Face Your Weakness to Find Your Strength
There are no absolutes in life, work and business
“…whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies..” — Heb 11:34
Not every day do we see grown men cry in front of a global audience. I guess they also moved most of those who witnessed it to tears. They did not hold back on their emotions. How could they on such a historic, possibly, once-in-a-lifetime moment?
Watching the celebration of greatness in one person was the perfect anecdote for the flurry of depressing, soul-sapping news around us. The way his biggest rivals and worthy contenders for the greatest of all time in his sport celebrated his glorious career made the occasion extra special.
Roger Federer took to the tennis court for the last time, with Andy Murray, Nova Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, among others, forming Team Europe to take on Team World in Roger’s final professional match at the O2 Arena in London on 23 September 2022. It was simply magical.
The greatest of all time had to win the final match of his career, or so we hoped. But, he did not. Roger and Nadal could not stand the firepower and energy of their much younger opponents in Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. But that did nothing to spoil the bigger picture. Federer rose to the top of his game without any favours, and he did not expect one now. And rightly so, Jack and Frances owed no apologies for their right to be there, to compete, and to win.
That is just one of many lessons that a fantastic, vastly talented group of tennis players taught us on the night they bid farewell to arguably the most outstanding sportsman of our generation.
Then I cast my mind back to another tennis great who called it quits earlier this month (September 2022). Coincidentally, Serena Williams also lost her final match during the third round of the 2022 US Open. And the emotions and tears were equally as high and intense. Serena’s post-match ensured no dry eyes were in the stadium that night. She showed that more than an outstanding tennis player, she is a great human being. Her praise for her mum and dad and the recognition of her elder sister’s role showed us the mind of a true champion.
So, I ask. What is it that made Roger and Serena so successful? What made them such huge influences beyond the confines of their sport? And what can we learn from their careers?
Finding answers to those questions led me to the “playbook” of one of Serena’s long-time coaches — Patrick Mouratoglou. Patrick coached Serena to 10 grand slams in 10 years. Patrick was coach of the year four times and coached more than 40 players into the top 10 rankings.
Through all those accolades and experience in creating true champions, Patrick laid out these five principles as the fundamentals of success.
1) Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength
Patrick saw his biggest weakness as his shyness and lack of self-confidence. To compensate for that weakness, he developed a keen sense of reading people’s emotions and body language. Reading people from a distance became his biggest strength, making him such a successful coach.
“So, it’s all about what you do with what happens to you.”
2) Never be afraid to take risks
Serena contacted Patrick after she had won 13 grand slams. Patrick guided her to win ten more grand slams. He credited the long tenure of his coaching relationship with Serena because he was not scared of losing his job. He could be direct with Serena without the fear of getting the sack.
“I accept to make mistakes because I take risks, and because I am not scared.”
3) Mistakes are inevitable but don’t let them define you
Serena self-destructs in front of a fully packed stadium and millions of TV viewers during a 2018 US Open match in New York. She was fined US$ 17,000 for an infringement by her coach, Patrick. Patrick later publicly admitted he broke the rules — he made a mistake.
“Failure and frustration are two of the best things that can happen to you if you handle them the right way. And then you gonna learn.”
4) Emotions are the worst advisors
Patrick developed an incredible relationship with Marcos Baghdatis from when Marcos was 13 years old until he was 23. He coached Marcos from the 300-ranked player to the top ten in the world. But, their 10+ years relationship broke after Marcos told Patrick he wanted to cut down on his training regime.
Patrick says his angry outburst to Marcos’ decision to work less is what broke their relationship. Something he regretted, letting pushing away someone who was like a son to him.
“To have emotions is not a problem. To let them make the decisions for you, this is wrong.”
5) Deeply believe in yourself, and don’t give up
Having won four coach-of-the-year awards and coached more than 40 players into the top 10 in the world ranking, this is what Patrick looks for in a player who can make it to the top:
“The first qualities I would look at are her ambition, but I don’t listen to what she says. I try to hear what she thinks because they all say they want to be number one. But most of them don’t believe it. I’m looking for people who deeply believe in themselves and would not give up.”
6) Believe it, and you will achieve it
Serena was playing poorly at a Wimbledon match, losing points at the net. Patrick observed that Serena’s confidence was waning. Then, Patrick told Serena in practice for her next game that according to the statistics, Serena was winning 80% of the points when she approached the net. Serena believed Patrick and, from then on, became aggressive at the net. She went on to win Wimbledon that year because she believed she was good at the net, acted on that belief and became super aggressive at the net.
“I knew that if she thought her stats were good, the day after that, she would play ten times better.”
In the end, there is ONE thing that matters most. It is the biggest life lesson — it is what makes separates the champions from the rest of the field.
“Everything depends on you. And if you think like that, whatever you start to do in life, it’s magic!”
Two (2) Book recommendations
Here are two book recommendations that will help you in finding your purpose and making an impact:
a) The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? — by Rick Warren
b) Difference Makers: How to Live a Life of Impact and Purpose — by Gregg Matte
Three (3) Citations
Here are three profound quotes from “A Coach’s Rules for Life.”
“I had to remind her who she is. Nothing could stop her, and no one could stop her — Patrick Moratoglou
“I’m not putting pressure on you about “we have to win” but we cannot lose.” — Jose Mourinho
“Sometimes you have to take steps that make you uncomfortable to understand where you are and where you wanna be.” — Dawn Staley