Playing in the Wind

Playing in the Wind
Photo by Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

“Champions play hurt.”

What separates real professionals from amateurs is that real professionals show up even when they’re injured (physically or otherwise). Champions have to be the best even on their worst day. Right?

I like another saying better: “Champions play in the wind.”

To me, play hurt insinuates you should keep pushing yourself all the time, even if you’re bruised and battered. It insinuates you’re not serious if you take time and space to recover.

Playing in the wind doesn’t mean you power through all injuries and suck it up when you need rest. It means you play even when circumstances aren’t right. You start before you have all your i’s dotted at t’s crossed.

Of course, there’s value in pushing through pains and setbacks. If we didn’t, no one would get anything done. But isn’t there also value in recovery? Don’t careers and lives of longevity require a certain degree of rest? Maybe sometimes it’s ok not to play hurt. Sometimes it’s ok to take time off and heal from whatever bruises we’ve been carrying around. When we take time to slow down, we often end up better for it.

The best tennis players I’ve ever played against were the ones who could play well in the wind. When it’s windy, the ball seems to defy the law of physics, and the predictive eye you’ve developed from practice becomes unreliable. It’s quite literally a whole new ballgame.

I’ve seen some players get mad at the wind. Others panic. But the really good ones embrace it. They don’t curse the wind for existing, and they don’t blame it for a bad game. They lean into the adventure of it. The ball travels differently than they’re used to–spinning and ducking in gnarly ways.

They welcome the new element of challenge, not waiting for the wind to die down to make their move. They play. They adapt. They keep going. And they usually laugh a little when things don’t go as planned. Put simply, they don’t procrastinate until the perfect moment arises.

That poke in your side, that yearning in your chest, that unexplainable urge to create, move, do–whatever it may be, now is the right time to start, even though it isn’t. Even though you don’t have the time yet, even though you don’t have the money yet, and even though you don’t have the skills yet. Even though your excuses are valid, invalidate them. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” isn’t just a harmless statement. It’s an attitude towards life.

It seems that the most successful people in life aren’t necessarily the brightest or even the hardest working. They’re the people who take consistent action even when things aren’t perfect because they know things will never be perfect. The time will never be right. Life will always be “too complicated right now,” and there will always be conflicting priorities. But they keep on keeping on. They play in the wind.