A Deuce Delight!: Serving Excellence, Serving History

Tennis great Roger Federer challenged up-and-coming threat Andy Murray this past July 8th to win the pièce de résistance of any professional tennis season–Wimbledon. But this win wasn’t just any Wimbledon win and this pitting of pros at tennis’ most prestigious showcase wasn’t just any match up. For enthusiasts, and even fair-weather and Johnny-come-lately fans, this year’s final was something extra special to anticipate and behold. Both players had everything on the line and no matter who won, viewers were destined to have fabulous, dramatic tennis to cheer and milestone history to witness.

On one hand, Federer was billed as an “old man” of 30 trying to regain his glory days (having not won a Gland Slam title in almost 24 months), and was also shooting to equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon title wins. On the other hand, Murray’s admission to this Wimbledon final represented the UK’s first chance at a countrymen’s name on their beloved host-country golden cup since Fed Perry in 1936. So, alongside tennis balls, Federer and Murray were serving excellence and serving history. You could call it a “Deuce Delight!” (“deuce” being the tennis scoring term used to identify a tie at 40 – 40/two the same/two players equal at the scoring point which is two points prior to a game win). From this vantage point (no pun intended!), purely from an entertainment perspective, spectators couldn’t miss! Fans were going to see some special piece of glory that day, no matter what.

Just as with the occasional inspiring movie, e.g. like The King’s Speech, a great book or other prestigious sporting or well-publicized, test-of-mettle type event, Federer and Murray served up terrific lessons to learn (or to be remembered) applicable to work and private life.

Consider these insights and thoughts on both contenders, and how they might pertain to your own workplace (or other place) circumstances when times are tough or challenging:


  • a class act; maintained a quality public persona
  • demonstrated grace under fire and criticism from naysayers
  • kept his composure and dignity
  • held the vision
  • focused on his intention, both short term and long term
  • made a plan (played more games during the season than previous recent years)
  • “sacrificed”–made agreements with his “team” (his family), re what he had to do to win back his #1 ranking and ensured everyone was on side before proceeding
  • set the goal and moved towards it, slowly and steadily
  • believed in himself, even when others didn’t and were saying so right out loud
  • proved “It ain’t over ’til it’s OVER”…proved this on the actual day of July 8th and even for the three years of lead up since his last Grand Slam win in 2009–kept the faith through dark days
  • said, in his interview, “I don’t read the newspapers”; whether actually true or not, the point is, don’t get sidetracked by chatter that’s none of your business and doesn’t help advance your goal and destination (chatter that’s often espoused by people who really have no clue about your “game”, your business, your project or whatever you’re up against–the armchair critics as it were; let them stay slumped and stagnant in their chairs while you go do!)
  • pushed (and is still pushing) the envelope of his potential and capabilities; he’s not succumbing to Danny Glover’s/Murtaugh’s phrase from Lethal Weapon movies, “I’m to old for this SH*T”
  • declared, “Pretty good for 30.” (proving sometimes hard work and “elder” experience is the most effective winning formula–not so “over-the-hill” after all!)
  • Lady Gaga’s song, “I’m on the edge of glory” could easily have been Federer’s secret mantra this past while… “and I’m hangin’ on a moment of truth”, so goes another line from that same tune–there may well be good value in getting a song, a quote or some mantra-like phrasing to repeat to yourself and buoy you up to get you through, when need be–make it your personal anthem
  • supreme ambassador for his country/his “company”; made the Swiss people proud, not embarrassed (would have been a watered-down pride if Federer had won with “attitude”, ala “bad boy” from days of old, John McEnroe, or whomever else is like that nowadays–you know, the type of player that behaves so poorly they seem to revel in their conspicuous and seemingly out-of-control temper tantrums by, e.g. breaking six rackets one after the other when they lose (and don’t care how it looks to others, including their loyal supporters and countrymen/fellow business associates)
  • sometimes the “bad news” of rain turns into a good news story! Rain? Bad news, good news…who can tell?
  • kept feeling like a winner, when others were using the “L” word–there was a tell in one of Federer’s victory interview sentences that indicated he continued to feel this way about himself these past three years, despite the perceived slump, when he said, “I’ve got MY first place status back”; it was apparent he felt this ranking was always his; lost only temporarily to another and now found again!
  • some people believed in Federer from beyond the grave; in 2003 Nick Newlife, from Oxfordshire, made a wager of £1,520, at odds of 66/1, that Roger would win seven Wimbledon titles by 2019. Newlife died in 2009, but left the betting slip to Oxfam in his will. Federer’s win on July 8th, and the support of a key believer and cheerleader now means Oxfam collects a payout of £101,840!
  • a loyal and influential fan base and cheerleading section can yield high-end, impressive and valuable results not originally or centrally sought


  • kept his composure despite statistical underdog status
  • demonstrated grace against “the best” the game has to offer
  • no shame in losing to Federer–the best player the game’s ever had thus far–even if “Grace is a poor substitute for glory”, as prior tennis great Boris Becker reflected
  • improved and increased his professional profile, particularly with fair-weather and fence-sitter fans of tennis, e.g. because of his participation in this historic event, the record was broken for TV viewing of a Wimbledon final, and more was written on this match up than would probably have been the case if Federer had played any other contender
  • oftentimes, improving your professional profile bit by bit–by “living to play another day”–still gets you to the golden cup eventually; so persevere
  • because of this exposure, and the dignity with which he played, Murray has increased his personal fan base and may have contributed to the increase of the sport’s overall fan numbers over the long haul; the ripple effect and momentum of enthusiasm for the game may well be reflected in attendance and heightened interest in Canada next month at The Rogers Cup
  • if Federer played anyone else there would have been less buzz–“same old same old” re same top three (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) duking it out; but this one had more heart, more passion and more enthusiasm for the host country because of Murray–who you “play” matters and influences inspiration for the project
  • Murray stirred a nation hungry for a win–created a bond and celebrations across the UK leading up to, and on the day of, the event; these truths may not be feathers for his personal glory cap, but they still count as making a huge and positive difference for thousands and for the cause
  • created a whole new “local hero” profile–who knows how many UK kids will now pick up a racket and be the next big thing one day??? it all starts with a spark and everyone loves an underdog and a gracious loser, e.g. “I’m getting closer”, Murray declared; and he is
  • “I’m getting closer” is a positive affirmation to hang on to and inner chant through adversity or when one loses temporarily; it declares. “I still believe”; it’s okay to be sad and disappointed, and say it and show it (e.g. Murray’s choke back of tears and admission, “This is going to be hard”…to talk to the press right afterwards), but still stay positive and forward thinking regardless
  • generated hope, excitement, entertainment, revenue for an industry and for a nation
  • sometimes when it rains, it just rains and there’s no silver lining; sometimes rain is rain and you must just wait until the sun shines for you another day
  • Murray has now got the extra listening attention of many and may get more commercial and financial support/endorsements as a result
  • as the Rolling Stones sang, “Time is on my side. Yes it is.” Murray has time and youth on his side (more than Federer); pacing and timing is everything
  • Murray should take heart and be inspired that if Roger Federer can play this physically demanding and grueling game at 30 and 31, then he can too; so his participation in Federer’s marker win on July 8th, 2012–despite his loss–improves perception on age/longevity in the game of tennis, e.g. another Roger, Roger Bannister, broke the “impossible” 4 minute mile in 1954, then many others inspired by this feat did so, too, that very same year!
  • created momentum for himself
  • big professional growth opportunity, through which he passed with flying colours
  • analyze and take the best from defeat and come back wiser and stronger because of it–what did I do well? What/where can I improve?
  • this particular game became part of the long term history of tennis in a way no other typical Wimbledon win will be remembered, and he played a dignified and proud part
  • sometimes, despite the myth, it’s hard to perform and win at home–sometimes it’s a good idea to take the show on the road!

So, transferring this event and these reflections to your own challenges, workplace or otherwise, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What can I do to up the ante of my performance on my remaining 2012 goals and projects?
  2. It’s one thing to win one game or one set, but what can I do, over the long haul, to win the match…(and even a “Grand Slam” victory at work)?
  3. When the going gets tough, and when I’m certain key people are not on my side/not cheering me on or believing in my talent and abilities, what can I do to fortify myself and prove them wrong?
  4. What gives me the extra push I need to complete on tasks, projects or goals? How can I ensure I create some quality control around those push points? Who and what will help hold my feet to the fire?
  5. Everybody wants a local hero and everyone wants a hero that represents their “country”/their community/their workplace/organization, etc; so what leadership actions can I demonstrate today, tomorrow, next week and next month, at work or in private life, to be another’s local hero?
  6. Whether speaking of a country or a workplace, local culture always has a certain flavour and energy. What can I do, through my personal actions and displays of leadership, to inspire a local culture of which I’m proud to be a member?
  7. If I want others, e.g. staff, colleagues, etc., to be inspired, I must be inspirational. What actions can I take now–before summer’s complete–to fire up my staff for the tasks, projects and business goals of the autumn and winter ahead?
  8. On his way to his ultimate Wimbledon 2012 victory, Federer lost the first set to Murray. This could easily have damaged his mental game and spelled personal disaster, but Federer persevered and never stopped trying. He wiped away/shook off the loss and kept moving forward. So when it comes to difficult and/or worrisome tasks or challenges, what are some of the mind games that get the better of me and threaten to spell defeat? Knowing this, what can I do to keep trying and fighting back?

In a nutshell, no matter what the odds, if you believe in your goal and in yourself, be willing to:

  • risk losing, in hopes and anticipation of winning
  • ignore resistance and naysayers
  • overcome personal doubt and remove the mental obstacles that block the way
  • enroll others to aid and support your cause (and even place a wager on you, too!)
  • rise above ageism and other limiting stereotypes
  • analyze criticism–apply the good, valuable feedback and discard the rest
  • identify your primary sources of inspiration and draw strength from them daily
  • accept and learn from losses, thereby even making your losses coveted wins
  • act courageous, even if scared or intimidated/soldier on, stiff-upper-lip all the way
  • rededicate yourself to your goals and what’s most important to you, every day
  • fan the embers/keep alive the “fire in the belly” passion for your profession
  • recognize that, as my piano teacher always reminded (and as I’ve shared before), “Rests are part of the music.”; take a hiatus from the grind, when it’s the grind itself that’s crushing your energy and spirit, and then come back renewed and ready to rock!
  • protect your physical and emotional energy, especially if you secretly know you’re “aging” or just plain weary and temporarily worn out
  • bounce back from setbacks–acknowledge, “This is just a phase.”
  • trust yourself, your knowledge, talents, skills, abilities and capabilities, too
  • be proactive–see what needs to be done and do it; identify a plan and, “Begin anywhere”, as quoted by John Cage
  • (re)define your heart and passion for your work
  • believe you can still win and have overall work/life balance; Federer slowed down for three years while his twin girls were infants and then revved up again once they were toddlers; work/life balance isn’t always a perfect teetering…it’s a concept of knowing what to emphasize, when–when to teeter and when to totter, trusting it will all work out and balance in the end
  • create your goal twice–once in your vision and then again in your reality
  • be open to the possibilities in all situations, even when it “rains”
  • when getting down to the brass tax work of achieving your goal(s), identify and admit your counter-productive temptations and distractions and create a counter-plan to steer straight

And one last question, to tie-in to the title of this Working Wisdom’s theme:

9. How can I create my own professional “Deuce Delight”? When I serve excellence (through my mindset, demonstrations and results), how do I also end up serving history…both my own personal and professional history, and that of my organization, too?

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The harder you fall, the higher you bounce.
— Doug Horton

Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.
You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.
— Norman Vincent Peale

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know “why” I look this
way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.
— Will Rogers

When it rains, most birds head for shelter; the Eagle is the only bird that,
in order to avoid the rain, starts flying above the cloud.
— Unknown

Success is not just the crowning moment, the spiking of the ball in the end zone or the raising of
the flag on the summit. It is the whole process of reaching for a goal and, sometimes,
it begins with failure.
— Erik Weihenmayer

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to
encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from,
how you can still come out of it.
— Maya Angelou

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
— Joseph Campbell

Doubt yourself and you doubt everything you see. Judge yourself and you see judges everywhere.
But if you listen to the sound of your own voice, you can rise above doubt and judgment.
And you can see forever.
— Nancy Lopez

It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly.
— Isaac Asimov

Success in the affairs of life often serves to hide one’s abilities,

whereas adversity frequently gives one an opportunity to discover them.
— Horace

Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine.
Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the individual be perfected without trials.
— Danish Proverb

What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better.
— Proverb

It is the surmounting of difficulties that make heroes.
— Louis Kossuth

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