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or "the art of doing what we don't like to do".
What separates the successful from the unsuccessful?
"Many things" is probably the best answer but one thing that I have noticed is successful people are very good at identifying their long-term NEEDS and then working towards those, even if they don't like the tasks involved. Others do what they enjoy doing and think shorter-term.
We all have strategies for avoiding doing things we don't like. A friend of mine always used to say "Phillip is making boxes". This referred to my liking for creating organization instead of addressing the task at hand. I still find myself saying "No, boxes today, Phillip".
The term used in business is "Eating the frog". This "frog" is the most important task that needs to be done on any given day. It's probably the most odious task on your list and just as probably has been postponed many times.
The idea of actually eating a whole frog is horrible. I don't know if that means cooked or raw, but either way it doesn't sound very appetizing, not withstanding certain cultural and gastronomic differences. It represents the concept of doing the worst, but most important, task first. By "eating the frog" first thing in the morning you do a few things.
Firstly, you actually do the task that NEEDS to be done. That sounds obvious and I suppose it is, but we too often don't do it.
Secondly, you avoid the opportunity to "make boxes" or any other analogy that means you can put the frog aside for a while.
And thirdly, you feel better about yourself because you have completed a hated task and whatever you do for the rest of the day, that day has been a success.
So how does this relate to squash?
Too often I see players, mostly alone, but also in pairs, practicing something they are already good at. It's probably a self-fulfilling circle. You enjoy one type of practice, so you do it more - you get better at it - so you do it more because you are getting better at it - and so on. You don't do the routine you are worst at (meaning it's probably the most important one to do), so you never do it.
One element to successful practicing is to "eat your frog" first.
Currently, I am struggling to hit straight shots off crosscourts. My timing is a little off and I am fractionally late. Knowing I am late doesn't help because I just need more practice. So, my frog is a variation of a "figure of eight" volley routine, where I hit a forehand crosscourt into the front backhand corner and when it comes back to me, I hit (or try to hit!) a straight backhand. From that I hit a backhand crosscourt into the forehand corner and so on.
I HATE it.
I hate it precisely BECAUSE I am bad at it. If I don't do 100 immediately after the general and ball warm up, I don't do them. I'm mentally weak. We all are at various times. But, I do know that from now on it will be the first exercise I do until I am good at it. It has to be from now on because I have written this article and this article was a form of "making boxes".
Accept that the thing we need to improve most is the thing that is probably least fun or rewarding to do. Therefore, we MUST do it first before we find excuses to avoid it. Accept also that eventually we will improve sufficiently that we consider ourselves much better at it and will have to find another frog.
I used to occasionally hit with a professional player (who shall remain nameless) who was a regular practice partner of Jansher Khan. His philosophy was simple: Whatever Jansher did, he would do just a little more.
On the surface it's a good idea. If one of the best players in the world did something, it must be worth doing and if you do more then even better. But, it misses a HUGE point and that is each player needs DIFFERENT things from their training. It's reminds me of the 1970's phrase from BOSE: "Work smarter not harder".
Let's take this idea a step further. Look at your "squash life" and I bet you can find many areas that would benefit from change or improvement. I've only mentioned my practice routine, but you could have Frogs for nutrition, fitness work, mental training.
Like everybody, I see and read plenty of sayings and motivational phrases, especially on Twitter nowadays, but one that I saw very recently that I can't get out of my head that is closely related to the "Frog" idea is this...
"To get something you have never had, you must do something you have never done".
It seems to fit perfectly. If you want to improve your weaknesses then you have to do the practices you have avoided in the past.
Don't avoid them anymore.
From this point forward, make a pact with me that you will "Eat your frog" at every opportunity.
Not only will your squash improve but you will become mentally stronger too.
This was originally published on Squashsite.co.uk on 20th February 2014
© Copyright 2020 Phillip Marlowe