Yesterday, Roger Federer, the #1 ranked tennis player in the world with the gorgeous swing (and even more gorgeous hair) defeated Andy Murray in Gentlemen’s Singles at Wimbledon. As I was watching these two superb players in action, I was thinking about my emails to a select few who know how to lob those emails over the net. (I was watching tennis and thinking about emails? Yes.)
I adore playing with and writing to people who are smart, clever, and witty. I relish when they shoot me a word and I need to look up its definition. I love getting out-witted and out-smarted. It makes me work harder. And when I blow it, that’s okay too. I can handle losing but I can’t handle not trying.
Some people are so afraid of losing that they deliberately avoid situations where there’s a chance they won’t be victorious. Whether it’s sports, brilliant children or personal style, they keep their circle small to ensure they will dominate. That’s a shame because you will only get better when you’re up against someone with a better swing.
Segue to a story:
I love talking about the writers who work for the New York Times and cover a specific beat. Alessandra Stanley covers television; John Harwood covers congressional politics; Peter Baker covers the president; and so on. Recently, I was out to dinner with an acquaintance and we started talking about the Times. I mentioned the writers I admired and within minutes, the guy got up and left the restaurant (and stuck me with the check). He felt bested and defensive. Unlike Andy Murray who was gracious about his Wimbledon loss, my dinner partner was humiliated he was unable to remember the reporters’ names.
Had the situation been reversed, I would have been impressed by his memory. I would have taken pleasure in his passion for superb writing. I would have expressed my admiration for his attention to detail.
Whenever there’s an opportunity to hit the ball against someone who is your equal or even your superior, go for it. And if you lose the match and decide to leave the court, at least hand the maitre d’ some money to cover your half of the meal.