Following Coach Mogill’s advice, the new approach I chose was simple, yet forceful: I started bouncing the ball seven times before each serve. This set off a game-changing chain reaction, much as Chu’s Forrest Bounce has on Jeopardy. By giving myself some time to think before each point, the game took on a slower, more deliberate rhythm, allowing me to see the court and set up each shot thoughtfully. The new pace of play—which slowed down an otherwise imminent onslaught—also drove my opponent crazy. Once he started yelling out of frustration, I knew the match was mine. I went on to win handily: 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to use Coach Mogill’s advice for my tennis game as much as I’d like. It’s hard to find time in my schedule to play competitive tennis, and my slowed-down service technique wasn’t quite enough to earn me a walk-on spot on the University of Michigan tennis team. But like all key life lessons, I’ve often found myself returning to this story. “Changing the game” has touched many aspects of my life, personal and professional.
I’ve been involved with companies that hit dead ends, had business ideas I couldn’t get off the ground, been in situations that I desperately wanted to succeed but were on a path to failure. But each set-back and adversity could be traced back to the same flawed plan: I had approached the game the way it had always been played. My ability to overcome adversity has often been tied to a refusal to accept defeat and a willingness to explore other approaches to the game.
So whether you are starting a new venture or stepping out onto a court to play tennis, keep Chu’s and Mogill’s playbook in mind. If you are not winning, then change the game, and create a playing field that you are uniquely qualified to dominate. And in the process, remember to celebrate the victories as they happen.
That’s what games are all about, aren’t they?
This article was originally published on LinkedIn on February 25, 2014 as a part of the series “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” Photo: Screen grab of Arthur Chu’s Twitter page