With self-discipline most anything is possible -- Theodore Roosevelt
After a brilliant season culminating with the US Open Tennis Championship title on Monday night, September 9, Rafael Nadal, the 13-time Grand Slam champion was the focus of the New York media circuit, appearing in hit shows like CNN and Charlie Rose.
To all those who strive to excel in their field, his statements to the press, particularly to Charlie Rose on Public Television, will surely be pearls of wisdom. While Nadal was addressing his own stages of development in tennis, his observations are applicable to all pursuers of excellence, regardless of field. Here is a succinct recap of salient points that were discussed during the interview and their background:
1. Having doubts is good.
It is good to have doubts about yourself. That will keep you working hard and staying focused. It is better than being arrogant; you can let your game slip with that attitude. Just accept your doubts and go forward with a positive attitude.
2. Never take victories for granted. Work hard and stretch your limits.
3. Love competition.
When you are up against the best in the field, love the experience that is challenging you to perform to the limits. Be emotionally happy, enjoy every moment. When you hit low points, come back even stronger. At times of defeats, as at Wimbledon last year (and again this year), Nadal did not choose to talk of his knee injury in the press conference that followed since he did not want to give excuses for losing.
4. You don't have to be especially confident before a game. Confidence arrives during the competition.
5. You have to be aggressive.
In the early years of competition, people tend to compete defensively. With improvement of every aspect of your field over time, you develop the confidence to be more aggressive. In tennis, being aggressive involves being able to control the play from inside the baseline at center court, being quick, and developing a confidence that comes when the ball is going more or less to where you direct it. In short, being in the right position and the right frame of mind are central to being effective as an aggressive player. "Without the right feeling or confidence level, it is very difficult to play inside the base line because there is little time [to act] and control is less. ..You need to act quickly."
6. Focus on now. Nadal noted that he did not focus on becoming the best in history. He explained: "The focus should be on making your game the best it can possibly be. I go day by day. I found myself winning much more than I ever dreamed. I just kept working, playing hard every day, being positive, and playing with the right attitude until success arrives."
7. The right training conditions and being with the right people can make all the difference.
Aside from keeping yourself physically fit, you need to have the right people around you. Nadal still trains and practices at a little club at Manacor, Spain, where he learned the game as a child under the guidance of his uncle Toni, who remains his coach today. He also credits his family for "fantastic support." Regarding his uncle, Nadal said: He was hard on court, he was very strict, he let me play with pressure, and he pushed me in every movement .. a lot.. Because of that I am strong today mentally in tough situations..."
8. Passion and positive attitude are central.
Success at its best is powered by "passion." As Nadal noted, "You need to enjoy suffering, enjoy the tough moments, you need to feel the game; that is what brings you to the next level. Also key to excellence in performance is a healthy relationship with rivals. With regard to his rivalries with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Nadal noted: "Both rivalries have been very special. I feel proud of being part of their world."