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Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover
You may be in for a surprise
A highlight of my week is often my Sunday morning tennis class. The class is
typically populated with a mixed group of players of all ages and skill
levels, with some regulars and a few "walk-ons,” any of who can alter
dynamic or pace of play. My most recent session was filled mostly with the
usual suspects with one notable exception: "Andy."
Andy arrived a few
minutes late for our first set of drills and had difficulty figuring his way
around our rituals. When the pattern of the drill called for him to more
rightward, he moved left. When he was supposed to charge close to the net,
he remained back towards the baseline. When he was supposed to exit the
court to make way for another player, he remained on and continued to hit.
Our instructor became visibly frustrated and barked orders in his
direction, but Andy was slow to absorb them and appeared confused. Donning
thick, oversized sunglasses, baggy sweatpants, and a jogging-suit that
enveloped an obvious paunch, Andy was at least 30 years older than the next
youngest-player on the court. It’s an understatement to say that he seemed
out of place.
"This is going to be a long two-hours," I said to another
player. I quietly wished that he would get off the court, so we could get on
with our play.
A funny thing happened though. After a short while, Andy
fell into the rhythm of the drills. He didn't pick up his pace of play, but
he didn't need to. The motion of his wrist was precise enough to land the
ball wherever he wanted on the opposing court. Unlike the rest of us, who
alternated between over-powering the ball out of bounds and driving it
clumsily into the net, Andy's every shot landed precisely on the opposing
court, usually out-of-reach of his younger, faster opponents. It became
clear he was the best athlete on the court.
He was in total command.
During one of the breaks, the students in the class formed a circle
around Andy and peppered him with questions. How old was he? 80. How long
had he been playing? 68 years. How did he get so good? Practice. We learned
that in his prime, Andy had been president of his tennis club and had
competed internationally in club competitions. He was a real player on a
court of full of wannabes.
Every day we make snap judgments about
aging giants like Andy. They don't fit our superficial image of "good." They
appear too slow to be effective. And rather than slowing down to let them
catch up, we speed beyond them—and leave them behind. And we are the ones
who lose out.
Sachin H. Jain, President/CEO, CareMore Health System; Adjunct Professor,
Stanford University School of Medicine; Forbes Contributor
Derek Thorpe says "Watch
your opponent at all times.
You may learn from him"