I used to own a book titled “A kick in the seat of the pants”. It was written in the 1980’s by a guy named Roger Von Oech. In this book Von Oech outlines a model of creativity. He believes that there are four aspects of our personality that must work in tandem if we are to be truly creative and achieve our fullest potential.
First we have to unleash the Explorer. That is the side of you that is curious and that remains open to new experiences. Then there is the Artist which is the side of your personality that takes the information gathered by the Explorer and generates new ideas and ways of working. Then there is the Judge whose role it is to determine if an idea is feasible, if the timing is right, or if modifications need to first be made before the idea can be implemented. And then there is the Warrior whose job it is to take action. Von Oech’s first instruction to the Warrior is to put a fire in your belly. The other facets prepare the groundwork, but it is the Warrior who gets the job done.
I have used this model when doing personal achievement training. I love helping people be all that they can be. I believe that many of us are capable of greatness and that we hold ourselves back with disbelief and self-doubt. Sometimes all we need is a kick in the seat of our pants to get going again.
But sometimes the fire in your belly just goes out. I don’t think that this is ever something that accidentally happens to people. I believe that the decision to quench the fire is always a choice, sometimes made unconsciously, sometimes with full awareness. In Amelie Mauresmo’s case, she seems to be fully aware that she no longer feels the urge to stoke the tennis fire in her belly. She has decided to extinguish her inner Tennis Warrior. She is hanging up her racquet.
In the interview explaining her decision to retire, Mauresmo stated: “I don’t want to train anymore. I had to make a decision, which became evident in the last few months and weeks. When you grew older, it’s more difficult to stay at the top…If I were able to enter the court, play and shine, of course I could continue. But to achieve this you need to put in such hard work. And I’m not capable of that.”
How can you not love her honesty? I admire the straightforwardness of her admission. The fire has gone out. She’s not feeling it anymore. And she is ready to move on. Tennis is not always known for such honest or graceful exits. Hingis anyone?
At age four, Mauresmo was inspired to play tennis when her countryman, Yannick Noah, won the French Open. Unfortunately for Mauresmo, this is one of the tournaments that eluded her. She has won the Australian Open as well as Wimbledon, both in 2006. In fact, she spent much of that year as the #1 ranked woman in the world, thanks to an awesome serve, precise volleys, and a sweet sweet backhand.
But her attempts to win matches in front of her homies often resulted in embarrassing mental collapses. She was disparaged for her mental fragility, particularly when playing in high stakes matches. But paradoxically, Mauresmo was also known for her courage. She continued to play tennis despite a series of serious physical injuries and setbacks. She played Fed Cup for over ten years, leading her team to victory in 2003. And she never hid her sexual orientation, not even after reportedly facing disparaging comments from the likes of Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport. Mauresmo was always a class act. And she always wore the cutest outfits on the tennis court!
Mauresmo has won 24 singles titles. She is one of a small handful of players who won the Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp three times within a five-year period, for which she was gifted a highly coveted diamond-encrusted tennis racquet. She won a silver medal in singles at the 2004 Olympics, and in 2007, was granted the French Legion of Honor award. And she collects fine wine. How’s that for balance!
It is somehow fitting that Mauresmo’s last title should come in Paris. In February 2009, she won the Open Gaz de France, playing on indoor hard courts in front of her homies. A month later, she won the prestigious Sony Ericsson Open doubles with her partner Svetlana Kuznetsova. In celebration of the impressive career of this French Warrior, let’s all have a glass of fine merlot.