What watching a tennis match live taught our intern about life

One of our interns, Roger So, was fortunate enough to be able to watch the Australian Open earlier this year. He was visiting a friend studying in a university in Melbourne, and found some time for the fulfilling of one of his childhood dreams - watching professional tennis players play live! This article is about the lessons he claimed to have learnt in the process of doing so.

Perception vs Knowing

Roger remarked on how surprised he was to learn then, that professional tennis as played out in real life is so different from how it looked on the television screen. The most striking differences, he told us, are these: 1) the balls travel much faster in real life, 2) the court is actually much smaller in real life, and 3) the noises coming from the audience are louder, longer and more segmented in real life. This, he claimed, enlightened him on a life lesson - that perceiving something does not mean knowing that thing. For instance, people often talk about how they 'know' this person and that person, implying that they enjoy at that point in term a certain closeness in relationship with such persons. Very often though, they would have only known his or her face and name, not him or her as a person. He claimed that being able to tell apart from what is perceived and what is known - a hard thing to do given all the noise in society today - would give one much clearer thinking, and more true knowledge.

The best, when in action, do not ponder

Roger also remarked about how everything during match-play happened so fast, the players were almost entirely reactive, and all the decision-making that we thought we saw on the television screen were not actually moments of pre-shot decision-making. This he claimed, brought to him another crucial insight into the way life should lived - that is, that in a high-stakes situation in life there is usually no time to stop and think. This usually hinders in-the-moment performance. All the hard work should have already been made way before this high-stakes situation. To illuminate his point further, he even quoted Sun Tzu - 'every battle is won or lost before it is even fought'. Because of this, Roger said, the value of consistent hard work has only been further embedded in him.

Opportunities come and go

Hard work, he says, has to be constant, because in life you never know when opportunities will arise. His seeing a professional player miss an easy volley was what led him to such insight.

I witnessed on the Monday I was there an incident, tragic for him, sad yet enlightening for me. So there was this player, I can't remember his name, who completely missed a volley that came straight into his forehand. And when I say came straight at, it literally meant that, that it was destined to hit the center of the player's racket face had he not moved it to the side out of a sudden burst of nervousness. If opportunities in life are just like this, that they come and go so fast, you really need to be very careful in how you conduct your life. - Roger So

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