What's On My Mind
by Naveen Garg

October 26, 2014

Glass Court to Glass Walls

Many of us squash diehards find squash not only as a challenging sport to stay physically fit but also a great way to release stress from demanding corporate lifestyle. Like most, I often took a couple of hours out from the busy work schedule during the day, hit the ball around on the court and found the latter half of the day a lot more productive back at work. However in my life I have found there is a lot more to a game of squash than just savoring fleeting pleasure of a great workout or a productive afternoon.

Success in corporate world or at any work in general is rarely overnight. Recall a tough 5 game match that you had to play, where you had to refocus and get back to basics – hit the ball long, down the line over and over again – to get your opponent to falter and capitulate eventually. There are long hard days at work when one goes through the mundane – be it making cold calls to find prospective customers, sifting through mountain of data to summarize, filter or make sense and prepare a meaningful report, respond to barrage of priority emails just to find some spare time long enough to get anything productive done…. This is it – that’s you hitting the ball down the line repeatedly with singular focus and with just the same enthusiasm as when you are making a cross-court volley nick drop. It’s all about finding the focus on the current rally (one rally, one ball at a time). Find laser sharp focus on the current task at hand, and set the distractions aside. Even as you multi-task all day long, jump around from one incomplete task to another, be in the moment – and give each current task your fullest attention however fleeting that moment may be.

But before, to play a good game of squash – one must train! There is hours of on-court drills, off court cross-training, discipline in what one eats or drinks. As the saying goes – you don’t get fit playing squash, you have to be fit to play squash. A successful career requires similar off court (i.e. out of 9-5 work hours, in your own time) preparations. Be it – keeping up with the competition, acquiring a new skill, taking certification courses and exams, getting further education…the hard work pays rich dividends sooner or later. It’s a game of patience.

When it comes to an important match, a game plan before the match makes all the difference between winning and losing face. Know your stats, strengths and weaknesses, study or inquire the same for your opponent and have a mental framework of the areas to focus upon – be it backhand or forehand, be it front or deep, be it high lobs or low hard drives… make your opponent work as hard for the game as you possibly can. The same applies when it comes to preparing an important presentation, drafting a document or negotiating a business deal. Better the homework, more conviction one has in their arguments and no matter what the results be – one comes away with satisfaction of giving their best shot! Win or lose – I know when I have participated in a hard fought Squash match.

As the game progresses, it is not only about the game plan, the current rally in progress but also about creating mini-milestones or stepping stones to take a pause, reflect upon your progress in the game and celebrate small victories along the way as a self-reward. Same goes for your work – a long arduous task calls for having checkpoints along the way with introspection, status check and celebrations or course correction as needed. If you have audience watching the game, rooting for your or against you – find a captive audience from whom you can channel your inspiration – surprisingly it may not matter if they are rooting for or against. In corporate world, business partners and even competitors drive our passion and push us to do better each time.

Lastly it is not about winning or losing – but a journey of self-improvement. The more I play, the more I learn about my shortcomings – there is more than a lifetime of learning in a game of squash. As I look back at my 25+ years of professional experience, I feel just the same!

In closing, my motto – Do what you love, love what you do!

Naveen is an amateur squash enthusiast who picked it up during college in India (as it was the only sport where he could keep the ball with-in the court dimensions) and has carried it with him ever since through his life as an IT professional in England, France, US (& Canada) and Denmark. Naveen has played amateur tournaments and league in these countries as well as participated in US Masters, European Masters and World Masters Squash events. Recently Naveen started Seattle Urban Squash with some of his likeminded Squash friends based on National Urban Squash and Education Association charter of helping kids from underprivileged communities to graduate from high-school through regular and intense Squash training and tutoring. Naveen lives in Seattle with his partner Anne-Marie Canis and their two dogs Daisy and Lola.

What's On My Mind is a column by rotating writers.
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