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Learn About Life at Work in 5 Hours and 53 Minutes

What an honour to post on again. As I set out to write my contribution this weekend, I settled in to watch what turned out to be an epic 5 hour and 53 minute tennis match at the Australian Open between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The match got me thinking – what can we learn from those 5 hours and 53 minutes that applies to our life at work? We’re not likely to find ourselves up against the number one seeded tennis player at work, but we can learn a few things.

Don’t give up. Don’t count yourself out until the match is over. Every point counts. Don’t give up until they award the cup. Keep pushing forward with your idea or your development. You’ll hit a few long balls but keep swinging.

A little rain is nothing to freak out about. When some rain started to pour in through the open roof, the announcers got a little excited. They were calling for a delay of game. An official break in play. The players didn’t seem bothered at all. They saw an opportunity for a rest. For some reflection. Find the positive if a little rain falls through the open roof.

Wear something that makes you feel successful. Djokovic changed his shirt a few times in the match. Granted, he was sweating up a storm and wanted to be comfortable. He changed in to something he thought would help him win. With most companies abandoning formal dress codes, don’t forget that what you wear says a lot about you. Wear something that makes you thrive.

Be a gentleman. Or a gentlelady. You get the idea. Some feel that there is too much pomp and circumstance in tennis. The principle is to treat people with kindness and respect. Regardless of whether we are competing against them for several million dollars or if they are handing us tennis balls. Do the same at work. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Even if they are up against you for a promotion.

Think for yourself. And don’t be afraid to have a support network. There is no active coaching during tennis in the way there is in football, baseball or hockey. Players are required to pump themselves up, give themselves tips and calm themselves down. That being said, the coach is always sat nearby in the stands. Players often look to the coach for a signal. Or even just a smile. Nadal’s coach even moved down a few rows to be closer to the player. There is a support network even though the player stands alone. Be an independent thinker at work. Spend time cultivating a network of people to support your efforts.

Celebrate victories. Without a lot of fanfare. A wee pump of the fist will do. While tennis matches end in a bit of grandstanding, each point is a victory that the player celebrates relatively quickly and quietly with himself or herself. Celebrate your victories at work.

Find a way to tune out the distractions. This match had rowdy crowds, rain and amazingly loud seagulls. Both players found a way to ignore all that and focus on the match. Find your own way to ignore the seagulls.

Don’t get cocky. You’re only as good as the game you’re playing. Both players, having just won their last match, could easily have arrived full of swagger. Instead they knew that they prove themselves with each game they play. Every day you have the opportunity to prove your worth to your organization.

I can’t imagine that Nadal and Djokovic know that in addition to entertaining us over those 5 hours and 53 minutes, we also learned a thing or two about being better employees.

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