The first line of Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open” is “I hate tennis”.
It is a great autobiography where he explains how his abusive father who vowed to drill his children into tennis champions robbed him from his childhood. Unfortunately for Andre he has the most talent and therefore suffers most. Or he endures the most hardships; his sister who has no talent for tennis is just ignored by her father. Not very fun either.
It is a fascinating story of a boy who becomes a victim of his talent. Although he hates his sport he becomes rich and famous for being so good at it. He has learned to win because although he hates tennis, he hates himself even more when he loses.
There is an interesting turning point in his relationship with tennis somewhere in his life. He is having dinner with his wife in an Italian restaurant in New York that he likes a lot. He is friendly with the owner and asks the man how he is doing. The owner of the restaurant shares his concern. He has to work very hard and isn’t sure that he will make enough money to pay for his children’s higher education. Putting your kids through college is very expensive in the US. Andre is touched by the story and –if I remember correctly- appalled by the lack of interest of his wife at the time, Brooke Shields. The circumstances lead up to him creating a trust fund for the children of the restaurant owner. He put enough money on that account so that in 10 years or so their education was guaranteed.
At the time he was a very rich athlete who could do such things. But the reaction of the restaurant owner changed something. Apparently the man was so grateful and crying over the phone from relief and gratitude that Andre for the first time in his life realized that he could change people’s lives with the earnings he made by playing tennis. This was his epiphany. This was also the start of his comeback that brought him al the way back to the no 1 position in the world. He wasn’t playing for himself anymore and he wasn’t just avoiding the self-loathing that came from losing matches: he found a way to make a difference in the lives of others by doing what he did best.
Andre Agassi started exploiting the talent he was famous for in a different, more selfless way. I think this is an inspiring answer for people who struggle with their role in the world. Some of my participants of the 100 Day Warrior start to doubt the meaning of their work. It feels senseless. But I don’t think we should devaluate our talents. Instead we should figure out how we can help others with our talents. An easy way would be to ask yourself; ‘what would a warrior do with my talents?’ I think it is quite simple. Instead of working on the question ‘how can I maximize my revenues and income?’ we can ask ‘how can I maximize my social impact?’. You shift from ‘how can I benefit?’ to ‘how can I serve?’
Once you have mapped out your greed and fear you muster up the courage to break with those patterns. Breaking the patterns alone is already inspiring and healing. Even without changing your role you can change a lot by playing the same role differently. You can add courage, honesty, integrity, sensitivity and compassion to the mix. You can allow not-knowing to enter the equation and you can allow your warrior heart to do the navigation. Surely you will move into terrain where you will find opportunities to contribute to increase consciousness or relieve suffering. Your warrior heart will take you there.
This is episode 78 in a series of 100 blog posts that will be published daily during the 100 Day Warrior, a unique program around physical strength, inner wisdom and meaning. All posts are written by Atalwin Pilon, founder of Basic Goodness and creator of the 100 Day Warrior. For requests for motivational speaking, in-company workshops, online coaching and mindfulness training click here. If you would like to join our international community of brave and inspiring human beings or just follow this blog and receive updates, please click here or sign up on the right side of the page. Atalwin specializes in coaching smart and creative people, both groups and individuals. If you are interested in a free coaching session click here.