Article: The grass is always green, says Ajay Chowdhury

Sports, Books & Movies

The grass is always green, says Ajay Chowdhury

Lessons for managers from the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon on how to aim for success even while being down
The grass is always green, says Ajay Chowdhury

Marion Bartoli summed it all up when she said that she did not dream to be a model, but she did dream of the Wimbledon title


Apart from being a dream-come-true tournament for the British, Wimbledon 2013 was a statistician’s delight. Amidst the euphoria and the chants of knighthood for a newborn hero (strangely, a national poll did not quite live up to the hype that Andy Murray was that night), this year’s Wimbledon also stands out for the unpredictable behaviour of people that we thought were insurmountable. The upsets, the apparently underprepared playing fields, the ability to come out of tricky situations, the grit and the sheer magic that threw up unlikely heroes, all converged to put up a spectacle that did not run as per script.

So, what does this tournament mean to a person in a corporate setting? Simply put, there are demons lurking around every corner. There is insecurity, competition, a lack of self-belief, aspirations and dreams – yet there is an overpowering desire to succeed, to prove oneself. Not one person who walked the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon this year faced a different reality.

There had to be but one winner and a host of events conspired to create history on the seventh day of the seventh month in 77 years. What can one learn from this to be successful at the workplace? First, do not overplay the numbers game. Numbers support decisions at times, but more often than not, they are more useful for assessing performance and results. It is the softer stuff that makes you tougher.

Stop complaining: At the Wimbledon, like anywhere else at work, the playing conditions are the same for everyone. In theory, you have the same shoes, the same wetness of the proverbial floor, the same pitfalls. What is different is your approach - you can choose between complaining or coming to terms with what you encounter. The players who made it past the first few rounds were no different from the ones that did not, they just wanted to move up more badly. When you complain, especially after encountering failure, it will be seen as an excuse rather than a constraint. Del Potro went down and came up again and again. However painful it must have been for him, he refused to give up.

Believe in yourself: Murray had his share of tragedy, starting from the same court at the same time last year. He wept into the mike, “I’m coming closer”, were his words. Feeling sorry on a bad day in office is not wrong, but it is not permanent either. Display of remorse about things not having gone your way is not a weakness, it is acceptance and combined with a resolve to change things is the hallmark of a winner.

Do the right things when you are down: Introspect, train harder and best of all, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Murray went out of circulation for a while, got his thoughts together, chalked out a game plan, trained like a madman (his historic training session on Christmas Day in the Miami heat being a case in point), and got a coach who had not been near a tennis court for ages (and wonder of wonders, had not won a single Wimbledon title himself, in spite of his clearly visible desperation to add that to his array of Grand Slam titles – his “grass is for cows” quote notwithstanding). All these factors catalysed the pursuit of this most-wanted title into reality.

You don’t have to be a superhero: The vicious serves of Ivansevic, Becker and Roddick, the unplayable returns of Agassi, the retrieving capabilities of Nadal, the single-handed relentless backhand play of Federer, and as Alan Wilkins would put it, the ‘Spidermanesque’ capabilities of Djokovic, do not necessarily add up to a champion of today. Murray has no spectacular, singular weapon in his arsenal, least of all a smile. Yet, he brings with him a single-minded intensity that no skill can match.

Pursue the right dream: Bartoli turned out to be a completely unexpected, the unlikeliest of champions in the women’s race, playing the game in the most unorthodox of styles. She summed it all up when she said something to the effect that she did not dream to be a model when she was six years old, but she did dream of the Wimbledon title. It takes guts and a steady resolve to understand your capabilities and channelize your energies to realise your dreams.

You have to learn to come from behind: How many times did things not go your way? How many times did Murray actually think that he will not make it this time around as well and imagine the number of times he thought he could. It is easy to give up when the chips are down, and one can easily retire into unrealized glory. Whether you are two sets down to an unknown player, or two months behind a project deadline, you have to garner your senses or resources and give it one final shot before you say you are done. Murray has, over a period of time, learnt to fight the odds to his advantage.

Hold on to your nerves: There will be moments when all that is required is one last push. Yet, you know that there is too much riding on that one last shot, one last negotiation pitch, one last attempt. You need to draw on your last reserves to hold on. For if your approach is right, if your training is right, if your coach is right, if your dream is compelling enough, you will strike gold. Three match points up and all three snatched away will leave anyone in deep doubt, but the resolve, the stake, and the belief will carry you through.

It is said that the court (or a playing field) is a reflection of life, what we forget very often is that there are lessons to be learnt either way. A mirror in front of a mirror can mean nothing, or can multiply the learning manifold – take your pick.

PS: You don’t have to be the one that magazines want on their cover: Bartoli hit bulls’ eye when she casually remarked, “I have no sponsors because I am not blond, tall and slim enough”. Listening, Sharapova?

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Topics: Sports, Books & Movies, Leadership, Performance Management, Watercooler

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