Monday, December 2, 2013

Life Lessons from the Ping-Pong Table!

Like several of my colleagues at work, I too look forward to the lunch hour every day. Not just for the appetizing canteen food, or the lunch room conversations – but for the table-tennis game that follows after lunch.

It is a pastime that seems to be gaining in popularity, and with younger folks joining the organization, the standards seem to be going up too. It’s usually a series of matches involving doubles teams, and apart from being a healthy stress-buster it is also a great leveler (where else would you find the rookie accounts officer hammering the CFO!)

As I sat back and thought of the fun-and-games, I couldn’t help thinking that the daily ping-pong session also offers us some interesting life lessons. Here are just a few:

1.      Not too high, not too low. It’s a simple game after all. Hit the ball – not so low that it doesn’t clear the net - and not so high that it does not land on the table. Most things in business – and in life - are like that. It’s about finding balance. In dealing with people, you can’t be so hard that no one wants to work with you – and you can’t be so soft that no one takes you seriously. You can’t invest so much that the returns never seem enough, nor should you invest so little that sustaining the business becomes unviable. And remember, you have to make that adjustment. The net won’t get any lower – nor will the table become any longer. You need to adjust.

2.      Two better players don’t always make a stronger team. We often think great teams are just about having highly talented individual players. As we see every afternoon, the two stronger individual players don’t always end up winning as a team. Teamwork is about learning to get the best out of your team-mate, covering for the other’s weaknesses – and helping him (or her) to play to his full potential. Good lesson to remember – on the table-tennis table and off it too.

3.      Small things matter. We have a table that cost quite a bit and some very nice, expensive racquets too. And yet, there are days when we don’t get to play – because we have run out of table-tennis balls! A ball only cost some 15 rupees or so – but without it – life comes to a standstill. And we seem to only worry about them when they are not there. Good question to ask yourself: what are the ping-pong balls in your life? Who are those almost forgotten, seemingly insignificant folks – without whom your life wouldn’t be the same?

4.      Blame it on the racquet! It happens all the time. Someone hits a bad shot, or loses a few points – and then what does he do? He looks disgustedly at his racquet and reaches out for a change of racquets. The message seems to be clear: The problem is not with me, it’s that damn racquet! When things go wrong we always look for someone or something to blame it on. A bad workman – even in sport – still blames his tools. Maybe a good idea to just take a deep breath, and focus on your game – and not worry about the racquet. Most times, the racquet is only as good as the person holding it!

5.      It’s just a sport – but everyone wants to win! The competitiveness on the table is to be seen to be believed. It doesn’t matter that not every player is an expert and there are no big prizes to be won, everybody is playing to win. It’s fun alright, but there is an underlying desire to do well, to get that next point, to win. And that’s a good attitude to have in life. Have fun. But ensure you are playing to win. Focus on the next point – don’t worry about the last one. Remember, no matter how strong the opposition maybe, you can win the next point. And the next. You can win. That’s what sport is all about. Heck, isn’t that what life is all about?


* * * * * *