“Now that I´ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn´t feel as good as a loss feels bad and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”
– Andre Agassi (in his book Open, telling about his feelings after winning a Wimbledon)
Andre Agassi´s book Open is probably one of the most inspirational book, I have ever read (and definitely the best sports autobiography). Mainly because he had a career of up-and-downs and he is honest in the book about what drove him to success. Although you can never truly understand a professional sports star if you are not one of them yourself, I found quite a lot of valuable lessons in his book. Especially his drive to win and not to lose was something that resonated strongly to me.
Writing a book was always a dream of mine. When I had finished my first book and was holding it in my hands, I didn´t feel anything. Same thing has happened quite often when I have accomplished goals I have set to myself. You are already looking for the next challenge.
We overestimate the amount of happiness that achieving the goals will bring. Winning a lottery causes a spike in happiness, but soon your overall well being is back to pre-win state.
Therefore you have to enjoy the journey to the goals, because that is the best part. I have been doing quite a lot of weightlifting lately and actually every time I have hit a new PR, it has felt easy. When I have tried to force the results, it has not worked out. The harder I train the better I get, but to achieve the best results I have to try and think less.
Life is about grueling exercise, which should lead to smooth execution. In Agassi´s book, he talks about insane conditioning workouts they are doing with his trainer Gil to get in the shape. Although those exercises were pure hell, sections explaining them in the book are the parts where the true love for the sports comes through. If you don´t enjoy training, you cannot reap the rewards either.
Also you have to be able to embrace the setbacks. Although during the times it might feel that world is collapsing, people have tremendous ability to rebound from even the most grueling situations. Agassi beat the odds many times in his career. Getting your ass kicked is the biggest motivator at least for me. You want to show that you can bounce back. And you want to kick some ass yourself.
Motivation is a key to winning. Andre Agassi explains quite vividly in his book by how his winning streak in 1995 was fueled by his grudge against Boris Becker. He had 26 game winning streak and beat Becker. However, his real opponent was actually Pete Sampras:
“I’m 26-1, and I’d give up all those wins for this one. All that work and anger and winning and training and hoping and sweating, and it leads to the same empty disappointed feeling. No matter how much you win, if you’re not the last one to win, you’re a loser. And in the end I always lose, because there is always Pete. As always, Pete.”
After his loss to Pete Sampras, Agassi derailed with his game, took some crystal meth with assistant called “Slim” and fell eventually to 141 slot in the ranking. The anger was not enough motivation, but luckily he met Steffi Graff. That love fueled his comeback in 1999 and cemented Agassi´s legacy as one of the greatest tennis players ever. Not thinking about winning all the time, made him actually want to win more badly when it mattered. And win he did.
“I define success a lot differently, certainly than my father defined it for us. The two things that have given me most joy I have through tennis: my school for under- privileged kids in Las Vegas and my wife. Instead of a love-hate relationship, I had a hate-love relationship with tennis, but I am grateful that I survived to play long enough to appreciate.”