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Lessons from Wimbledon

The Wimbledon tennis men’s final is about to start. For the first time in nearly 100 year, a South African is through to the final. (Kevin Curran played under a USA citizenship)

Kevin Anderson is a giant of a man (6 feet 8 inches) and his achievements at Wimbledon are gargantuan in effort as well. This meant beating Roger Federer in a marathon 5 set and then completing another marathon 5 set in the semi- final. At 6 hours 36 minutes, Anderson’s victory against John Isner in the semi-finals was the second-longest match in Grand Slam history. It is also the longest match that has ever been played on Centre Court and one of only three Grand Slam singles matches to have lasted longer than 6 hours.

I want to share a few thoughts on this amazing achievement. I trust that some parallels of the entrepreneurial journey may be seen.

  1. All four players in the semi- final are over 30. These “veterans” bring years of experience to the game, and that is like gold!   When entrepreneurs take their business past the 2, 5 and 7 year mark, they evidence the value of experience.
  2. The two marathon sessions were massively draining on the players, and Anderson surely had to draw on reserves he never knew he had to get through to the final. I like to think that successful entrepreneurs have learnt how to unlock massive perseverance and tenacity in their journey.
  3. Statistically, it was highly unlikely that Anderson would beat Roger Federer in the quarter final. Yet statistics are one thing. It is quite another to be in the game and playing at an incredible level. Everyday, I am amazed at how ordinary, everyday people take on massive odds, and triumph.
  4. Anderson had to push through many areas of pain. He is used to battling the odds. He has had virtually a season ticket for his local hospital in Florida after suffering knee, shoulder, groin, hip, thigh and ankle injuries. Commentators talk of much of his body being taped up. Yet he performs in spite of this. Entrepreneurs face pain of different varieties and intensity. But for most, like Anderson, they learn to “play the game” in spite of the pain.
  5. Anderson came back from 2 sets down against Federer; played a demanding 5 set game and then repeated that in the semi- final with a marathon 5 set against Isner. He surely came into these games with a plan. But here’s the thing, he adjusted the plan as things didn’t work. As Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Sounds to me it is another way of saying ““All plans are great until the first shot is fired”.  This basically means you can plan all you want for a battle, but once it starts, things get so chaotic so quickly that you better be able to forget the plans and adapt. In Tyson’s case, it sounds like he is trying to say that you can have the best plan in the world to win a fight, but if you can’t take a punch in the face, the plan is worthless.  In life, your plans aren’t worth anything if you can’t handle adversity.

Here’s to more home grown entrepreneurs, breaking the mold!

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