You’re a tennis player! You’re going to be number one on the world! You’re going to make lots of money. That’s the plan, and that’s the end of it.
We both love tennis. We love to play it – and compete fiercely with each other. We love to watch it – especially the major grand slam events. We love Wimbledon – the most hallowed place in the game, which each of has visited.
We also both love to read and we have made a commitment to always be reading a book together, to grow together in understanding, and to gain together insights into life’s deeper meanings.
A couple of years ago we both read Open, the autobiography of tennis great Andre Agassi. That book and his story is one of most pivotal and inspirational resources that we have shared together. It is one of the significant resources that motivated us to establish this non-profit and to do the work that we do.
Andre Agassi has led a remarkable career. His athletic achievements rank him among the best that tennis has ever witnessed. But those achievements came at a great cost to his contentment, to his happiness. As Jerry Eberle wrote when he reviewed Agassi’s story:
Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his moody and demanding father, by the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth, celebrity, and the game’s highest honors. But as he reveals … off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent. Agassi writes candidly about his early success and his uncomfortable relationship with fame, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his growing interest in philanthropy, …
… In 1992, when he burst onto the world sports stage by winning the Grand Slam at Wimbledon, he looked like a deer in headlights. Nobody seemed more surprised and upset by his big win that day than he did. For good reason, too. Agassi hated tennis … Agassi has hated tennis from early childhood, finding it extremely lonely out on the court. But he didn’t have a choice about playing the game because his father drove him to become a champion, like it or not … In militaristic fashion, Mike pushed seven-year-old Andre to practice relentlessly until the young boy was exhausted and in pain. … The culmination of all of this parental pushing came when Andre began winning as an adult. But it didn’t make him happy. Within this framework, Agassi’s other disclosures make sense. He had a troubled marriage to Brooke Shields that didn’t last. He developed a drug problem that sabotaged his career. He was insecure about everything. Only when Andre met tennis star Steffi Graf (whom he eventually married) did things begin to change …
In essence, we talk with so many people who, like Agassi, are not feeling as if they are truly fulfilling with their lives what they have been born to. They feel as if sometimes they’ve been pushed into careers or marriages or pursuits that aren’t representative of all that they are and can be. Too many people feel as if others project onto them who and what they should be, not allowing them to be themselves, to express their own and unique gifts, thoughts and ideas. We see too many who live with regrets, not so much about things they’ve said or done that they wish they had not. But instead, they live with regrets about the things they have not done that they wish they had. There is seldom anything sadder than someone who gets to the end of life feeling profoundly that he or she hasn’t been fulfilled, that precious opportunities have been missed, that dreams have been deferred or denied, that gifts have been squandered or wasted.
Too many, like Andre Agassi, feel as if they cannot be the people they have been born to be. But, like Andre Agassi, they can claim their gifts, their passions, their dreams. They – we all, actually – can be the people whom we have been born to be and we can find fulfillment, celebrate opportunities enjoyed, have our dreams come true, offer our gifts in service and in love.
We are grateful to Andre Agassi for opening up his life for us to see, for sharing his journey for our inspiration. We are grateful for the permission the telling of his journey gives, for the permission it offers to motivate us all to claim our own unique place in this life.
We’ve all been at times felt constricted and constrained, pressured to be something or someone we’re not. We, too, know what that’s like. When we blog again we’ll share more about our own personal journeys, how we grew to discover who we have been born to be and the paths we need to pursue …