Tennis balls and inspiration

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Andy Murray’s retirement announcement last week has provided some great material for me to demonstrate a number of points in this week’s mutterings. He is one of those individuals who polarises opinion and, as a result, gives us an insight into the unique nature of individuals perspectives and responses.

But I want to talk about one post that showed up on my facebook feed. I’ve sanitised the language (and corrected some linguistic errors) but it was this

“Poor old Andy Murray breaking his little heart as he has to retire with 40 million in the bank!!  Try working 80 hours a week just to feed your family you spoilt curly haired mummy’s boy Scottish cry baby XXXX!!”

Initially it was the level of vitriol that caught my eye. That tells you more about the emotional mind state of the writer than it does about Andy Murray.

This post beautifully articulates one of the commonest misunderstandings of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of what makes a world class athlete, an Oscar winning film director or the founder of Apple.

I’ve worked with some very successful people, maybe not billionaires or elite level athletes, but certainly in the upper decile of achievers in the UK.  The one thing I’ve learned about high achievers is that they are not driven by the money, even though it can look, and sometimes feel, like it to the outside observer.

Money is not an end in itself, it’s a resource. It allows you to move with ease and to have a wider set of choices available to you. If your goals are all about how much money you can acquire, stuff you want to own and the experiences you want to buy then I’ll tell you two cold hard truths right now:

  • The goalposts will keep moving and you’ll never make enough
  • The meaningful success you seek will allude you


Success as a doing


I’ll take an educated guess that Andy Murray has spent thousands of hours doing tennis drills, pushing his fitness, fine tuning and honing his technique. Almost every waking moment of his life has been about how to be that little bit better than yesterday, as he seeks to be the absolute best at his chosen sport. Most of us mere mortals have no real understanding of what it means to take ourselves to the absolute outer limit of our capability. We don’t even come close.

The Navy Seals refer to this as the 48% rule. No matter how hard you are pushing and driving yourself you are, at best, operating at around 48% of your total potentiality.

To be willing to sacrifice other things and to push yourself to reach and maintain world class levels of performance requires a much more powerful driver than money. Money is the fortunate by-product.

So how well formed are your desired outcomes for the company. What is it that drives you; beyond money

There is a reason I have developed a three-pronged approach to helping you shape these outcomes. There is also a reason it is done, in the order that it is done. If you want to get truly clear on what it is you want, at three levels

Personal outcome – how is it that you want to experience the work of running a business.

Company outcome – What are you doing to make the lives of your customers better and to make them love what you do.

Results outcome – What are the results you want to create as a result of your work.


If you struggle with the motivation and inspiration to get behind your company, to fully take on and deal with the challenges and opportunities that emerge on a daily basis, go back to your why and your what.

The ‘why’ is the reason you chose to do what you do and the compelling vision you have. The ‘what’ is the things you want to be doing, and that the company needs to be doing on a daily basis.

When you connect with the project ahead of you, at a deeply inspired, you’ll find things become easier, challenges get dealt with decisively and the hard work will be meaningful, making it easier to bear.

Perhaps you’ll also be able to understand why a multi-millionaire sportsman can be brought to tears by the premature end of his journey.

You can react to Andy’s press conference breakdown in one of two ways. Perhaps you’ll see it as a chance to knock down someone who is successful in an attempt to make yourself feel a bit better about your own life. Or maybe you’ll use it as a way to challenge yourself to look deeper and reach higher. I know which reaction I find more resourceful!