Modern sellers, take note. Novak Djokovic’s mindset revelations for elite athleticism are also applicable for sales professionals and sales leaders. Embrace the reality that constant positivity is impossible, view mental strength as a skill, and conquer the fear of success.
Novak Djokovic is one of the winningest tennis players in the history of the game. He has earned 24 Grand Slam singles titles in men’s tennis, including seven at Wimbledon.
He got his start in tennis around the age of 5, on a tiny tennis court where his first coach invited him to play when she saw him looking through the fence. The court was next to a pizzeria that his parents ran on the property of a very modest ski resort. His coming of age in tennis and in life was surrounded by civil war during the 1990s as Yugoslavia disintegrated, and he lived in what is today Serbia. His time on the court and in school was interrupted by air raid sirens and living in a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of his grandparents’ apartment building.
A long way from the world-famous tennis star of today who has repeatedly won against the very best tennis has to offer. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes he shared his perspective on what it takes to be an elite athlete.
In this article I’m sharing some of the most surprising perspectives and my thoughts on them; they’re very counterintuitive to what we hear most often about mindset.
1. It’s impossible to just think positive thoughts and stay optimistic all the time. In his interview, Djokovic shared that he didn’t believe in the ability to stay positive all the time. We human beings experience a range of emotions. The elite performer recognizes quickly when they’re in a state of negativity and works their way out of it quickly. Djokovic shared that he doesn’t stay in those negative states for too long, and that’s what helps him to stay at the top of the game.
2. Mental strength isn’t a gift, it’s a skill. When you look at it in that way, you can let go of the idea that you’re either born with it or you’re not. Mental strength isn’t necessarily about toughness, but about resilience. It’s about being able to take the learning points from challenging situations and use them for the future. To develop our awareness of when we’re struggling and finding positive ways to deal with those struggles.
3. Play your best when it matters. Every tennis match has its highs and lows. One player will dominate for a stretch and the other player will make their way back and dominate for a stretch. In elite matches, the margin of victory is a single point. Sometimes you win when you don’t play as well as you’d like, and sometimes you lose even when you feel you’re at your best. When it matters most to the situation, finding a way to be at your best and putting yourself in the best position to win.
4. Be aware of your fear of winning. There’s a lot said and written about the fear of losing. But what about the fear of winning? The fear of success? As you move from where you are today to a future state and you experience great success, it’s not only about the destination but about who you become on the way to the destination. Do you hold yourself back not because you fear losing, but you fear what new goals, challenges, and expectations there might be because you won?
Sales and leadership are professions that require all the skills of mental strength, moving through negative emotions, playing your best when it matters, and confidence in winning. You can apply these skills to your greater sales strategy, a specific industry or client, and even to the deal level.
I’d encourage you to sit down with each of these and reflect on where you successfully practice these skills today, and where you have opportunities to improve. Amplifying or improving even one will make a significant and positive difference to your sales year.
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