This summer we went to the US Open. We’ve been watching tennis for the last several years but I’ve never really thought about why I enjoyed watching it so much. It’s easy to just accept that they are amazing athletes—they are—but that never seemed to explain why I would watch it like I would my favorite movie. This summer it hit me; it’s the waves of confidence they have to manage during a match. Outside of doubles, the players are basically on their own; one bad shot can set the tone for the next game, one great shot could lead to a win. I think we see this in the tech industry all the time.
It’s really easy to see on the court throughout a match, but it’s harder to see in ourselves. Some days we feel unstoppable like we could create anything. Ace! The next morning our build fails and we wonder how we’ve stayed employed this long. Fault!
Watching these players fight through a couple double faults and still winning a match is incredibly inspiring to me. Even with years of experience I fight with the feeling that “because I didn’t finish college” or “because I don’t know some algorithms off the top of my head” I can’t possibly be good enough. I usually tell myself to shut up or sit back for a minute and remind myself that even small progress is progress–I’ll figure it out. Maybe that’s similar to a tennis pro taking a moment to collect between games.
For the first decade of my career, I felt really bad about not finishing school. I’d spend too much time looking up online programs to finish my degree. For the last couple years I’ve not been feeling this way. I don’t think there is a correlation with my interest in tennis, but I do think I’ve been more likely to accept my lack of a degree. I’m more likely to not take those dips in confidence as a reflection of my experience. I’ll keep trying to be better. Maybe the next shot will be a great forehand winner.