Injuries, resolve and Del Potro

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I rarely blog these days. Maybe I don’t have the time, maybe it’s just low on my priority list, maybe I don’t have enough ideas for posting with frequency. But I tweet occasionally and today I got another update in my Hootsuite feed from tennis player Juan Del Potro.

For you who aren’t tennis nerds, Del Potro is a spectacular player who won the U.S Open in 2009, beating Roger Federer and preventing the Swiss maestro from taking his sixth straight US Open title.

But then the injuries came for the Argentinian grand slam champ. First one wrist, then the other, then the other wrist again. Injury, surgery, injury. He came back a few times, but not for a long enough stretch to make an impact on the tour.

He posted this today:

Inspiring stuff. But what a struggle it must be! I’ve had a knee inflammation myself for a few weeks and played tennis for the first time in a while today. Sadly, it had to be in a tournament game, the local national championships – The Malta Open. I came in with the naive hope that I would be able to run fully and compete, but during the warm-up I felt my knee tense up and then the paint came and went for the duration of the match, preventing me from even giving something like 70 percent.

I’m 33 and pretty fit, yet my body feels older. All the running, tennis and gym over the years has taken its toll on it perhaps, I don’t know. What I do know is that I need to change something. Do yoga, do different kind of stretches or exercises to loosen up and improve mobility. Otherwise I don’t think there’s much point to be on a tennis court. It’s simply not fun when you can’t give your hundred percent. That’s why I started thinking of professional athletes and the kind of work it entails to remain injury free and in physical and mental top shape, match after match, tournament after tournament. And it must be so hard not to be able to play. To work. To do what you’re best at. What you’re meant to do. That’s why I feel for Del Potro. Besides all the hassles, pain and costs of surgery, he has to feel trapped. He wants to play, wants to be where he’s his most natural self, yet, if he’s not fully fit, there’s no point. So he has to work hard, very hard, to even have a chance of stepping on the court as a professional tennis player again. His posts indicates he’s giving it all he can.

I’m impressed by the resolve it takes to be a professional athlete. You must really have a strong passion for what you do to put in all the hard work. And especially at the time of rough setbacks; like difficult losses and injuries. So I want to send my regards to Juan Martin. May you recover and bless the tennis court once more with your fierce forehand.

Will end with another Del Potro post. This time published on the excellent content site Medium.

Dave Chappelle is Back

I think “What would it take for you to leave $50 mil?” would be a better headline, but…

Through my far too long and unmanaged Twitter feed, I discovered through New York Times that comedian Dave Chappelle is touring again.

Chappelle famously went into hiding after two seasons of his very popular Chappelle Show in 2005, despite being offered ginormous amounts of money (reportedly €50 million) to continue by HBO.

The fans applauded his bravado to get away from the “money machine” or whatever his intention was, but they were obviously at the same time sad and mystified. How long would he be gone for? Would he never come back?

But SEVEN (or so) years later he did.  This is what he said on Letterman: “Technically I never quit. I’m seven years late to work.” Letterman who’s witty and fast-minded himself had a good reply:  “Boy, are you gonna be in trouble when you go back.”

When you listen to the interview he seems a bit bitter that he left the scene for so long and missed out on all that money. He doesn’t seem to want to open up about why he left, maybe he’s tired of talking about it, maybe he regrets the decision not to take those $50 million. What he does talk about is how he and the guys at HBO couldn’t get along. And that’s what happens when you’re in the big money – creative freedom is gone and maybe that’s why Dave Chappelle got going?

The most interesting part of the Dave Chappelle interview with Letterman is from around 10:00 where he talks about money being the “fuel of choice” and the difference of $10 million and $50 million not being a huge lifestyle change, despite an “astounding” difference of $40 million.

If you’re interested in Dave Chappelle, I suggest this indie documentary. It’s great quality for an indie film production and definitely worth viewing.

Link: Chappelle’s Show -The 50 Million Dollar Question.

See bits of Dave Chappelle’s finest stand-up below. There’s plenty more on Youtube of course, but for someone who spent a good amount of time in D.C. this really hits home.

What would it take for you to leave $50 million?

Sports as Inspiration for Attitude

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Rafael Nadal has tons of the right attitude to succeed.

I’ve been playing sports and competing in one form or other since I was a little boy. It’s tougher now to stay fit and keep a consistent training schedule with a full-time job and family. But I can take some of the things I’ve learned from sport into my daily life and career.

Playing sports teaches you many things. Sportsmanship, discipline, how to maintain your health, dealing with losses and wins, how to be a part of a team, giving feedback to team members, and much more. But one of the things I benefit most from is the attitude that sports teaches you. The give-it-your-best-always attitude.

One of the world’s best in this area is the man in the picture, Rafael Nadal. He works incredibly hard to always bring his best game and even when he’s not in good form or even injured, he fights, fights, fights. He makes the opponent hit another ball, and another ball, and another ball. Relentless is a good word to describe him on the tennis court.

To be able to bring his a-game to every single match, he has to work hard every day of his life. This means practice, practice, practice. But also: discipline. He can’t let up and eat chocolate croissants for the tournament breakfast or go out with his friends twice a week. He needs to sacrifice some things to achieve others. And he does that with great success.

Not everyone has the talent of Nadal. I play tennis every week, but I’m not even 10% of the player he is. But I learn from his attitude in the things I do. This can be adapted to pretty much anything, from exercise, to eating habits, to the dedication you put into the things you do. To making sure you’re always mentally a 100% there.

It’s too easy to procrastinate away your time, doing more or less meaningless things, but if you bring your sports mindset into your daily habits and make sure you always give it your all, you’ll have no regrets.

Bringing your best is all about changing your habits to the better. Here are some tips:

1. Wake up early and do something useful.

No matter how painful this might feel for some, it’s a powerful habit that brings a positive start and trend to your day. Examples of things to do: go for a walk, hit the gym, read a book, write something. Be productive.

2. Cut something bad out of your eating habits.

Exchange the daily candy bar when your energy is diminishing for a banana or some nuts. Eat porridge instead of white toast for breakfast. Have a lighter dinner. One habit change will make room for the next and soon you’ll feel healthier than ever.

3. Don’t watch so much TV.

TV can be relaxing, but it’s rarely intellectually nourishing. Why not cut down an hour of TV-watching for some quality time with your kids/spouse or doing something more productive? Reading a book is more stimulating than watching TV.

4. Don’t procrastinate (so much).

This is difficult and that’s why there are whole books devoted to this. I’m reading one right now called The Inner Game of Productivity that has some powerful advice for beating your inner procrastinator. One piece of sound advice is asking yourself what you are afraid of? Why are you not starting on that thing you know you ought to do. Write a sheet with two columns with all your fears for not starting to the left and all your answers to those to the right. Another powerful tool is to create a vision board of what the thing you need to do can bring you. It could be images of a new car, a shining new office space, or a trip around the world. Something that makes up for the hard work you’re about to put in.

5. Go to bed early/Sleep well.

Sleeping well reduces stress and improves general health. It’s personal but staying up late at night often means doing things that are non-productive such as TV, video games, etc. So if you can improve your sleeping, you can also improve your quality of life.

So get to work with your a-game. Wake-up early, go the gym, eat well, work hard, focus and you’ll reap the rewards.

How to React to Tough Feedback According to John Mayer

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You have to be able not to get your way. Cry a little bit. Take a bump.  And let it send you back to the lab. Even if you have to say “I’ll show him!” It’s all gonna be better for it – John Mayer.

I watched an inspiring video today with one of my musical heroes, John Mayer. He’s doing a Q&A at Oxford and there are some insightful bits in the 50-minute long interview. You can watch it here. If you’re pressed for time, this outtake about his friendship with Steve Jobs really resonated with me.

I really like the part about tough feedback where John describes how Steve Jobs or any good manager could kill off bad ideas down with just one rhetoric question. That’s how a great leader acts, he doesn’t say NO! – he poses a question that lets you find “no” yourself, which strengthens you and your ideas immensely.

John then talks about how the “independent” artist world can be too soft, where the artists have too much say and that’s why the end product is poorer. You can obviously argue this back and forth, but even as an independent author I have to admit that there’s something there. To develop as an artist/individual/employee/whatever you need feedback, you need to hear when your stuff’s not up to par. And when you have the power to cut out that vital criticism and just go ahead and do what you want anyway, there’s a risk that the art/you/everybody suffers.

Everyone needs a filter. Or like John says:

“I miss bosses in general, I miss editors, I miss people who tell me – don’t do that! We wanted it and we got it and I don’t think it’s that great for an artist to have a manager whose job is to filter out all of the ideas and then meet them out accordingly with patience and grace.”

That’s not the way to do it. Take criticism for what it is, and be honest, then go back to the lab and improve.

Remember: everybody benefits from that.

Change Philosophy

Throughout my life I’ve always embraced change. At times it’s been a survival strategy, other times it’s just been a transport from boredom.

I simply think it’s dangerous to get too static, because life isn’t. Life moves, changes, transforms.

It would be stupid not to grow and change with it.

Now we’re (Lenah and I) getting kind of desperate for change. We’ve lived in the same house for more than three years, I’ve been at the same job for more than six years and nothing really major has happened for quite a while. It’s a little bit like being stuck in limbo.

Limbo sucks.

When I was a little boy I used to love getting letters in the post. Since I played chess competitively I always hoped there would be an invite to some international tournament. And it did in fact happen from time to time and got to travel quite a lot. More than most young boys.

Waiting to see what was at the letter box was exciting and now I’m getting into the mood again. The mood for adventure. The mood for change.

I’d like someone to send us a letter in the post with some good news. Something to mix things up. To change things around.

I think we’ve deserved it.

No, I know we have.

But of course, change doesn’t always happen just because you wait for it. You need to go out and grab it by the horns. Now that we haven’t tried, but we’re going to try and do that even more from now on.

Hey change! Come on! We’re ready for ya.

Do you embrace change or does it frighten you? Please comment! And thanks for reading.

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

I borrowed a book from my friend Marcus called The Last Lecture. It’s a book written by the then-dying and now dead professor Randy Pausch and it is a very inspiring read. It is basically an auto-biographical book that describes his life and the work leading up to the last lecture he was asked to do at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh).

Pausch talks about his life, what he has learned through the years and the legacy he wants to leave behind for his three kids. For a person being diagnosed with lethal pancreatic cancer, he is remarkably upbeat about life and its qualities and that is a beautiful inspiration to all of us.

The book is a fast and thought-provoking read, but if you don’t have the time or the will to read it, you can watch his last lecture here

If you manage to keep your tear-ducts dry through the whole thing I suggest you go see a doctor.