I wrote this piece in the 2012 but the hero of my tale, Stan Wawrinka has just earned his way into a Semi-Final of the US Open. It is his first time getting to a semi-final in a Major, a terrific achievement. I feel oh-so pleased for him and am re-posting this in his honor.
People are often surprised to learn that I am a sports fan. It appears to be unexpected. But I gain a lot of insight and inspiration from sports. In particular, I am a BIG fan of golf and tennis. Since these are individual sports it is easy for me to imagine myself in their shoes, vicariously suffering their defeats and reveling in their triumphs. I watch in awe as they endure all that pressure, hone their craft with such dedication and persevere through obstacle after obstacle to achieve victory! What’s not to love? I totally admire them. And I feel their pain.
As such, I often find myself thinking about Stansilas Wawrinka. Never heard of him? Well, he is the #2 ranked tennis player in Switzerland. It is extremely likely that, even if you never watch tennis, you’ve heard of the #1 ranked player in Switzerland, Roger Federer. Federer has 16 grand slam titles, more than any male player in the history of the sport. He was #1 in the World for 237 straight weeks (a record). He is a mega superstar.
What might it feel like to be Wawrwinka? On the one hand, he has amazing success. To be the #2 ranked player in a whole country? Amazing! He even has an Olympic Gold Medal for doubles tennis (which he won with Federer)! And yet, I can’t help but think that he must feel the impact of living in the shadow of a superstar. So I find myself pulling for him and when he wins, I feel a sense of fulfillment.
I will confess to feeling “second best” at times and it has weighed on me. I could list a bunch of evidence to support this claim, but I won’t bother. Because, while some of it is based in reality, some of it may well be a belief I hold about myself. If we believe it, then it is true to us. So the feeling of being not quite good enough is within me and comes up now and again. Competition has never been my strong suit, so when I get this feeling I tend to want to quit. Why keep trying if I am certain to fail? This is not my favorite quality. So, I am working on it and watching professional athletes is helpful.
There can only be one winner in any golf or tennis tournament. Every event is full of players who WILL NOT WIN. But they will each TRY to win with everything they’ve got. I glean tremendous inspiration from this. It helps me to keep going even when I feel as if everyone else is passing me by. Their mental fortitude reminds me that the real victory is in doing your best, time after time.
Of course, it makes no sense to compare ourselves with others anyhow. No matter where you stand at this very moment in your life there is someone ahead of you. You aspire to their success or skill or happiness. Just as certainly there is someone behind you, looking at you with that same awe and admiration, desiring to achieve what you have achieved. The journey is, as always, about finding fulfillment in your own soul. It is personal. If you can commit to seeing your dreams through, to persevering even if you come in 2nd or 5th or last, you are successful.
Enter Marco Chuidinelli. He is the #3 ranked player in Switzerland. On his profile on ATP’s website he states his goal as this: to get in to the World Top 50 and win a singles title. These are achievements both Federer and Wawrinka have in spades. But he is not walking their path. He is walking his own, and doing so quite nicely. Just like you. Just like me.
Image courtesy of nixxphotography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net