Career Moves: Are we surprised?
8 May 2009
Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Outliers reveals that it generally takes about 10,000 hours of work, training, practice for anyone to become world-class in any field.
This is the price of world-class success.
But what does it take for someone to be so committed to a pursuit to devote 10,000 hours to it?
The field of endeavour must be a great match for the person’s individuality, personality and character. [10,000 hours = 4 hours per day for almost 7 years!]
When we consider Rafael Nadal’s rise to the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis we would of course expect to find many factors that have helped him get there.
We know about his strong family support, with his uncle Toni, a former professional tennis player himself, being his coach for nearly 18 years. We know he lived across the road from a tennis court, and started to play from the age of four. So he had plenty of time and opportunity to learn, practice, and hone his skills. And since his uncle was a tennis coach already, he would have had plenty of encouragement.
And, of course, some natural talent and a strong physique are also great assets to bring to the sport of tennis.
As an astrologer, as a curious human being, it is interesting to discover some of the personal qualities that Rafa brings to his success that tell us a deeper story.
Rafael Nadal was born 3 June 1986 in Manacor, Mallorca. We therefore know he is a Gemini (which means his Sun was in Gemini on the day of his birth). This makes him a thinker, someone who is curious and can be endlessly fascinated by learning. This is reinforced by his Mercury (planet of the mind) being in the same sign as well.
The Sun also symbolises the kind of hero a person can be. Gemini can also be a trickster. Just when you think he is beaten on a point he retrieves a ball and turns it into a winner. His mental vitality will help him to be constantly thinking about such possibilities. His mental toughness has already earned him great respect.
Nadal’s Moon is in Taurus, the sign of the Bull. Taurus is known for being deliberate in its actions – and quite often stubborn. The Moon represents one’s emotional nature, and it is in Nadal’s emotional make-up to want to play on his own terms, in a way that he can control the action, and in a way that can give him a predictable result. His heavy top-spin game gives him an edge with all of these things. His deliberate preparation before each point is legendary. (Some people mistake it for time-wasting: it is anything but that. It is a typical Taurean need to be prepared at the crucial moment.)
Nadal’s Mars is in Capricorn. Capricorn is the sign of the sea-goat, which climbs out of the water, and up the mountain. It is the sign of long-term aspirations, hard work, working within a system of rules and limitations to achieve what one wants. Mars is about how one takes action. Nadal’s work ethic is becoming legendary. He has certainly put in his 10,000 hours and more to become the best in the world. There is still a sense with Nadal that he still wants to improve his tennis, even though he generally wins his matches by a wide margin.
It is interesting that the word GOAT is also an acronym for ‘Greatest Of All Time’. And while Nadal has the humility not to seem to aspire to that title, if he maintains his standard of the last year for another two or three years (which will be a huge task) we will see more people start to think of him in those terms. Already we are seeing him talked about in terms of ‘possibly the greatest clay-court player of all time’, because nobody has come close to beating him on clay for years.
Rafa, however, does have genuine humility, despite his competitive nature. Both he and his coach, uncle Toni, have a Sun-Chiron conjunction in their birth charts. Chiron is the place of wounding; here it is the hero’s wound. Toni’s career as a tennis player ended, it seems, because he couldn’t get into the top 20 tennis players in Spain. He is very aware of the possibilities of failure. He has been known to let Rafa fail to let him learn a lesson (when the stakes haven’t been too high).
There is a sense that both Rafa and Toni are acutely aware that injury or other unforeseen events could end the whole journey, that success will have an end. And that is why no success is ever taken for granted. Nadal genuinely appreciates every tournament he gets to play, and honours the spectators with his thanks. His delight at winning is as if he had won his first tournament. Or is it that one day it may be his last victory?
These, and other factors, will help Nadal to maintain a good attitude to the sport he loves. Provided he maintains his health and fitness, we can expect to see amazing tennis from him for a long time yet. And the inevitable GOAT label may well follow. But that is history yet to unfold.
In the meantime, a question worth pondering is ‘What are my talents, skills, personality, and character, and to what successes am I steering my life?’ Virtually none of us are competing to be the GOAT in our field; that is not the question. But do we fully realise which field could bring us our greatest successes? If we know and understand ourselves so that we are doing what we are truly most passionate about, we are more likely to find ourselves busy in that field of activity that can bring us our greatest success.
© Rainer Rollfink, 2009