How taking one day off helped me to discover 9 leadership insights

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This past Monday, I actually took a day off and wow was it great! I went to watch the qualifying tennis matches at the BNP Paribas Open near my home in Indian Wells, CA.

There were multiple matches going on all at the same time, with lots of lower-level players who weren’t even ranked, or perhaps very low in the top 500 list, hoping to qualify to play in the actual tournament.

The level of play I experienced was extraordinary. And inspiring. I always seem to learn a boatload about my life – and at the same time my business life – from watching tennis players do their magic.

As I watched, I kept noticing similarities between how they were playing on the court… and how we can play better in life.

It was quite a fun day, and I’ve come up with nine (9) different things I learned and wanted to share them with you:

Mind-set matters more than you know. At this level of tennis, it is mostly a mind-set game – which is applicable for each of us. Where are your thoughts going day-to-day? Not unlike where are their thoughts going during their matches.

Recovery is the key. A recent study revealed that top-level tennis players share a distinguishing quality: The ability to recover between the shots. They stay present to the game, rather than voting inside their head about how good or bad their last shot was. Wow, do I need this lesson again and again. Stop voting about how you’re doing, good or bad, and simply recover back to the work or project or client at hand.

Your serve matters. The opening experience we have with another human has big impact. Make it count and don’t hold back. Just like the serve of a tennis match… go for it like it’s your first serve.

Practice, practice, practice. Obvious, but something we forget. I sometimes think I am supposed to be good at something within days or even hours. Seth Godin has said, “Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.”

Focus. During my workday, it’s easy to have a million shiny things distract me. Watching tennis has had me get better at focusing on ONE thing (shot) at a time. And then all those “one-things” can add up to a winning match!

Play with someone better than you. When you play tennis with someone better than you, your game gets better. That is why I intentionally put myself into rooms of people who are way ahead of me in their business lives. By being around them, my creativity goes up. I do have to manage my “comparison gremlin,” and when I remember I get better by being around better, it all works out.

Learn other shots. I often hear a voice that says, “Do only what you’re good at.” Yes, that might be true a good portion of the time, yet in tennis, one has to be good at many shots, i.e., an amazing backhand. Yet, those other shots need attention too. In my business, I have to learn messaging, marketing, media presence, accounting and enrollment as well as delivery of the service that I offer. I’m not good at everything, but it all needs attention, focus and practice.

Change the game. When the “game” you’re playing isn’t getting the results you want, change it. In tennis, this happens all the time. Players change their pace, their strategy… just like we need to do when things aren’t working.

Stay in the game… until the point is really over! How many times do I give up or lose focus way before its time? As I watch these players, they are so in the game until it is over.

I dare say if we apply even 10% of the above, our games will go up!


More to come-



  • Lynn Reply

    Great points, Rick! Thanks for sharing.

  • Rachel Simeone Reply

    Such great points, Rick!

    Isn’t remarkable how these 9 points can be applied to everything from dating to looking for a job to starting a coaching business!

  • Dean Regan Reply

    You continually amaze me with your insights and your ability to articulate them. You are a remarkable Thought Leader and these “tips” are right on the money. Let’s just print this out … follow it … and that’s all to be done. Live your life! 🙂

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