I’m a tennis fan. That’s why I was very interested when I heard that Andre Agassi was writing an autobiography. He was one of my favorite players. I liked his style and flamboyance as a young man. I watched him mature into one of the all time great players. He won eight majors and has a career grand slam – meaning he won the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open at least once. Only five other men have ever done that. On the other hand, his wife, Steffi Graf, won all four grand slam tournaments in one year, 1988. She won the Olympic gold Medal that year for good measure. But that’s another story.
Andre’s book is disturbing. Throughout most of his career, Andre Agassi says he hated tennis. His father forced him to become a world class player. In an interview he did with Katie Couric for 60 Minutes he talked about having ping pong paddles taped to his hands when he was a toddler. He quit school at 14 to attend the Nick Bollettieri tennis academy. He turned pro at 16. He had early success on the court and off – lots of endorsements and a marriage to Brooke Shields. However, he hated his life — and tennis. He told Katie Couric that he “had to do it for the family.”
He partied hard – even doing crystal meth. He fell to number 141 in the world rankings. I saw him play in those down years. I was at a meeting in Scottsdale and he was playing in a tournament near the hotel where I was staying. I got some court side seats and was really excited to see him play up close. He lost 6 – 2, 6 – 1. In those days, he seemed to be entering tournaments just to get the appearance money.
However, in 1997 when he was ranked 141, he says he made a choice. He chose tennis. “The hate for tennis began to change when I took ownership and chose tennis, which didn’t happen until 1997, which didn’t happen till I fell to 141 in the world, which didn’t happen till that moment when I either had to walk away or choose it, and I didn’t walk away, I chose it.”
Andre Agassi didn’t have a choice early on. He was forced into a life and career as a professional tennis player by his overbearing father. He hated the game for his first 29 years. Finally, he realized that he could choose. As he said, he chose tennis and became an elder statesman of the game. He was inspiring to watch as he grew older. In 2005 when he was 35 he got to the US Open final against roger Federer. He played a great match, losing in four sets. The crowd loved him and he loved the crowd — and tennis.
Now he has chosen to help others. He has raised tons of money to help poor kids and runs a tuition free school for at risk youth in Las Vegas. His story has a happy ending.
The common sense point here is simple. Successful people are clear on what they want in their lives and careers. They use their clarity of purpose and direction as a touchstone to help them navigate the twists and turns life throws at them. Once Andre Agassi “chose tennis” late in his career, he won six grand slam tournaments – to go with the two he won as a youngster.
I choose to help others learn, grow and prosper in their lives and careers. What have you chosen? The answer to this question is the first step in clarifying your purpose and direction.
Clarity of purpose and direction is one of the keys to career and life success in my Common Sense Success System. I discuss it in detail in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.
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