Here are SIX things I learned, thought were interesting, or found useful.
Tap Into Why You Started
Novak Djokovic almost quit tennis in 2010. He was the number 3 ranked player in the world, a grand slam winner, and a favorite to win Wimbledon. But after a quarterfinals loss in the French Open, Djokovic said, “I hit a wall. I was mentally at one very much messed up place.” He told his parents he was done. Then he went to tell his coach Maria Vajda. When he saw Vajda, Djokovic broke down in tears. Vajda encouraged him to let it out and after he did, Vajda said, “Let’s look back. Why did you start playing this sport? Do you love this sport? Put aside rankings and what you want to achieve, do you really like holding a racket in your hand? Djokovic thought for one second then two, “I do,” he said. “I love holding a racket in my hand. Whether it’s a grand slam final on center court or just a normal public court, I like playing for the sake of playing.” Vajda nodded, “Well that’s your source. That’s what you need to tap into.” I write more about what happened when Djokovic tapped into why he started playing tennis in Do It For The Sake of It. Spoiler: the following season, Djokovic enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in sports history.
Just Because of the Wind, History Was Changed
In 1776, David McCollough tells the story of the Battle of Brooklyn. It was late August 1776, a little over a month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And it was a disaster. Of George Washington’s army of about 10,000 troops, 300 were killed and over a thousand were taken prisoner. The worst part—they were cornered on the island of New York. The surrounding seas were filled with British armada. “Nothing like it had ever been seen,” McCollough writes. The British fleet of nearly four hundred ships was “the largest, most powerful force ever sent forth from Britain or any nation.” And on the night of Thursday August 29, British troops received orders to ready for a night attack on the enemy. They would sail up the East River, wipe out the trapped troops, capture Washington, execute him, burn the Declaration, and put end the Revolutionary War. But, that night, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and the British ships couldn’t “get up” the river. “Just because of the wind,” Charlie Rose said when McCollough told him this story, “history was changed.” “Absolutely,” McCollough said.
Incubation and Daydreaming
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father Luis was asked what he learned from warching his son create. He first provides some context. Unlike Lin-Manuel, Luis is the type where if you give him something to do and tell it’s due in a month, he starts working then and there, and then finishes a week before the deadline. “That’s not Lin-Manuel,” Luis said. Lin-Manuel starts working the week it’s due. “I have seen this process unfold for over two decades,” Luis continues. “And it’s fascinating—because what comes next, what Lin-Manuel creates, is certainly better, and there’s always a real rationale and a real road he follows to end up where he does.” Lin-Manuel jumps in to explain, “Incubation is a really important part of the process.” He tells the story of how the idea for Hamilton came to him when he was on vacation, in a pool, with a margarita in his hand. “It’s that moment when your brain can unplug from your day-to-day concerns and really drift. The creativity part doesn’t happen without the daydreaming. In my line of work, I need to daydream.” Paul MacCready said almost exactly the same thing.
It’s Not Going Backwards. It’s Going In A New Direction
The chef René Redzepi and the screenwriter Brian Koppelman were talking about failure. In the last couple years, Redzepi had a lot of friends and colleagues who had to close down businesses. Koppelman asked what Redzepi told those people. He said he told him the advice he got from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, “There’s simply nothing wrong with turning back. It’s not turning back. It’s just turning around then moving forward in a different direction.” Maybe you had four restaurants and suddenly you only one, he says, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a setback. It doesn’t mean ‘going backwards.’ It’s going in a new direction.”
You Become What You Think About
In the late 1800s, William James was asked to be the keynote speaker at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference. Some 10,000 people showed up to James’ talk on, as it was advertised, “Everything we’ve learned in the last 100 years of Psychological Research. The speaker who introduced James spoke at length about James’ contributions to the field of psychology. The crowd well knew James’ work. Bring him up already, we can imagine them thinking. Finally—”Ladies and Gentleman, William James.” James took the stage and opened, “They’ve asked me to talk about the last hundred years of psychological research,” James said, getting right to it. “It can be summed up in this statement: people by and large become what they think of themselves. Thank you and goodnight.”
A Thought On Hope
A good friend and SIX at 6 reader texted me, “What’s your thoughts on hope?” “I’m for it,” I said, and then asked if he’d heard of the Stockdale Paradox. He hadn’t, but he found it useful, so maybe you will as well. James Stockdale survived 7 years as a POW in Vietnam. He was asked his key to survival and said it was maintaining hope that he’d prevail while also confronting the brutal facts of his reality. “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”