Greatness Is Waiting Around The Corner

Greatness Is Waiting Around The Corner

July 5, 2019

“What is he doing?!?”

I was sitting there in a dank gym on a gray Midwestern afternoon, and I was befuddled.

In a true genius move, I had decided to take my college tennis team to frigid Wisconsin on our Spring Break.

I had a good team with two superstar players, and I thought that denying fun to college kids was a great idea. Instead of fun, I offered my team a chance to play a ranked team.

Of course, it’s too cold in Wisconsin to play outside, so we were playing inside. Who needs sun, beaches, and happiness anyway?

In particular, I was watching one of my prodigies. I’ll call him Bobby.

Bobby was the best athlete I’ve ever been on the court with. He could run a five-minute mile on a lark and could knock the racquet out of your hand with his power.

In the match in front of me, Bobby was playing a nice lad who was doing his best to get out of the way of Bobby’s powerful misses.

Every time Bobby hit it in, he won. The only way he lost a point is by hitting it out (really hard). The kid couldn’t handle Bobby, but Bobby couldn’t handle himself.

At the end of over two hours of torture, Bobby lost.

Which led to an existential crisis.

Bobby had the tools to play on the pro tour. And, yet, here he was. Losing to an average player on a cold Wisconsin day.

We’re told that if we work hard, we can do anything. No one worked harder than Bobby.

We’re told the key to success is preparation. No college kid has ever prepared more meticulously than Bobby.

And still, success did not come.


The problem with the work hard/prepare hard equation is that B doesn’t have to come immediately after A.

There no timetable for when the hard work will pay off. It might pay off next week, but it might not. Success may not come for years.

Author James Clear summarized it brilliantly:

Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees. Your work was not wasted; it is just being stored. All the action happens at thirty-two degrees.

The reason Bobby wasn’t winning yet was because his game hadn’t quite reached the 32 degree mark. He hadn’t learned to put it all together. He hadn’t learned that 80% of his pace was good enough to beat 99% of his opponents.

His hard work would pay off, but not yet.

The moral of the story is that the work we’re doing may not bring results on our arbitrary schedule. It might take a while for all that energy and time to build up.

So the key is to work hard, not expect results right away, and not give up.

Things looked bleak for Bobby in Wisconsin.

But just a few years later, he hit 32 degrees while in France.

That’s when he called to tell me he’d just earned his first world ranking on the pro tour.

My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.