Andre Agassi: “I hate tennis with a dark and secret passion.”

Talent can be both a gift and a curse.  What we are good at may not necessarily be what we love. When it is, then the world is beautiful and great. But when it’s not, it becomes hell on earth.  On one hand, you can say “it’s a good problem to have.” Which is true. But from another perspective, it’s a curse.  When you are have no options, you are not responsible for choosing.  The choice is simply forced upon you and you can comfort yourself, always, that the path you are on is simply your destiny.  These were the cards you were dealt and you’re just going through the motions, following the predetermined script.

But when you do have options, choosing can be both liberating and damning. Because then you are truly responsible for whatever comes next.  Thus, this choice can a burden.  If you realize your talent and potential, doing so may consume your entire life requiring thousands upon thousands of hours.  Maybe you’re good at tennis.  But maybe you’re also good at painting!  Or writing!  Or software development!  Or basketball.  Who knows?

But if you don’t pursue and realize your God-given talent, you may also later regret it for the rest of your days.  Emotionally, you might not be able to rationalize away the feeling that you could’ve possibly been a great, possibly been a contender.  Maybe one of the best to have ever played the game.

I learned on Reddit today that Andre Agassi positively despised and hated tennis.  His father, who was Armenian and immigrated to the US from Iran, was a professional boxer and exerted constant pressure of Agassi to play the game and win.  He even built a tennis court in their backyard so Agassi could practice!  To be clear, Agassi possessed tremendous talent.  But in his autobiography, Open, Agassi talks about how tennis consumed his every waking moment and was an enormous, tremendous burden.

Sure, in a way, it’s a privileged perspective.  But I honestly urge empathy if you’re able to summon it.  This gift/curse is a genuine struggle that many people legitimately face.  Andre Agassi —1996 Olympic Gold medalist, eight-time Grand Slam champion, and winner of 30 million USD in prize money— hated tennis.  As the old adage goes: “Be kind to everyone; inside, everyone fights their own war. Everyone bears their own cross.”