Transfer of Learning

Tennis is on my mind lately for several reasons. My condo in Florida is within a “yacht and tennis community,” so I’m surrounded by courts and the pleasant “whack” of a racket on a ball. (No yacht of any kind.)

Furthermore I’ve been watching the Australian Open. And…since I moved here I haven’t had my golf clubs out much, but with tennis in my backyard, I took up that game after a long, long layoff. Usually I play three times a week. Added to these reasons, I have an excellent tennis coach and she is bringing me back into the game with some measure of dignity. (More than equipment has changed I found.)

Much as I’d like to have only good shots, I re-learned quickly that tennis is not a game of perfect. It is a game of small gradations—the difference between a killer shot and one that dies in the net is a fine line indeed. My serve is typically one of the better parts of my game. Throw in a little doubt though, and watch me double-fault.

So now, instead of setting perfection as a goal, I strive for consistency. I’m working to trust my strong points. When I mess up, I’m learning to quickly analyze and adjust, then let it go.

You can easily see applying all of these to business as well as tennis, I’m sure.

Another similarity I’ve found is that if I get away from the courts periodically, I come back excited and mentally ready to play. So I don’t dread that I’ll lose all my skills after time off because of a trip or a lot of rain.

Don’t you come back refreshed and “ready to play” at your job after a relaxing vacation or even time at the spa? Americans are not so good at “vacating” work. We tend to take it with us via electronic devices or worry. That craziness is not good for tennis or business.

My tennis coach keeps telling me to trust my shot and let it go. Before that, to be ready for it, to be active and on the balls of my feet, ready for a backhand or forehand, lob or volley.  That does entail having a plan, some idea of how to maneuver each one of those with success.  Decisive players, ready for whatever comes at them, by and large do better in tennis and business. Ergo, the virtues of planning—continuously—and the flexibility to adjust.

I’ve had to give up my notion that I have perfect control over what happens during a game. I want to gain more control over my performance, but relinquish control over so many other elements in the game: the temperature, the weather, my partner, the setting sun blinding me at certain times of the afternoon…and more.

Of course I do better and have more fun when I am focused on that small, green ball.  Just one distracting thought and I’m reduced to shots that are actually comical instead of effective.

Transferring to business, I am always aware of the beauty of focus. I owe my clients concentrated attention, period.

Analogies will continue to pile up I am sure. I will hope that I continue to improve in the worlds of tennis, and business.

Top coaches can help with both, and the process is fun and exciting.

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