One of the big surprises in the tennis world this year was the seemingly abrupt announcement Jan. 10 by Andy Murray that he would be retiring from the sport at the young age of 31, when athletes are usually at or entering their prime.
Murray's reasoning for retirement is that he has been playing through excruciating pain from a lingering hip injury for which he has already had one surgery. Even tasks like putting on shoes and socks is difficult for the tennis star.
Even if Murray does decide to hang up his shoes this year, he's already had a great career, having won:
- US Open in 2012
- Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016
- ATP World Tour Finals in 2016
- two Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016
- Davis Cup championship with Great Britain in 2015
Murray's stellar career can teach entrepreneurs a thing or two, like these three lessons:
1. Defeat is just a step along the journey to success.
In 2012, Murray got all the way to the Wimbledon final, but lost to Roger Federer. This particular loss stung, as Murray was vying to become the first Briton to win the men's singles portion of Britain's signature tennis Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936 and the first Scottish-born player of either sex to win it.
He did just that the next year, defeating Serbian Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final. Suffering such a devastating setback in 2012 could have broken him, but Murray ultimately prevailed and reached his goal.
Anyone who has had a business fail -- especially before you've known success with one -- can relate to this. Sometimes you have to take a step back or a sidestep before you can find real success.
Before we hit on business success, my wife and I tried various different businesses, including trying to start a browser plug-in company focused on internal search engines way back before 2000. It didn't work out and we were frustrated that entrepreneurship was more difficult than we had imagined. We persevered and it ultimately paid off. Our plug-in business and various other failures brought us closer to success because we learned from our mistakes.
2. Don't let the pressure of high expectations get to you.
If you think you're under a lot of pressure to succeed, remember that Murray had an entire kingdom's expectations on his shoulders, as no man from the United Kingdom had won the Wimbledon crown for 76 years when he got to the final in 2012 and 77 years when he won it in 2013. That's a lot of pressure to put on a person. But, he didn't get overwhelmed by crushing expectations.
You may feel this way yourself, especially if you come from a successful entrepreneurial family. There is a lot of pressure to "make it" when you start a business, much of it from yourself. But, you can't let it overwhelm you. There will be setbacks, but these are learning opportunities so you can see what does and doesn't work and prepare better for the future.
A good friend of mine who had entrepreneurial aspirations (and who I believe would have been a fabulous entrepreneur) never pursued them because he didn't think he would be able to reach the same level of success as his entrepreneurial father. He found success with a corporate career, even though that's not really what he wanted to do.
3. Stick to your principles and use your platform to espouse them.
One thing success gives you is a higher platform to speak from. For Murray, being a top tennis player in the world gave him the chance to speak about things he felt passionate about. One of those things was equality for women in the sport.
Having been raised and coached by his mother Judy for a long time, and then later coached by former top women's player Amelie Mauresmo, Murray appreciated the contribution that women make to the tennis world and championed equal prize pay for them. He also advocated that they get equal time to their male counterparts on the featured courts of tennis tournaments.
As a successful entrepreneur, you can use your platform to advocate for what you strongly believe in. My wife and I are strong believers in diversity, so we make a point to hire a diverse workforce and champion the benefits of doing so.
We also take an active role in fighting poverty and homelessness in our community and encourage our employees to do the same. On top of that, we're staunch environmentalists and we do what we can to use our platform to advance that cause.
The tennis world will be losing one of the greats soon, but he has set an inspiring example that we can all follow.