Andre Agassi:

Brad says my overall problem, the problem that threatens to end my career prematurely, the problem that feels like my father’s legacy, is perfectionism.

“You always try to be perfect,” he says, “and you always fall short. It fucks with your head. Your confidence is shot. And perfectionism is the reason. You try to hit a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes, would be enough to win 90% of the time.”

“Quit going for the knock-out. Stop swinging for the fences. All you have to be is solid.”

“You don’t have to be the best in the world every time you go out there. You just have to be better than one guy. Instead of you succeeding, make him fail. Better yet, let him fail. It’s all about odds and percentages. You’re from Vegas. You should have an appreciation of odds and percentages. The house always wins, right? Why? Because the odds are stacked in the house’s favor. So? Be the house. Get the odds in your favor.”

“Right now, by trying for a perfect shot with every ball, you’re stacking the odds against yourself. You’re assuming too much risk. You don’t need to assume so much risk. Fuck that. Just keep the ball moving. Back and forth. Nice and easy. Solid. Be like gravity, man. Just like motherfucking gravity. When you chase perfection, when you make perfection the ultimate goal, do you know what you’re doing? You’re chasing something that doesn’t exist. You’re making everyone around you miserable. You’re making yourself miserable. Perfection is about five times a year you wake up perfect, when you can’t lose to anybody. But it’s not those five times a year that make a tennis player. Or a human being for that matter. It’s the other times.

“It’s all about your head, man. With your talent, if you’re 50% game-wise, but 95% head-wise, you’re going to win. But if you’re 95% game-wise, and 50% head-wise, you’re going to lose, lose, lose. Again, and since you’re from Vegas, put it this way: It takes 21 sets to win a slam. That’s all. You need to win just 21 sets. 7 matches, best of 5. That’s 21. In tennis, like cards, 21’s a winner. Blackjack. Focus on that number, and you won’t go wrong. Simplify, simplify. Every time you win a set, say to yourself, that’s one down, that’s one in my pocket. At the start of a tournament, count backward from 21. That’s positive thinking, see?

Of course, speaking for myself, when I’m playing blackjack, I’d rather win with 16, because that’s winning ugly. No need to win with 21. No need to be perfect.

Makes me think of DHH. He’s always been really good about being really clear about his desired outcome, and go straight for that, with the absolute minimum effort. Still does a great job, but only along the parameters that matter for the desired outcome.

Here’s a recent quote from DHH about risk:

“I absolutely hate risk. I think it’s a misnomer that entrepreneurs somehow are in love with risk and making big gambles and taking big bets. I think that’s probably true for some. It’s certainly not true for me. And I think it’s certainly not true for a large constituency of other successful entrepreneurs.”

Calculate the odds. The shortest route to where you actually want to go. And go there.

Perfectionism fucks with that, because it’s a destination you can never reach.



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