Tennis is civilized battle with the sword replaced with a racket. Tennis is about observing your opponent for that moment of hesitation. Tennis is about coming up from behind when you are down a couple of sets to win the match. Tennis is about focus and silencing your inner voice. Tennis is about living in the moment. Tennis is about believing that the next serve will be an ace, the forehand you hit will be a winner and when you barely get the ball across the net, you will stay alive to mount a counterattack. Tennis is about long term strategy and short term tactics.
Tennis is about asking questions, Can I best my opponent with a fierce forehand or a blazing serve? Or can he get the better of me in that time? Do I serve and volley or do I play from the baseline? Did that extra power on the return unsettle him? It is about adapting to your opponent and employing the right tools. There are many tools that can be applied: the serve, the forehand, the back-hand, the slice, the lob etc. It is about asking what new tools can I employ? Tennis is about statistical thinking, what are the odds of me making this shot? Okay I admit I’m not good at this. There is this constant process of learning that goes on. Tennis is about making decisions in a split second with incomplete information.
Tennis is about showmanship and making elegant shots. I relish the crack of the ball hitting the racket on a shot and the silence of a well executed serve. Tennis is about rooting for your opponent to make that hard return because it adds to the fun. A good game of tennis is energizing. Playing tennis is about loving the battle more than winning and that is why I love tennis.
To be a master, one must first be an apprentice. In the modern world, typically your first job is where the apprenticeship begins. I would prefer working on a craft much earlier than that. But, we are limited by the systems created around us like school and university. With medieval guilds no longer around, we have to craft our own apprenticeship path. The first challenge is finding masters. Some places you will find them are Universities, Companies and Open Source projects. The software industry as dynamic it is will not afford you the luxury of one master. People move on or you do. So be comfortable with the idea of having many masters over the course of your apprenticeship.
The big mistake I made when I was younger is to think that the golden key to opportunity is a degree from an elite college. A degree is just a tool that can open certain doors and maybe give you a head start. So don’t lose hope in case you didn’t go to one. The real world only cares if you can solve a business problem.
There are in fact two keys to opportunity, curiosity and a hunger to learn. Ask if it is your time to earn or time to learn? Most of the times it will be a time to learn. To learn one must have a beginner’s mind. Use your curiosity to learn things that you like. Don’t Panic if things don’t make sense, everyone begins somewhere. Learn from books and the internet, the greatest learning tool of our time. Teach what you learn. Leverage what you have learned to get in a guild[read company or open source project] that aligns with your curiosity. This creates a feedback mechanism for you. Learn from everyone, your peers, your superiors and even the interns. Then let the magic begin, with the right people around you will learn exponentially faster and have a meaningful apprenticeship. In the path to mastery, the journey is the destination. I would love to know about the path that you have taken.