One way playing tennis makes better businessmen

Photo credit: CNBC

So, I was browsing through the web and discovered an article on a certain Richard Branson about how his passion and dedication to tennis has helped him out with his entrepreneurial development. Bollocks, one may think, especially if the name Richard Branson does not ring a bell in you. How can engaging in an activity engaged in mainly by jocks accrue benefits to your proficiency in the more refined and serious field of business? Concerning such an assumption, Richard Branson, I and (I am pretty certain) tens of thousands of other businessmen would beg to differ. Despite the very different natures of the two mentioned fields, principles which lead to prowess on the tennis courts could translate into success in the world of business. Without further ado, I shall now contribute my two cents to this topic by elaborating on one such principle.

Such a principle is...

Always be closing

Photo credit: The Artist of Life

Success is in anything, especially in the world of business is not a linear path. Success is not the accumulation of a sufficient amount of points, which when reached a certain level would reward you with the satisfying realisation of your aims. Success or achievement is attained by the closing of certain moments of the heaviest consequence – some extraordinary performance for 5 seconds could wipe away the shame of the previous few weeks of sluggish performance, and a few seconds of not-good-enough work could wipe out 3 months of hard work. Playing tennis constantly knocks this most realistic life philosophy into your view of the world - if you are constantly playing sets or keeping score the right way – much more so than any other racket sport. Why that is so, is because of tennis’s unique points system. For the other racket sports in which the scores are structured in an ever-upward accumulative way, so each set feels like a race to the finish along a straight line. On the other hand, the tennis score system is structured in a way such that some points are more consequential than others.

In a non-tennis racket sport, say badminton, a player seals the set once he reaches 21 points. Hence, all he cares about is sprinting to the finishing line – aggression and a minimum level of immunity to match pressure is all that he needs in the psychological department. If a player is holding a huge lead – let’s say if he has 19 points in the set against the opponent’s 5 – he could still afford to have some complacency and still be in a winning position, given the odds of the opponent being able to catch up with before he seals the set. On the other hand in tennis, there is no such thing as a winning position. Because each game in tennis needs 4 winning points to be sealed, no player is ever in a safe position even if he is 5 games up and 3 points up in the last game. Lose your concentration for even a short moment, and you can easily lose 4 points straight and the game. Given how more closely tight the usual tennis match is in practice, it can be seen how psychologically and mentally draining the game is. What relief (and also pressure) the competing tennis player can extract from this tight mental slugging match is that there are a few decisive moments which if won would give the winner a decisive advantage, if not determining the course of the match. Such points include break points (given that a serving game is most probably a winning one), set points, and match points for 5 set matches. What a shame it is then that these points are also the most pressurizing ones for the player in position to seize them.

It takes brass balls to sell real estate. - Blake

In one of the most famous sales motivation scenes on Hollywood, Blake ( a what-i-take-to-be professional sales motivator from the fictional firm Mitch & Murray) says that what you need in the real estate business, is brass balls. Brass balls, according to him, are what is needed to complete the only task that matters in the life of the listening salesmen, to get them to sign their name on the line which is dotted (a reference to the closing of the house sell). That line could be of relevance to the tennis player facing the opportunity of closing a crucial tennis point – brass balls are what is needed to overcome the instinctual rush of fear that naturally comes along with such moments.

Photo credit: Real Life Tennis

Remember this?...

One unforgettable moment of infamy in which a tennis player failed to close the deal was Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon finals. That day, 4 set points were staring Roddick down the face in the second set of the match (the first set of which was already long taken by Roddick.) It was a momentous opportunity for Roddick, given that that he had never had a 2-set lead over Federer. Closing the set would make a first Wimbledon title very much probable. In spite of such, or rather because of the momentum, Roddick threw all of them away. He lacked the brass balls needed for that moment and succumbed to the fear naturally induced by such momentousness of occasion.

Photo credit: Trading Advantage Daily

The brass balls needed for the closing of such consequential tennis points is highly relevant to countless examples in the world of business: one such crunch point being the closing of a trade at the point which you know the asset being traded is at its peak price, while mustering the courage to overcome your strong instincts which are telling you to hold on to it in order to profit more.

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