Serena Wiliams

It’s day nine of the US Open Tennis Championship. It’s hot. It’s humid. The matches are long and physically grueling.  But it’s not the heat or fitness that defeats the players. It’s something far more difficult to train for. Resilience.

Tennis is such a personal sport. It’s one person against another mano e mano. These days you can see every emotion play across the competitors faces in full up-close HD TV coverage. When a player is down a set or two, you really see what he or she is made of. Some wear their frustration like a suit and let that suit guide their every movement. Others allow their frustration its moment of release and let it go. They move on without it. It’s easy to see which method leads to more wins.

As I experience, in all its glory, the life of an entrepreneur, I think about the outcomes of each of these types of approaches to any game. Those who carry their disappointments around with them just don’t win in the end. For those who have resilience, it’s not that they don’t feel the impact of loss or disappointment, they just don’t let it own them. And the best of them use their losses to get better.

This past week I was in grave need of a pep talk from my friend and mentor, Kevin McKeown. Wisely, he told me that it’s ok to wallow, but just for a little while. You have to put an expiration date on it. When you’ve given it its due time, put it away and move on.

I saw this in action on Serena Williams’ face. In her 3rd round match against fellow American Bethany Mattek-Sands, she clearly wasn’t happy with her performance. She showed her frustration with herself in short bursts, but shook it off before the next serve. After winning a tough three-round battle, she went straight back out to practice her serve so she would be ready for the next match. My idol.

I love this quote from Entrepreneur by Eric Greitens:

“Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience.”

No one ever said it would be easy and Kevin reminded me of that fact this week. So now I’m going to go work on my serve.

Photo by Mirasha via Flickr Commons