On Sunday morning, I watched Rafael Nadal, the king of the clay court, win the French Open for the eleventh time.
Throughout the tournament, he faced several worthy contenders and beat them all. He got lucky on Thursday, saved by the rain when humid conditions changed how high the ball bounced and spun. It threw Nadal off, affecting his performance, and gave his opponent a tiny window of opportunity. (Nadal eventually won the match the next day.)
Nadal is one of the best players in the world because he transcends these variables.
Here are three lessons you can learn from Nadal:
Comfort. Throughout the tournament, Nadal wore Rafa clothing and tennis shoe line by Nike. You can bet that Nike’s engineers and Nadal’s coaches designed clothes that created optimal conditions for him.
Now, you’re unlikely to have a power suit sponsor. But how are you creating comfortable conditions for yourself when you meet a prospective sponsor?
When I work with clients, one step among many we take is create comfort and ease conversationally so that my clients can enjoy engaging conversations.
Routines. Nadal has several idiosyncratic habits on the court. For example, among his preparations after he puts his racquet bags on his bench before playing, he lines up his water bottles just so. Walking around on the court, while not in play, he seems to avoid stepping on the lines of the court. Just before each serve, he tugs at his shorts, pulls up his sleeves at the shoulders, touches his nose, and swoops hair (it used to be longer, so now it’s imaginary hair) behind his ears. And there are others.
Nadal’s routines seem to create order for him. They get his mind and body ready and prepare him to move into a flow state.
What routines do you have? What steps or actions put you into high performance mode?
My clients adopt the right steps in their sales processes and watch for the triggers that signal when it’s time to move to the next step. Rushing the process can throw everything off, something Nadal understands through his habits.
Improve. Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle, had been his coach until last year. According to the NBC Sports announcers chatting away during Sunday’s French Open Men’s Finals, Uncle Toni encouraged Rafa to not get too comfortable with just winning titles. Instead, he taught him to focus on improving each year.
My clients sometimes don’t realize it but launching our work together means the whole organization is uplifted. Everyone touched by our projects rises to a new level of performance, which invites a state of continuous learning and improvement.
You may not be a tennis fan or know much about Rafa Nadal. Pick a different sport or your favorite musician or even another professional you admire. I guarantee that these individuals did not get where they are by luck. They take control of their mindsets, situations, behaviors, moods, intentions, and their learning.
When you’re selling sponsorship — or anything for that matter — there is much you cannot control. But there is plenty you can. Why not take control of these things to tip the odds ever in your favor.
What routines and mindsets do they have and what can you learn to create ideal conditions for the game of your professional life?