than me.
They’d like to think they have lessons for us all but the last time they operated at our level was when they were six.
What works for them are the rules of a different universe of all-consuming sacrifice. When us regular peasants try those rules, we get discouraged after a while and give up.
They can say lines like “Silver medal is for the first loser” and it’s true for them. But not for you and I. Anyone at our level who says it is an absolute tool.
Your vicarious dreams are not Nick’s problem
Then Nick steps up at Wimbledon last week with this:
“I’m ok with not winning Grand Slams. I know that’s going to make a lot of people angry. He should be doing this. But I shouldn’t though. It’s not your life, it’s mine. I’m OK with just enjoying myself, putting on a show. Not everyone can be a Federer or Djokovic.
“These are once-in-a-decade athletes that inspire millions of people. They’re just gods. I see them as that, too. You have to have some people, I believe, that are relatable, that people can bring other fans to watch, people that are just normal. I feel I’m one of those people.”
So much to think about in six words right there. It’s not your life, it’s mine.
Other people’s expectations are at the root of so many problems.
Most people are chasing success as chosen for them by others. 100K followers, Range Rover in the garage, fridge full of Moet and so on.
It can take decades to work out what your own meaning of success is.
And it’s much easier for us. We aren’t burdened by public expectations.
In Kyrgios’ case, don’t underestimate the bravery and authenticity it takes to reject the demands of the world’s media that you fit their Expected Template Of Champions. Or the sponsors who all want you to reflect their “brand values”.
And the folks at home on the couch who demand you represent your country the way they reckon they would if they were sports stars.
Kyrgios might be the first sports star to explicitly point out that their anger is not his problem.
Don’t let officialdom steer your whole life
I first became a Krygios fan because of his incredible ability to annoy tennis traditionalists. It’s so much fun to bother the sort of people who will have a committee meeting to enforce sock colours on others.
All businesses have these kind of people, and you can’t let them set your agenda long-term. You might have to work there for a few years, but don’t assume their rules are gospel.
For a few years there, it made Kyrgios angry a lot.
I’m not going to play amateur psychologist on someone I don’t know. But if I had the pressure of a whole country demanding me to be something I didn’t want to be, I’d smash a few racquets too.
That’s before you consider the mental effects of living your entire life in hotel rooms. It can turn the most calm and resilient of us into monsters.
A quick side-story on hotel room life
The longest I’ve ever lived in a hotel was three weeks in the perfectly nice Hyatt Long Beach while shooting some ads, and that took me to a whole different mental reality.
Particularly the morning in the third week when my producer and I stepped out of the lift into the vast lobby.
“Do you see what I see?” I said, wondering if my mind had gone over the edge. “I think I do,” he replied.
Which was hundreds of delegates from the Little People Of America conference. It was an incredible scene. I had a few interesting lobby bar beers with random little people over the next few nights. Those guys don’t mind a party.
Oh and they were shooting an Adam Sandler movie in the streets outside, with helicopters.
By the time I checked out of there I had lost all grasp of space and time.
Don’t judge people who’ve spent a tournament-long amount of time in the same room of a huge concrete ant farm.
Be as good as you want to be and that’ll do
— Stu Motown (@StuMotown) July 1, 2021
Here’s 2021 Kyrgios asking a fan where he should put his serve for match point.
He seems so much happier now that he’s worked out what he wants to be. To do that by age 26 is good going.
I spent my whole 20s chasing business aspirations that turned out to be wrong. Well, wrong for me.
Kyrgios has realised he could put in twice as much work as now to move ten places up the ladder, and he’s thought: nah.
There’s no shame in being as good as you want to be and having a life as well.
It’s the same in business. If you want to get ahead, every book you read is 10x this and 110% that.
Our business could be much larger if my partners and I really went into 110% Success Maniac Mode. Working six 16-hour days, demanding staff work the same way, harassing customers every day.
It’s fine to be that if you want to. But we just don’t.
Working at 90% is still enough to win most of our battles, and this mindset stops you turning into a burned-out stress monkey after ten years.
Set your own agenda, or at least give it some serious thought.
And thanks to Nick Kygrios for finally making me write a sports story after three years, strange times.
If you’re new here my book Undisruptable is out now on Penguin Random House, it appeared nationally in the daily papers last week, get it here.
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Want more stuff? Here’s a 30 min interview I did on Flying Solo, one of the Kochie’s Business Builders podcast series.