Go big or go home
Gary Tsai 2018-06-15
Tai Ji Men has helped me conquer my fear of failure. From an early age, the instructors have tried to get us to speak up, to conquer our fear of public speaking. It wasn’t speaking in front of people that I was afraid of; it was the fear of failure that plagued me the most. And I think my past seven years with Tai Ji Men have really taught me that it’s okay to fail, that success only comes from failure. Some people view failure as a necessary evil of sorts. They say it keeps them motivated. Some people even see fear of death as the only thing that keeps us alive. But for me, fear of failure holds me back. Only recently have I realized that failure and the consequent embarrassment is not the end of the world.
I know that not everyone has played enough formal tennis to experience the fear of missing. I used to be too afraid of missing the ball, so I’d slow my racket down and hesitate, something that has cost me countless points. Tennis involves some amount of pattern-matching and instinct. You need to carefully watch what your opponent is doing, accurately interpret their movements, and respond appropriately. You have to balance your conscious, high-level thoughts, your analysis of the situation, and the base-level habits. Practice helps you go through that chain of thoughts faster. Enough practice and you might be able to skip parts of the chain. You see patterns when they arise and respond without thought. Between the moment when you identify what you need to do and the moment when you actually do it, there are a lot of points where over-thinking can ruin it. What if you miscalculated and missed, like last time? What if you hit it too hard, like last week? Too soft, like in practice? There are so many ways it can go wrong. But it’s something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. As soon as you take time to think about that one time you failed, you break the chain that connects seeing to doing. You tip a bit too far towards the "thinking" end of the spectrum and you hesitate. Oops!--there goes countless points.
My time at Tai Ji Men has taught me that I have to go big or go home, that I can’t just give it a half-hearted go and hope to see twice the results. To truly improve my tennis, I need 100% confidence on every shot, and my body, my mind, and my spirit have to be fully focused on this shot, not on how it went last time. When I pour my heart into each and every shot, when I’m confident enough in my instincts to just let them do their thing, that’s when I start seeing the results.