The Secret Upside To Not Cheating

The Secret Upside To Not Cheating

Dec. 13, 2019

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We decided to do something relaxing last weekend, so we went to our club to watch some tennis.

There was a big “Spotlight” junior tournament going on. This means that kids came from all over to play a tournament in front of a convention full of college coaches.

It was a chance for the kids to show their skills, catch the eye of a coach, and maybe win a full scholarship.

With the cost of college these days, a full scholarship is a big prize financially.

We sat down to watch on the stadium court and two really good girls were playing. We were sitting directly on the baseline, a few feet away from the court.

After watching for a few minutes, the girls got into a tough exchange and the girl and the far side ripped it deep to the baseline (right where we were sitting) in an effort to get back into the point.

The back came deep and landed dead center on the line. In fact, it landed so squarely on the line that it cleaned a round spot of clay off of it.


The girl hooked her. Blatantly. Without remorse.

Her “out” call was on a big point and ended the game in her favor. Amazingly, the other girl never said a word.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in junior tournaments.

In the U.S., college scholarships are a big deal. It’s a lot of money.

In the U.S., it doesn’t matter how you get a scholarship, just that you get one.

If a kid is playing a match and they need a point, they take it. And why not? There are no repercussions and there’s a huge upside.

Or so it appears.

But consider what goes on during that cheating moment.

Clearly, the kid is under an extraordinary amount of pressure. Her parents, like many other parents, have probably said things like, “I’ve made a big financial investment in you. You better get a scholarship.”

I’ve heard this phrase many times.

The kid needs to win. There’s too much on the line. It doesn’t matter how, it just matters that they win.

Desperation has set in. The downward spiral has begun.

The pressure causes cheating. Cheating leads to desperate shortcuts. Desperate shortcuts lead to eventual failure, potential unrealized.

The girl we watched needed to win.

She’s thinking, “I hope she hits it out. Please hit it out.”

If the girl won’t hit it out, she’s thinking, “Please hit is close to the line, so I can hook you. I need out of this and I need to not lose.”

The girl under pressure isn’t solving problems, at least in a way that will create long-term growth. She’s not trying to get better. She’s not facing adversity. She’s not building integrity. She’s not being optimistic.

All she’s trying to do is get out from under the pressure.

Now reverse that.

Pretend that you’re playing and you want to truly get better. Improvement needs obstacles, it needs challenges. The more challenges, the more you learn.

In that case, you’d want to play every single ball because every ball makes you better. You wouldn’t dream of cheating because cheating robs you of the exact thing you need.

And you’d be more aware. If the ball came deep, it’s not a chance to cheat and bail. It’s a chance to get down and fight through a difficult shot.

What’s more, if the opponent hits it on the line (or even out) and you win anyway, the rewards are incredibly high.

To start, you build integrity. No one would mind playing you because they would know the lines are definitely in. People like people who don’t cheat.

That leads to more (and better) practice partners, which then leads to even more improvement.

And what do you think the college coach would think if she saw a girl playing every line and winning anyway?

Compare that to what a coach would think if she saw a girl blatantly cheating.

There’s an upside to being fair and seeking out challenges. It’s an upside much greater than we think.

And it’s glorious.


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