Excerpt: Venus Williams' 'Come to Win'

I'll use ideas from the contributors in Come to Win to inspire my next generation of signs. I can see the first one already; it simply says, "Extreme Effort." It will remind me that just as I have to work my tail off as an athlete, I'll have to put in the hours at EleVen and V Starr to make them work. As a little girl I practiced no fewer than five hours a day, every single day of the year. The only time we got a break was when it rained, which is why, to this day, I still find the rain comforting. Every athlete in this book somehow acquired a similar work ethic. Dr. Keith L. Black got up at five to swim laps before school, and Wang trained twelve hours each day. Richie Rich puts it in context: "Practice was an hour and twenty minutes away. I would go to the rink and skate for about four hours and then drive an hour to school, then after school, go to the local mall, Vallco, and skate, and then do my homework. And I loved it. Looking back at how hard I worked, it was so crazy." Crazy, yes. But just as the focus helped him launch his business, having a similar work ethic has already served me in my schoolwork and in playing professionally, in preparing designs for my clients, and in training for a major tournament. It goes back to what Bratton calls "Extreme Effort"—hence the sign. As she explains, "One of the greatest lessons I learned from sports that has helped me in business is to never be afraid to put extreme effort in. If you don't do your absolute best, then you can't expect to achieve anything different from what anybody else has done."

There are so many more lessons that are transferrable, so many more "signs," some related to teamwork, some related to visualizing success before you even start a challenge, others related to leadership or the notion of consistent improvement. It inspires me to know that the more I design, the better at it I'll become. The most surprising takeaway I gained from working on this book, however, is that people who've walked the path I want to walk have found that they learned more from losing than from winning. I was brought up to respect my parents, so I could relate to Jack Welch's respect for his mother, Grace, and the influence she had on his development. He recounts a time when she runs into the boys' locker room after a loss in which he ungraciously threw his hockey stick across the ice in anguished defeat. Suddenly his mother appears in a floral print dress, yelling at him in front of all his teammates. Embarrassing, I'm sure. But the lesson stayed with him: "If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win," she insisted. I'm not sure if that's a slogan I'll laminate anytime soon, though intellectually I can see how she might be right. For me, losing is still emotional.

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