6 Things I wish I knew in High School

1. You don’t have to be liked by everyone
It’s a simple fact of life that no-one is universally loved. Even people who spend their entire life helping others, have some people who don’t like them. Understand that, and you can just get on being who you are and developing good skills and character traits that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Trying to impress everyone, is not one of those.

2. You will grow
When I went to High school, my nickname was “mouse”, and not because I liked cheese. I was so late to hit puberty that when I left year twelve (or 6th form as it was in the olden days) I was still under 5 ft tall. Far and away the shortest person in the year. It would have been really cool to know that one day, I was going to grow tall enough to be average height. Growing is not just about height of course. Back then I didn’t read books, principally because it was pretty much all that my big sister ever did, and I didn’t want to do anything she did. (I know, not a great reason) These days it is not uncommon for me to read three or four books a week.

3. The timetable is everything
One of the things that really doesn’t change much from the school environment to the work environment is that the clock controls most things, and being on time, where you are meant to be, is a great start to anything you do. Who was it that said 80% of winning is turning up? Throughout High school I never really understood my timetable. Consequently I rarely met expectations around timeliness and productivity. I spent the last twenty minutes of every class anxious about where I was meant to be next. Lets face it, if you don’t know where you are going, you are going to miss a lot of opportunities. Flying by the seat of your pants teaches you a range of skills that are useful, but they are no substitute for making the most of every second you are alive.

4. Teachers know some things.
That doesn’t mean they know everything, which was one of the sources of my discontent at school. i have always challenged authority, some school teachers really struggled with that. However if I had spent a little more time listening and a little less time challenging, I would have understood that you do not need to be a ninja master to be a worthy teacher.

5. The more you read, the easier it gets.
This is a bit of a tough one. I have already told you why I didn’t read while I was at school, but I am pretty confident that I also struggled to read at a pace that was sufficient to make it enjoyable. Ivy ou practice reading, there is a lot of information that is then at your fingertips. It allows you to read not only your text books, but also texts that challenge the established point of view. This surely is what education should be all about. The more you read, the faster you read, the more enjoyable it becomes and so on. I font wonder if there were authors like Matthew Riley around when i was young, if I may have taken up the habit at a more helpful age.

6. She will marry you and no other
This piece of information would have saved me an awful lot of heartache.

Building tennis teams

As a long distance observer, it seems to me that Davis Cup success and Tennis Australia are at the cross roads. Perhaps they are even past that point and now heading in opposite directions. We recently played Kazakstan (who knew that even had tennis players?) in Darwin on grass and came very close to having our pants lowered. Now I am not saying the Darwin’s grass courts are not the epicentre of tennis in Australia nor am I inferring that we played there because nowhere else in the country would have given a damn, or even that Tennis Australia decided to play there because it gave us a distinct advantage, (surely not).

The dislike that our 23 ranked player Bernard Tomic publicly displayed for the organisation resulted in his removal from the team. Probably a good thing too as it gave him just enough time to become famous in Miami for paying too much for a hotel room that magically transforms into a jail cell. All of which must have made the gurus at Tennis Australia feel grand indeed.

I think there is a bigger play here though. We had great success in the Davis Cup in the era before the pros and then again in the early days of professionalism. Frankly we weren’t much good at any other team sport and certainly not any that involved balls. In those heady days we also had more than our fair share of players inside the top ten. Back then to help us along a little, backyards were often filled with tennis courts and every farm had one, and tennis courts were not littered across the four corners of the globe as they are now. (who would have thought it?)

So history aside, now we have a bunch of highly paid professionals, some of whom are clearly not capable of looking after themselves, that require more than just a ‘nice guy’ that looks great in undies, to give them assistance. Building a team in this era, as anyone that has done it recently will tell you, has its own unique set of challenges.

Add to that the money, the bloated egos and the lack of understanding of the scale of the exercise and it is no surprise to me that it is not coming together beautifully. Team building in Australia is different to (most of) the rest of the world. Particularly at the pointy end of sport, and particularly with the addition of Gen Y.

I cringe when I hear the older generation say that “this would never happen in Harry Hopman’s day” because while it is true, I really can’t imagine Mr Tomic and Mr Hopman having much to say to one another. I can only imagine what the reaction might be to the suggestion of a quick run up a few sand dunes. At least Darwin is well situated for that little beauty. No, Harry is not the answer.

Tennis Australia should ship in Ray McLean and his troops. If you have not had the opportunity to read his books, I recommend them to anyone in Australia involved in team-building. I have used the philosophy both with my work team and the sporting teams that I work with and the systems and processes work. Without giving too much away, Ray is like a modern-day version of Harry Hopman, in that he thinks differently to everyone else and has bought his own brand along with him. He has done for AFL what Harry did for tennis.

Ray developed his skills working with the Air Force developing teamwork in mission-critical scenarios. There is nothing quite like taking life and death training and then honing that experience for work in team sport. As many a team coach will tell you, winning isn’t life or death, it’s much more important than that. Good luck Tennis.

5 Books that changed my life

5 Books that changed my life
Books and I have had a strained relationship for as long as I can remember. My older sister was an avid reader as we were all growing up, and I laid the blame for all her wacky behaviour on books, and the effect they had on her by removing her from the real world. I was quite determined that I was not going to go down the same path, so studiously avoided reading for as long as I possibly could.

In fact it was not until I was married and well into my twenties that I read my first book, cover to cover. I had started many books of course, some of them compulsorily for school, but had lost interest pretty quickly, and almost always long before the section in my right hand was smaller than the bit in my left. I was able to reconcile that by repeating the mantra that “I was about living, not reading how someone else lived.” Which for the most part worked pretty effectively.

That all changed when at 26 I was given a book for Christmas by a family friend and as much to escape the misery of the recent death of my wonderful father in law, as any other good literary reason, opened it up with the intent of getting lost or being devoured.

I am sure Bryce Courtenay could not have imagined how that one book would change the course of a life so profoundly. It did take me an eternity to read it, as my reading skills were just appalling back then. Not quite the finger across the page but not far from it either. ‘The Power of One” screamed at me from every page. it felt like Mr Courtenay was writing just for me. It was quite magical and opened doors and lit pathways, I could never have imagined were possible.

The second book is not a book at all, but rather a short story. Ray Bradbury is a prolific american writer, most famous for “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” but so much of the brilliant work he produced had nothing to do with Science Fiction at all. “Hail and farewell” is an astonishing short story that got me thinking for the first time in a voice other than the first person. In a few short pages he was able to turn my focus inside out and gave me the chance to see a whole new way of looking at the world.

The Little Prince is one of those classics that I come back to every few years when life gets confusing. It has some wonderful guiding principles that have consistently resonated with me.

The last two powerful books are both non fiction and they resonate with me for different reasons. “Any given Team” is a wonderful treatise on how to make teams work at their best. If you have never been a part of a team, either a work team or a sports team, you have my sympathy. Team environments are extraordinarily dynamic, exciting and powerful. The very nature of working closely with people means that the forces at work are more art than science and more craft than technology and I am perfectly comfortable with that.

For anyone that is confounded by teams and the people in them, Ray McLean has developed a really down to earth, incredibly simple way of making them work better. Like all the best ideas, simple doesn’t mean easy. In fact in this case, simple can be too hard for some people. Which is one of the reasons I love this book so much.

Finally, Bounce by Matthew Syed was one of the books that made sense of a lot of disparate information, trends, observations and statistics. One of my great loves is sport, and this book laid the pathway to my better understanding of the subject. I don’t expect it will change everyone’s life. In fact if I had not been working in the field at the time it may have simply interested me rather than send bells going off all around me for weeks.

I have never been a believer in the “You can do anything you set your mind to” philosophy or view of the world. For instance it was quite clear from my primary school years that I was never going to be an astronaut, or a world champion high jumper, or win Wimbledon. Nor have I subscribed to the “you were born to do this” theory. However, I have always thought that most of us are capable of much more than we think we are capable of. Many of us are limited by our understanding of our horizons. All five books back up that thinking by resolutely showing that extraordinary things are possible if you are prepared to put in the work and engage fully in the process.

These five entries are a good illustration of the importance of timing, when it comes to reading. The right piece at the right time. That is why I would encourage people to read widely.