Finding Your Tennis Ball
The more you’re pushing, the less you’re doing what you love.
“It’s not just about pushing yourself. It’s about finding your tennis ball.” Drew Houston, Co-founder and CEO of Dropbox.
Dogs knock over children and plow under bushes to capture tennis balls. All you need to do is pretend to throw one and they’re off.
Everything disappears when dogs see tennis balls.
Terry’s tennis ball is baseball.
I met Terry after a presentation I gave. He talks, eats, drinks, and dreams baseball. At 63, you’d think he would have outgrown his obsession. But, baseball memorabilia still fills his home. His basement has tiered stadium seats.
Terry’s “selfish” obsession with baseball is his channel of service. Every month he donates baseball memorabilia to nonprofits, who turn around and sell it. Last month he gave away nearly $3,000 dollars worth.
4 ways to find your tennis ball:
- Tennis balls connect to strengths. Work isn’t work when you’re chasing your tennis ball.
- Tennis balls hide behind anger or frustration. Listen to anger. It tells you what matters.
- Tennis balls appear when you eliminate distractions.
- Tennis balls emerge when you start doing things.
3 benefits of finding your tennis ball:
- Freedom. No one has to force you to do what you love. If I commanded Terry to go to a baseball card shop, do you think he’d feel pressured?
- Energy. The more you do what you love the more energy you have.
- Persistence. You don’t have to discipline yourself to chase your tennis ball. Discipline only applies when you ignore what you love.
Selfish enjoyment becomes meaningful fulfillment when it serve others.
How would you help someone find their tennis ball?
What keeps people from finding their tennis ball?
What if love itself IS the tennis ball?
I realize that may sound too simple w/o explanation, so here’s an example.
In my experience so far, I was able to endure the most challenging circumstances in the military because of the love I had for my husband. (First as my boyfriend waiting at home, then as my fiance, then later during the war, as my hubby.)
I don’t know how well I would have done in those situations had it not been for the love I had for him and KNOWING that he loved me and was there for me and would be there for me each time I was able to return home.
Have you ever watched that cheezy sci-fi movie (yet brilliant at the same time!) The Fifth Element with Bruce Willis? The scene at the end… The woman was the 5th element and she couldn’t save the world from evil until Bruce Willis ACTIVATED her innate powers by telling her he loved her. (and meaning it!)
Is there quite a bit of truth to it?
I’d say absolutely YES….
For some of us….very much yes.
Thanks Samantha. Powerful story!
I feel like love has an object. In your case hubby.
I hate to admit it but the Fifth Element is the worst move I love to watch. I really love the opera scene.
I happen to love The Fifth Element! It’s movies like that and comedians like Brian Regan that help me get out of ‘ oh so serious’ mode when I need to! : )
PS: Here’s one of my favorite quotes that basically sums up my experience quite nicely:
‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage’ ~Lao Tzu
In my case, my husbands love for me was what most definitely gave me strength.
Ok. That’s all today! (grins) I remembered that quote and had to come back and share it. : )
I like that, Steven.
Hi Dan, I’ve been reading for years and posting for the first time because I love this line “Selfish enjoyment becomes meaningful fulfillment when it serve others.” It drives me crazy that we give “selfish” such a negative connotation when really it comes down to intent. I think more people in the world need to find their “selfish” endeavours and share them with the world. I’d go so far as to say we need to learn to be more selfish for the greater good. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Steven. Glad you came out from the shadows!
I hope I don’t have to wait so long before I hear from you again. 🙂
I am soooo with Steven Lamothe on this one. When our selfish endeavors benefit the greater good, the whole world is a better place and we are, well, so much happier!
I love this post!- so true and so important!
I would add- another point to how to find ur tennis ball- follow your energy level and heart beat- it will guide u to your tennis ball, the way your body lets u know if you’re in love….in fact pursuing your tennis ball – doing what u love and were designed to do, will feel like being in love-similar hormones like ocytocin are released
The corollary to point 3 on how to find your tennis ball- is also true-‘distractions disappear when you are pursuing your tennis ball
I have been thinking of a new title ‘Chief love officer’- to signify the importance of creating a culture that retains supports and develops people to pursue their tennis balls!
Thx for the encouragement and inspiration!
Thanks Lori. As I read your comment, I was reminded that we can become uncomfortable with the term love in the business context. I suppose part of the problem is we use the same word for some many things… love baseball, apple pie, children and our spouse… it’s just so broad. On the other hand, I believe it would be good for us to get more comfortable with the term at work. I’m no too hip on the idea of telling co-workers we “love” them. I don’t like it that I have to use the same word for how I feel about my wife and how I feel about my passion for leadership. But, for lack of a better option, we need more love at work.
We tend to fear that love is finite and limited- But the reality is that love is infinite.
Young parents often fear when having a second child… how they will ever love another child as much as the first. This is based on a scarcity model of love. But as anyone who has multiple children knows, love doesn’t get divided- not even close… it miraculously multiplies!
I think your post invites us to consider another perspective on love as well.
Loving what you do, and even the people you work with, (not heaven forbid, in the context of betraying one’s spouse)- But rather within the context of appropriate boundaries that define the work relationship, and safeguard the particular, sacred, more intimate love shared with one’s spouse and family members.
I wonder how this mindset- a loving, supportive, caring mindset might help support the cultivation and growth of healthier, organizations.. in which team members thrive… and which eventually leads to healthier, happier and more productive and connected families, and ultimately societies. A domino effect, of sorts, set in motion by the energy of love ( not sex, nor passion, nor the kind of intimate love reserved for our spouses and family members)… but rather a love that within appropriate professional boundaries and limits, sees, appreciates and cares deeply about the well being of another individual.
Your analogy of both love and tennis (how dogs run after tennis balls) resonates loud and clear with me this morning, Dan. You see I just returned from a American Tennis Association meeting for tennis pros with respect to the intelligentsia of the game.
A brilliant, dynamic and animated speaker used many phrases-of-vision to illustrate his points, and most of all for us to recall while on the court with our students. Among them were these two, my favorites: 1) WHY fight to win if we can love and not lose?; and 2) I’d rather FIGHT with YOU than make LOVE with ANYONE ELSE.
In my mind’s eye, I see them as expressions of how “outcome” is secondary to “process.” Yet, it is always the focus on process that brings about the desired outcome…if our finesse and will and eye is kept on the ball.
Very cool, thanks Dan!!!
Since I was too longwinded yesterday, brief today!
Thank you Dan.
What an amazing analogy! I will carry this pucture in head forever and share it! You are my tennis ball for leadership!
Great metaphor and oh so true. While she passed last year, I thought of our Brittany Spaniel, Belle and her insatiable focus/appetite for ball playing as I was reading your post. She was the incarnate of exactly what you were saying and would go to any length to get the ball. I never saw a dog so good at it, so dedicated to it, and, here’s the funny part related to your post – she assumed that everyone that entered the yard, was there to play ball with her…or, put another way, had the same passion for it that she did! I have to smile when I think that others will have the same passion I do for my ‘tennis ball.’ Nevertheless, love pulls and IS infectious for others.
This is so true Dan! I’ve been chasing my tennis ball for almost a year and even though it means less money, it’s so meaningful and enriching to me!
Love the tennis ball analogy. I will adopt that one !!
Yes, what a great analogy to make an important point. I’m doing that very thing, by changing jobs — at 63, coincidentally — to do more of what I love!
Thank you for this post. As someone who changed carriers and now gets to “chase tennis balls” everyday, I couldn’t agree with you more! I am also a regular reader and value all the great information you share.
This is so true and I’m currently undertaking a new project at work, whereby we are seeking staff to list not just skills but common interests and lived experience so we can better match them to support environments that will not just meet outcomes for the Organisation but provide them with greater job satisfaction. I think using the term ‘finding your tennis ball’ is fantastic and I will be using it to describe this process (acknowledgement will be attributed to you Dan). A number of staff have felt threatened by this process, questioning ‘why do you want to know what my hobbies are’. We openly acknowledge that most of us have interests that we pursue for relaxation and personal enjoyment and we in no way wish to diminish that,so hopefully staff can have personal tennis balls and also ones they can chase in their professional domain. Thanks.
‘Selfish enjoyment becomes meaningful fulfillment when it serves others’ – I love that statement as it sums up the leap of faith I have taken recently in using my tennis ball (my dog and his real tennis ball obsession) to help leaders unleash their employee’s tennis balls. A great metaphor – thank you.
Thanks Angela. Best wishes on the journey.
My dog takes her ball with her most times during the day. That’s an interesting concept for your article.
Nice article on tennis ball. its something new i can say..
Nice to see the informative words. Thanks for sharing.
Very informative article. Keep up the good work.