Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Tyranny of Perfection

According to tennis great Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open, Agassi got some important advice from Brad Gilbert when he and his manager were recruiting Gilbert to be Agassi's coach. They asked Gilbert for an honest, brutal-if-necessary evaluation of Agassi's game, and Gilbert pulled no punches:

You always try to be perfect, and you always fall short, and it [messes] with your head. Your confidence is shot, and perfectionism is the reason. You try to hit a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes would be enough to win ninety percent of the time.

Quit going for the knockout. Stop swinging for the fences. All you have to be is solid. Singles, doubles, move the chains forward. Stop thinking about yourself and your own game and remember that the guy on the other side of the net has weaknesses. Attack his weaknesses. You don't have to be the best in the world every time you go out there. You just have to be better than one guy. Instead of you succeeding, make him fail. Better yet, let him fail. ...

Right now, by trying for a perfect shot with every ball, you're stacking the odds against yourself. You're assuming too much risk. You don't need to assume so much risk. [Forget] that. Just keep the ball moving: back and forth, nice and easy, solid. Be like gravity, man... . When you chase perfection, when you make perfection the ultimate goal, do you know what you're doing? You're chasing something that doesn't exist. You're making everyone around you miserable. You're making yourself miserable. Perfection? There's about five times a year you wake up perfect; when you can't lose to anybody. But it's not those five times a year that make a tennis player; or a human being, for that matter. It's the other times.

It's all about your head, man. With your talent, if you're fifty percent game-wise, but ninety-five percent head-wise, you're going to win. But if you're ninety-five percent game-wise and fifty percent head-wise, you're going to lose, lose, lose.

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Truth is...Earth has felt the footsteps of only one perfect being, and we killed him. So, take it easy on yourself. By the way, under the leadership of Brad Gilbert, Andre Agassi experienced one of the most successful periods of his career.

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