Life and Percentage play..

25 Jul

I was contemplating to write a post on minimizing our losses. The first parallel that came to mind was ” Percentage play ” in sports. I recollected watching most recently Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na on television play an exciting quarterfinals match at Wimbledon 2013. I thought Li Na played attacking tennis and had upper hand in the match, but it was Radwanska who won with tireless and brilliant percentage tennis. She made less errors. The realization dawned on me as contemplated my own losses and career transitions.

I all along believed we must  focus on strengths and it was okay to live with our flaws and mistakes. I still feel its alright to be flawed and imperfect. Too much quest for perfection and clinical correctness is boring. But if life is a game then our flaws need to be ironed out perhaps. We must make less errors to survive well. It’s something which am still learning.

My career transitions have forced me to look at my own mistakes and errors. Sometimes we hear coaches saying its the team which gets it defense right that wins. it might not make for attractive sport but they win.

To quote from  great Bjorn Borg’s autobiography , My Life and Game ( 1980,with Eugene L. Scott, Simon & Schuster, NY). :

“My synonym for percentage tennis is patience. I want to hit one more ball in court than my rival. I want him to think I’m much more patient so he’ll make a mistake either in execution (racquet error) or in picking a low-percentage ripper for the lines. This philosophy works for beginners too. If a novice (or an intermediate player, for that matter) plays my way, he will aim most of his shots crosscourt, where there is more room for mistakes. If you aim a ball down the line and miss by an inch, you’ll lose the point. But if you always think cross-court you can miss by two yards or more and still have the ball land safely in court.”
And more “My percentages have more to do with my mind than with my strokes. I try to make my challenger believe he can’t out steady me. My cold attitude on court helps. I never applaud or acknowledge an opponent’s good shot. I just go about my business, the next point. This, in a sense, is saying, “I don’t care how spectacular one shot is, you’ll have to hit two thousand exactly like it to beat me.””

I always thought Bjorn Borg was one of the greatest  ever sports persons. I remember watching Borg – McEnroe tennis matches on television as a kid. I thought Bjorn Borg was a supreme athlete and played ” huge under pressure” to borrow a Vijay Amritraj phrase. I simply thought his was unruffled brilliance.His game was based on endurance, great fitness, top spin and patience. I really admired that.

I know life is more paradoxical than sport but have learnt a few things which could help minimize our losses in jobs:

– Be Open but also be discreet: Jyoti Basu, India’s foremost Marxist leader once said ” when you open windows, along with fresh air also comes flies and mosquitoes.” This of course he said in a political context opposing liberal reforms. As is my wont it struck me as a philosophical premise. I often realized in  work situations, people want to know about your personal life more than your professional experience and skill sets. It took me some experience to realize that people try to bond with you offering empathy in personal matters and would later use information against you in professional situations. Spread a canard or white lies. So as Talmud says “Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend’s friend has a friend; be discreet”. This is especially true in management situations, everything is based on information. Information is capital.Whether true or malafide. So its better to have a partner or a friend in life rather than discuss personal matters with a colleague. it really depends but could be harmful. I have experienced same. I hope to work on this, may be having good defense is playing percentage game well. Because we all have competitors in work and life. They are interested in “themselves” and not “You”. Please qualify a friendly visage.

– To do run of mill and uncreative work well: Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan said in a interaction with  students at Yale University ( have posted that talk as Chubb fellow in an earlier post) that 7 out of 10 projects he does is boring and uncreative but does it with same passion and enthusiasm. I need to inculcate same quality and discipline. We do not always get work which we like or according to our competencies but nevertheless must do it with same passion and fun. I once had a lady colleague who was heading a American consulate trade body.Since trade body was closed down, she sought employment with a company where i was working. I was surprised and asked her why she had chosen to work with us,because she had a  good important job earlier. She just smiled and said she wanted to be occupied. I loved her industriousness and ability to take things in a stride without rancor. The work assigned to her was boring and she did it without complaining and was fun to be around. I learnt a lesson, life has ups and downs, work may or not to be our liking, but we must not whine and have a good attitude.

I have more flaws that needs to be ironed out, needs to be more flexible, more disciplined etc etc but hope to get percentages right 🙂

I just wanted to share thought of percentage play and industriousness to minimize our losses. Hope you find it useful and may you continue to shine on as a crazy diamond 🙂  Have a lovely day dear friends. Thank you!

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