Lessons from Arthur Ashe

September 26, 2014 by  
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Many years ago when I first started to play tennis I was so gung-ho about the sport that I traveled to all four of the major grand slams–Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in New York City.  I was so very impressed with the great champion Arthur Ashe and so admired him, not only as the number one tennis player in the world for a time but just as much for how dedicated he was to improving the lives of everyone, especially the unfortunate of the world.  To me he was an incredible double champion!

I will never forget, as long as I live, that night when the last match at the U.S. Open in New York finished so very late.  As I walked out of the stadium (the very stadium that has now been named “The Arthur Ashe Stadium) to catch a cab, I was surprised to see there were only a few cabs left and tons of people heading toward them.  So being quite young I sprinted to try to catch one.  I barely made it to the last taxi, but as I opened the back door and jumped in, someone else was doing the same thing on the other side.   As both doors slammed shut I look over to see none other than Arthur Ashe as my seat mate! Man, oh man, was I ever surprised, startled and yes, quite frankly, “star struck”. We quickly agreed to share the ride since we were both heading for mid-town Manhattan.  On the ride there I picked his brain to get all the tennis and life coaching I could possible pull out of him in that 45 minute ride.

What a great experience that had been and what a great man he was.  He was so much more than a world champion tennis player.  From a young age growing up in a segregated society, he set about to help change the world by helping people and thus making the world a better place for all of us.

Earlier yesterday, I was struggling to come up with a topic for this week’s blog and as I was thinking about possible subjects I flipped on the TV. Yes of course, the tennis channel was on and there was a biography being shown on Arthur Ashe including his many victories in his tennis life as well as off the court and his sad and somewhat sudden death at the young age of 49.   So it was an easy decision for my blog subject.  What great lessons I began to learn from his life as I watch the commentary.  He did a lot more in those short 49 years than I ever realized.  So much more than I can put in this one blog, so I am going to tell you more about his life and the impact that it had on the world in the next blog.

For now, the take away I want to leave you with is this–if you are looking for a big life time goal that will energize your life, I suggest you first take a look at yourself and see what your talents are and what you like to do and then spend time figuring out how you can direct those talents to make a difference in the world.

When we are young most of us are pretty self-centered and most everything we do is directed at just helping ourselves, but as we grow older and a little wiser we see that helping others is not only very satisfying but it can make the world a better place for everyone for many, many years to come.


The Power of Empathy

July 20, 2012 by  
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Most of the time, when a couple or friends get into a fight, it’s because one of them is assuming they know why the other person is acting the way they do or reads into something they are saying. The thing is our assumptions are primarily based on how we think or what we would do or say which is not going to be an accurate reflection of the other person. If you try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes first, you might come to a completely different conclusion and misunderstandings can be avoided.

There is a great book, written a couple decades ago but still so very relevant, called “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck. The one thing you really take away from this book is the power of empathizing. Beck’s book is full of great advice. Here are just a few points of his to keep in mind:

Ask questions rather than just assume and act on what you “think” the other person is thinking. There is no better way to come to an understanding of someone’s position than to let them tell you what they are thinking.
Try to figure out where the other person’s thoughts are coming from rather than focus on the words alone. What a person says and what the message really is can be quite different.
Don’t’ react defensively. This can just make things worse. Stop and try to figure out what they are feeling and respond to that, not the words themselves.

Remember, just making a sincere effort to understand the other person can do wonders for the relationship. The effort you make shows you care and is also commonly followed up by the other person trying harder to understand your point of view as well.