I just got back from Wimbledon, probably the most known and traditional tennis event in the world. I had lots of meetings, watched some world class tennis and enjoyed to reconnect with the entire tennis industry.
However, one thing I love doing during Grand Slam events is watching the junior competitions. These events are usually filled with agents and potential sponsors who are all out to scouting for the next Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.
Now this is easier said than done:
Officially, only the very best prospects under the age of 18 years participated. These kids usually have practiced hard several hours a day ever since they were about 5 years of age; they stood out at other junior events and earned a top ranking that allows them to compete Wimbledon; and they usually enjoyed huge financial investments from parents, sponsors of national federations that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, they face a harsh reality:
Most of them will never end up making a living from playing tennis professionally. In other words, they will have to eventually quit doing what they have worked for, all their lives.
And here is the most surprising part:
Even amongst the Wimbledon champions, very few will enjoy more than at best a very mediocre career. Below is a list of Wimbledon junior winners between 1992-2001, and give you their highest ranking in their tennis career.
Obviously, Federer is considered by many as the greatest tennis player of all times and did pretty well for himself. Then we have an Austrian guy called Jurgen Melzer, who was ranked as high as 8 in the world, but who also wandered through lower rankings for a great chunk of his career. Two more guys made it into the top 50 for a short while and will have enjoyed a decent career, financially speaking. That’s it.
So how can we predict future champions if we can’t even rely on Wimbledon winners?
Talent does not guarantee success
Let’s not forget one thing- all of these Wimbledon winners were exceptionally gifted young men. Often, they worked hard. And they received tons of support.
So where did things go wrong?
That is what I want to speak about with you today because it is a phenomenon we see in almost every industry.
For example, I took a course to learn how to create an online business. It was developed by someone who had been extremely successful, and in my mind, it gave students all the tools to become successful. In addition, the course even offered coaching classes to ensure that anyone needing support would get the kind of guidance that would allow them to overcome challenges they were facing.
Now, I don’t have the stats, but sadly many students gave up early on, or would never end up launching a successful online business, although they received all the help they need.
The short answer is they usually fail because they do not approach their online business like true professionals.
They may be working extremely hard, but they don’t take the time to reflect on whether they are really progressing the needle movers of their business — and that requires us to become extremely deliberate with the manner that we use our limited time.
In other words, professionals are not the type of people who merely wait to respond to any challenges they may be facing in their businesses. Instead, they proactively take the time to reflect on how they can achieve their biggest dreams.
Let me share with you three simple ways that will help you approach your business like a true professional:
You must create a clear vision for yourself:
When I speak to young talented kids, there is one thing I always notice:
Most of them are not very clear about what it is that they want. They may say their goal is to become the best tennis player in the world, but you sense they are just saying that because it sounds cool.
But there are those few individuals who seem to know exactly what it is they want:
Take my former client, Novak Djokovic:
He said that he wanted to become the world’s best tennis player. However, he would add specific reasons why this was so important to him, and think about the obstacles he would need to overcome.
I remember, for example, this deep desire he had to make his family proud, and bring joy to his entire home country. He would literally picture himself winning big trophies and celebrate with his loved ones. He also constantly spoke about working extremely hard and overcoming setbacks like physical injuries and painful defeats. It was this sense of clarity that made him so hungry that he was even able to persist practicing tennis when his country was in the midst of a very difficult war.
In other words: top performers are super intentional.
They know what they want in the long run but also wake up every morning with a clear goal in mind for the day. This is how they become true creators of their lives.
Contrast this with amateurs who spend less time thinking about what it is they really desire:
Sure, they want to make lots of money and have a good life. However, they never really have taken the time to reflect about their future, how they can increase their earning potential and overcome difficulties they may face.
They hope that things will work out somehow….
So what really separates professional athletes from everyone else is their belief that they were born to achieve something remarkable. They become extremely competitive as they are convinced it is their birthright to become true winners. They also think about all the joy and satisfaction they would trigger for themselves and their loved ones by succeeding to maximize their potential. A tennis player, for example, might do this by picturing himself winning a big title and then celebrating with his loved ones. She might even imagine how her future achievements could inspire friends, family and people around the world to pursue their big goals.
These are the kind of mental images that propel high performers to work even harder on moving towards their big dreams.
For young entrepreneurs it is no different:
They must think how to provide massive value for their clients and help them upgrade their lives. And they must sense how their efforts will not only help them but also their families and people around them.
In other words, as a professional, we must have dreams that go way beyond our current skills and capabilities. This is difficult unless we carve out some in which we create a vision that makes it possible to experience an exceptional career in which we make the kind of impact on the world that goes way beyond simply serving our own self-interest. This is how we find the emotional juice to trigger transformational results!
What can you do to develop a clear vision for yourself?
To create a vision, I recommend you do something almost every athlete does, and it is quite simple:
Take a timer and set it for ten minutes.
Sit comfortably in a quiet room, close your eyes and visualize yourself as being extremely successful with your business. See yourself as the person you want to be, who has overcome various obstacles and who are experiencing the results you desire. Take a moment to imagine how you are feeling in that moment. Think of all the benefits you are enjoying, having achieved your big business goal, and how joyful not only you are, but all the people you truly care about. In fact, can you see how your success might inspire the people you love to play up their business game, and achieve so much more?
Visualize yourself celebrating with them. Also picture your clients, and how your success will have impacted their lives and continues to do so, giving them lots of satisfaction.
What is important is that you visualize your future life as if you are experiencing your successes and the positive emotions right now. The more detail you give these mental pictures, and the stronger you attach positive emotions to them, the effective your visualization will become.
Once you completed this exercise, ask yourself:
How does that feel?
My hope is, you enjoyed it, and that you will make it a daily habit to visualize, and you will see how quickly your vision will become part of your future identity. Like all habits, this may be a bit challenging at first, but it will drastically serve you in the long run!
You must constantly improve:
It is easy to give your very best when you are playing a prestigious event like Wimbledon or find yourself in the midst of huge negotiations — everyone loves winning.
The real test is what happens throughout the rest of the year:
In the Talent Code Daniel Coyle speaks about how one Russian tennis club with broken down courts and mediocre facilities produced more #1 tennis players than all of America.
What was their secret?
According to Coyle, it was their relationship to practice. These kids were taught to love practicing, and realize that it is only by getting ready for the big moments that we can actually seize the few opportunities we are given.
In 1993, K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues wanted to find out more about the practice habits of ambitious musicians and studied 40 violinists in a top school in Germany. They asked them to give detailed records of how they spend their time, on music practice as well as on other activities, and discovered that all the students had remarkably similar backgrounds:
The one stands out the difference between the top performers who would become professional performers and everyone else was the amount of practice time they would spend by themselves. By the age of 20, the very best students had practiced an average of 10,000 hours; the good violinists an average of 8,000 hours and the mediocre ones only 4,000 hours.
But here is the thing:
Ericsson also discovered that practice alone did not guarantee results — it would have to entail sustained efforts to do something we are not able to do well yet and be geared towards continuous improvement.
For example, hitting the practice court on a daily basis will not guarantee that we will become a better tennis player. Nor will being a doctor for 10 years mean that we will automatically become better at detecting certain diseases.
Instead, we need to develop skills in a very conscious manner, and this is where many junior tennis players fail:
Up until a certain age, it was usually parents who encouraged them to practice hard and stay disciplined. However, once they reach a mature age, they start thinking more independently and develop their own motives for doing things. They also discover new interests, things their friends also love doing, that may conflict with their professional career. As a result, they often start practicing with less intensity and stop progressing the way they should, and start a downward spiral that becomes hard to stop.
Having watched experts from all fields, Ericsson offers four key guidelines to make every practice session effective. If you follow these steps you will definitely keep improving any skill you desire to master:
- We must define achievable goals that inspire us to give our best.
- We must be maximally focused on improvement during practice, meaning we are willing to endure intense, uninterrupted and repetitive sessions.
- We must receive immediate feedback which is why having a coach is so vital for high performance.
- We must constantly be willing to step out of our comfort zone, trying out things that seem just out of reach.
This does not mean you need to spend the entire day learning new skills. In fact, deliberate practice is extremely difficult, and probably not something we can do more than 3-4 hours a day. It will also require that we adjust our lifestyle so we can always give 100% at whatever we are doing.
Create your own curriculum
If you want to constantly progress towards your big business goals, create yourself a learning plan which includes the most valuable skills you need to master so that you stand out in your industry. Take a piece of paper right now, and write down what it is you feel you need to learn right now so that it will have the biggest impact on your business.
Next, develop your own learning curriculum, by seeking the books, courses, and coaches that can help you with this mission.
Once you did that, set yourself a learning challenge for the next month:
This could be learning how to write remarkable content, become a star negotiator or create an amazing sales funnel. Or you could make learning the challenge itself, and commit to reading a book per week on your subject of expertise.
For example, I have a student who has an online business in which he teaches people how to create the best online content available so that they can position themselves as true experts. Of course, with this kind of positioning, it is important that he too produces remarkable content on a regular basis, so guess what he did?
So he challenged himself to write 100,000 words in one month by introducing power blocks of time every single day that was dedicated to writing:
And his results were incredible. Not only did he write more than ever, but his content was absolutely superb.
If you are not sure what to start with, talk to people who have done what you are after, and mirror their path. Then, take out your diary and schedule at least one hour per weekday of focused learning time, and you will surprise yourself how quickly you will belong to the very best of your industry.
Never allow setbacks to make you think small
You know what separates world class skaters from everyone else?
They fall way more often on their backside during practice, while trying jumps that go beyond their current capabilities. If they give up, they never end up improving.
Maybe you don’t need to fall on your backside. However, I promise you this:
No matter what it is you want to achieve, your ability to stick with your long-term goals for the years to come is what will determine your success. You will undoubtedly suffer from painful setbacks as part of this process that can either break you or literally turn you into a superstar. The choice is yours.
I know you have heard this before, and you are wondering:
How do I develop this kind of mindset that allows me to persist when things get dirty?
Once again, the answer is simple:
You do the same thing Michael Jordan did to overcome missing 26 game winning shots to nevertheless become arguably the best basketball player of all times; Or what Thomas Edison did to invent the light bulb despite failing to get it right despite over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts.
Just develop the mindset of a winner:
Look, there is one thing nobody really speaks about and I will tell you right now.
Everyone has fears:
One person might worry that she may try extremely hard to achieve something, only to fail and embarrass herself. Someone else dreads the pain he may have to endure before becoming successful. And a third person might be concerned that people will ridicule her grand ambitions.
Whatever it is, we all experience paralyzing thoughts.
But here is the thing:
Some people give up, while others take bold action despite their fears.
And what distinguishes the one type of person from the other?
This has been a question researcher Carol Dweck has been studying for quite some time:
What she found is that there are people with a fixed mindset who believe that we are born with innate talents — a person is either intelligent or stupid, talented or incompetent. For them, practice is not as relevant as natural skills. Any setback is a blow to their ego and means they are not really as good as other people think.
Sadly, with a fixed mindset we do not think we can learn from our mistakes, so we look for excuses to justify disappointments. We end up giving up trying things that might go beyond our current skills, fearing to disappoint others and embarrass ourselves.
We become known for being the talented person who never fulfilled his potential.
Dweck noticed on the other hand that people with a growth mindset act very differently:
They believe that it is through effort and hard work that we can improve and acquire almost any skill we desire, and don’t see failure as a permanent condition we can’t learn from. It was this kind of mindset that allowed Roger Bannister to become the first man to run 1 mile in under four minutes, in a time when this was considered as humanly impossible, opening the doors of new possibility and inspiring many others to do the same shortly after him.
Having a growth mindset is so advantageous because it allows us to detach from specific outcomes and even regard setbacks as real opportunities for improvement. All of a sudden, we are driven to take bold action. So instead of trying to gain the approval of everyone around us by focusing on impressive results, we are able to enjoy the process of challenging ourselves to constantly reach new levels of success. A growth mindset is ultimately what helps us build the kind of mental toughness to persist with our dreams.
How to develop a Growth Mindset
To develop a growth mindset, you must invest some time and follow these steps:
FIRST, realize that your beliefs are neither true nor false, but they can have a hell of an impact on our lives. So why not pick beliefs that support you?
In other words, you want to see yourself as capable and courageous. And if you think that is impossible, try this:
Think of a time when you overcame a big difficulty in your life, and how your bold action has positively shaped your life.
For example, for me, one of these moments was when I was about 10 years old. I was living in Zurich and wanted to switch from the International school and go to a Swiss school. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, they rejected me. I felt extremely hurt but decided that instead of giving up, I would work very hard and make sure I would never get rejected again for not being smart enough. I also loved sport at the time and dreamt about getting involved in the glamorous world of sport, so that I could be surrounded by the kind of athletes I have always been admiring as a kid.
Forward time and I not only ended up matriculating from a Swiss gymnasium, graduated from the London School of Economics, did another Masters in Israel and passed the New York Bar exam on the side. I also fulfilled my childhood dream and became the agent of three world #1 tennis players.
I believe we all have positive stories about ourselves, but we need to spend some time thinking about these key moments that remind us that we can overcome seemingly impossible situations. So please try to do this now, or diarize a time when you can do this. Also, make sure you write down your story so you can revise it from time to time as you may start remembering more details.
SECOND, start talking to yourself in a positive manner:
Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, discovered that people with positive more self-talk are more optimistic, which makes them not only happier and healthier but also better sales people as they do not get discouraged from rejections!
Unfortunately, most people speak to themselves in a very negative manner. They keep putting themselves down and also love to play the role of a victim, by complaining a lot, blaming others when things don’t work out the way they want, and justifying poor behavior with lame excuses.
Why is this a problem?
Because these are the exact traits of a person with a fixed mindset.
When we don’t accept responsibility, we become powerless. We are no longer in the driver’s seat of our life, our career or relationships. And that becomes very frustrating.
Top performers take full responsibility for their results, knowing that they cause their successes and their setbacks. This helps them develop the kind of belief that they are able to figure out how to overcome obstacles in their lives, giving them the confidence and courage to take on challenges that constantly push their limits. Eventually, they become unstoppable.
THIRD, read the stories of your big heroes. You will quickly discover that they too suffered from tremendous setbacks and that it was thanks to hard work and persistence that they would end up becoming the person you now admire. In other words, they had growth mindsets….
FOURTH, reframe the way you deal with setbacks. Instead of putting yourself down, ask yourself the following question:
What opportunity does this situation create for me?
Once you train yourself to see opportunities even when you suffer disappointments, you will become unstoppable.
And FINALLY, if you are still not convinced that you have unlimited potential, explore some of the amazing findings in the neuroscience of the last ten years, and specifically about the plasticity of our brain:
For example one of my favorite studies shows how London taxi drivers who need to learn all the roads of this big city off by heart have a bigger hippocampus — the part of our brain responsible for long term memory — than ordinary people. Another research involves violin players who grow the region of their brain responsible for controlling their fingers in direct proportion to the number of years of training.
You will see how it is within our power to literally transform our brain through our thoughts so that we can expand our possibilities and achieve things that right now seem unthinkable to you.
What really separates pros from amateurs is not the fact that they were born as superheroes. Instead, it is their willingness to spend time thinking about their big dream, creating a learning plan, and cultivating a growth mindset that will entice them to never ever give up on their big dreams.
In our busy lives, it may seem impossible to spend time reflecting about ourselves, but it is the one habit that will pay off extremely well. So do yourself a big favor, and schedule one hour right now, in which you sit down with a notepad. Throughout this time, think about your vision as an entrepreneur, the skills you need to acquire to achieve your next big breakthrough, and how you can develop the kind of mental toughness that will help you persist through the challenges you undoubtedly will face. Make a short plan how you will use the next 6 months to step up your game and become a true professional…