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.”

The Relationship System

Last weekend I was having dinner with Alex and we got to talking about relationships.  I’ve been together with Bagel now for a little over two years and Alex, who’s known me for a good long while, was frankly flabbergasted and mind-boggled that I’d sustained this relationship with Bagel for as long as I have.  To be fair, if I’m being completely honest, I’m somewhat amazed too. Anyway, Alex suggested that I write up what I’d described to her. Haha, she even suggested that I write a “relationship book” one day! While I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, I still needed to complete my long-form writing for this week. So here we go.

First, some background.

As with many things, I think’s useful to understand whence this story starts in order to better appreciate where it is now.

When I was a (much) younger man, and I can say this now with the full benefit of 20/20 hindsight, but it is fair to say that I lacked a fair amount of social grace.  I was selfish and arrogant.  And looking back now, I realize I was quite insufferable.  It’s actually a small wonder that I possessed any friends at all.  Emboldened by having achieved a modicum of success early in life, that’d given me an inflated sense of self.  I remember studying very hard through my high school and college years, not even bothering with dating or paying an iota of interest to girls or relationships.  In my own mind, I was too busy for all of that.  While other kids partied and went out to have fun, I was always in my room or at the library studying.  While they went to Prom or Homecoming, I was inside hitting the books telling myself that, “one day, all those morons will be pumping my gas” while I, in my elaborate imagination, worked tirelessly towards a life of riches and luxury.

Continue reading “The Relationship System”