Lessons from Tennis

S M Chen
6 min readAug 17, 2022
David Matthias. Unsplash

I don’t pretend this will be read like Robert Fulghum’s little book: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

For one thing, that title was already taken.

Now over 30 years old, the book has sold over 7M copies.

A book title can be important.

I read a review once of the 1992 book: “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

One of the things the reviewer pointed out (only an opinion, of course) was one of the reasons the book did so well commercially (it was on the NY TIMES bestseller list for 145 weeks and sold 2M copies) was because of its killer title.

I don’t know if that is true, but it may have been.

Compared to both of those titles, mine is rather mundane and pedestrian.

But it is true.

And that is important.

Ernest Hemingway, American writer and Nobel laureate for literature (1954) said this, about writing:

Write one true sentence.

Make it as true as possible.

Then follow it with another true sentence.

And so on.

One could hardly get better advice on writing.

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, who knew a thing or two about music, once opined, of all the great composers, Beethoven knew which note best followed the one just jotted down.

So, composing music is like writing.

Note follows note.

Word follows word.

Of course, just as they say: don’t judge a book by its cover (I’m not sure how true that is anymore), the quality of a book isn’t necessarily related to how well it does commercially.

But sometimes commercial and critical success merge.

Cream does, it seems, eventually rise to the top.

Two examples: “Gone with the Wind” (1936) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960).

Those works garnered for their authors a Pulitzer Prize in Literature.

Neither Margaret Mitchell nor Harper Lee produced another work of similar heft, but their one book was…