Well, the tennis genius that is Roger Federer did it. Won a record-breaking 8th Wimbledon title at the age of 35. And, in conventional terms, you would have assumed he was nearer to 25, judging by the way he moved around the court. After Rafa’s 10th Roland Garros victory at 31 years old, and the fact that both of them have taken things a whole lot easier this last year in terms of entering tournaments, I’m delighted to see that they’re challenging accepted ‘given’s of the game.
The rules for achieving the ultimate goals in tennis, according to those who know about such things, consist of items like: ‘You have to work very hard’, ‘You have to train for six to eight hours a day’, ‘You have to enter warm-up tournaments before a Grand Slam’, ‘You’ll only get a few years to succeed’, ‘By the time you’re in your late 20’s, you’ll slow up too much to be capable of wining big titles’ …
As you know I love saying: so much for rules.
Listening to Roger talk about his approach to Wimbledon, I was caught by a particular phrase of his. He talked about his need to ‘get smart with [his] scheduling’. What a brilliant attitude. Here is a man, in love with what he does, wanting to continue to participate at the highest level beyond the usual ‘constraints’. Instead of complaining about his lot, or raging against the world, he takes full responsibility for his situation, ‘does the sums’ and makes some powerful decisions.
The result? He becomes even better at what he does, even happier with who he is, even more balanced at finding his way in the world and enjoying everything he’s lucky enough to have in his life.
As I write my fiftieth blog, (which I acknowledge as a terrific achievement for me, being someone with a tendency to start new things enthusiastically, on a regular basis, and still learning how to get to the promised ends,) I want to celebrate Roger’s strategy for being whole-heartedly inside his life. I want to learn from his willingness to take good care of himself, both physically and emotionally. I want to emulate his ability to be both realistic and idealistic at the same time.
The world of tennis – and possibly any sport – is a fabulous place to witness life-lessons. As a writer, I’m constantly re-assessing my way forward, judging the validity of my next step, reconnecting to my inner truths. On the tennis court, I can watch people doing this continually.
Navratilova talked the other day about how tennis is full of contradictions, such as ‘You need to forget the mistake you just made, but you also need to remember your mistakes to learn from them’. I find it more helpful to think of this as ‘paradox’ rather than ‘contradiction’. Within a paradox, two apparently opposing positions are true at the same time – such as being realistic and idealistic. It’s pure quantum, and it’s beautiful life advice.
If I want to succeed as a writer, I have to be able to hold the reality of a slow start to selling my first novel, alongside the ever-building collection of 5-star reviews my book is receiving. I have to allow my disappointing progress in the short-term to have no bearing at all on my daily writing discipline, yet I have to address the implications of the low sales by spending some of my precious writing time learning about, and executing, effective advertising.
I have to be conscientious about creating new work, as well as fastidious about editing and formatting. I have to remain faithful to my ‘old-fashioned’ methods of generating ideas and listening to my characters, at the same time as being willing to learn about social media and building a website.
And alongside all of the above, I have to make sure I take care of my health and well-being, that I stay fit, eat well and rest plenty, that I remain in love with my new profession and continue to enjoy the process. Because without the process, the goal will always remain elusive. (Thanks to Jo Konta for that one.)
Being smart about my scheduling feels like a really good decision right now.