I first played racquetball in high school and loved it right away. It’s intense, fast, highly competitive and an incredible workout.
Less than a year later, not too far into my first semester of college, I befriended a guy who mentioned that he played racquetball and that there were courts on campus just a short walk from where I lived. I brightened up right away and suggested that we play together sometime.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I was cocky or even overly confident about going up against my new friend on the court, but I had developed some skill in the short time I’d been playing and my friend, well, he just looked too big and slow to be much of a player.
He demolished me in our first game. And in our second game, and in the third one, too.
After the beatings he decided to mention that he had played in a semi-pro league for a while. I didn’t know that was a thing.
Sensing that he was about to lose the possibility of establishing a regular game with me due to my utter humiliation, he made me a deal. A right-handed player, he offered to play left-handed until I beat him.
And I did beat him. Six. Months. Later.
And then he switched back to his right hand and destroyed me all over again.
I never did win against his strong hand but the six months it took to break through against his weak hand saw my game improve by leaps and bounds. Beating him that day, conditional though it was, filled me with pure joy because I knew that I had played beyond myself. And I did so through the willing partnership of a very talented friend.
[HT to Anna Schrag for inspiring this post.]
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.