"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Confucius, Ancient Chinese Philosopher
"Have your knees bent, and put your racket out like this", he showed me as he continued talking. "Then, I want you to make contact with the ball out in front of you, and then follow through all the way to your shoulder". This was my tennis coach a few years back. His name is Coach Alex (I call him Alex now, he's a great friend of mine).
This was his first lesson with me, an overweight 13-year-old whose parents signed him up for tennis because it was the only sport left in their community that had available lessons. Little did Alex know that later on this kid would completely change because of this first lesson.
A few years later, I found myself at 18 being given the green light to officially begin my college tennis career. But how did that happen, you might ask? Let me give you a quick tour of the beginning of my journey, and what I've learned because of it.
I continued having lessons with Alex, but I wasn't fully committed to the sport. I remember hitting the balls to the street in front of the courts, or to the playground behind the courts, yeah behind the courts, you read that right. My only task was to hit the ball in the court, and I couldn't do that. Every ball would go flying dozens of feet into the air. I was still overweight, I couldn't run fast, and I had no idea what would come out of this for me.
To be honest with you, I had no interest in tennis. I was pretty much obligated to do it because my parents were paying for it. But one day came, where I chose to watch a few highlights of a tennis match, completely out of the blue. I still remember my amazement at how a professional tennis match takes place. The sophistication, class, and ethics of the game was phenomenal. The back and forth of the ball with full power from each player (It was a single's match), had my eyes glued to the TV screen.
For those who are curious as to which match it was, here it is: it was the Davis Cup Final (the World Cup of Tennis) of 2015, with Great Britain's Andy Murray and Belgium's David Goffin; both great tennis players. They played their hearts out, but Murray got the best of Goffin, winning the Davis Cup Title for Great Britain.
I truly don't know how it happened, but a surge of immense positivity lit up inside me for a split second as I watched the highlights, like the spark of a flame. I told myself "This is what I want to do in my life. This is what I want to strive for. This is what I was meant to do: to play professional tennis."
` Of course, I was tremendously lucky over the next few years to continue playing and getting more serious about the sport. I ended up having great coaches in High School (Alex was not my coach anymore) who are not only my coaches still as I play for college, but great friends as well.
But this is not what we're discussing, isn't it? We don't want to focus on the successes right now, we want to understand what the beginning is. What the spark is. What is it that can drive someone towards a lofty and seemingly impossible dream, such as professional tennis?
I'll tell you the secret. Yup, I'll tell you. It's that spark. It sounds childish and cliché, but it's true. You may not believe me at first, but if you think deep enough, you'll find a moment in your memory where you experienced a spark. It was an experience in which you felt your deepest self emerge for a split second. It's like your soul letting you know for a moment what it is that you can truly become.
Maybe it was you watching a sports game like I was. Maybe it was you watching your parents working in whatever job field they do. Heck, maybe it was you gaming at 1:00am the night before you had a big test; very random (I've done that way too many times to count. Don't tell my parents please. Let's keep it between us).
For Lionel Messi, one of the greatest soccer (football for the rest of the world) players of all time , the spark was him watching his older brothers play soccer. For Nelson Mandela, the South African revolutionary and first African president of his country, it was him seeing his family members suffer from the racist and unjust rules of the Apartheid System, treating darker-skinned individuals like second-class citizens. For Serena Williams, one of the greatest female tennis players and athletes of all time, it was her playing tennis with her dad. For Robert Greene, the Award-Winning American Author, it was him getting the random thought of creating a book on power during a lunch with a friend in Italy.
Those are just a few examples and the list can go on forever, but there is a very important point I want you to understand. These great individuals were normal people with tough lives who had a spark, just like you.
Whatever your spark is, hold onto it and cherish it. Don't think that it's just some impossible fantasy, because it isn't. It's your truest self giving you a tiny glimpse of what your destiny holds. It's why whenever you feel that spark, your whole body is filled with a seemingly divine positivity. It's so strong in that split moment that no negative circumstance can take it away.
It feels incredible, like you're on top of the world.
Your spark is what makes you, you. It shows you the greatest version of yourself. Of course, trying to become your best self means you have to put your heart into everything you do, everyday, but it will be worth it. It will be the most challenging yet greatest thing you will ever do in life. You'll be committing to the highest endeavor in which you were designed to achieve.
The spark is your first step in the one thousand mile journey of your life's greatest endeavor; your dream.
Just start. If you don't know what you're doing exactly, it's alright. All greats started out that way. Every master was once a beginner.