My good friend, Bob Ryland (above) was the first black professional tennis player, and Arthur Ashe’s hero. When Arthur Ashe was 14, he said, “I only want to be good enough to be able to beat Bob Ryland.”

Whenever I speak to Bob, he compliments me on all the good work I’m doing, and I say, “I’m just trying to improve every day and make a difference in the world.”

Then he yells at me.

“Stop ‘TRYING,’ just do it! You ARE doing it! Eliminate that word from your vocabulary.”

He’s right.

There’s no such thing as “trying” to do something.

You either do or you don’t.

Thank you, Bob Ryland.


Speaking with Bob Ryland at Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education in Philadelphia

As we close out Black History Month, my thoughts are with a good friend of mine, Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Bob was Arthur Ashe’s hero. In fact, when Arthur Ashe was 14, he said, “I only want to be good enough to be able to beat Bob Ryland.”

Bob has taught tennis to the Williams sisters, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and many others in his career. I recently had lunch in New York City with the living legend and every time is like the first time. What impresses me about Ryland is that even though he lived through segregation, he stays one of the most optimistic people I know.

You think it’s hard to play tournament tennis nowadays?

I remember when Bob told me about a time when he got accepted into a tournament in California because of his high ranking. But once he arrived, and the tournament director saw that he was black, Ryland was told to “Go get some lunch and come back.”

When he returned, the tournament director said that his opponent showed up and Ryland wasn’t here, so he was disqualified. Of course, this was intentional because of the color of his skin.

Ryland also frequently was pulled over by the police for no reason. There were blacks strung up on trees and also dragged down the street when he was a young boy. He lived through hell.

Bob Ryland could easily be bitter and angry at those situations, but he isn’t. According to him, “It is what it is.”

Much of life is not what happens to us, but how we react.

I am proud to say that Bob Ryland is a dear friend, hero and role model. Bob will be 91 years young this June 16th and you can be sure he will be around the Central Park Tennis Courts once the weather warms up.

Many people say, “Be like Mike.” Today, I say, “Be like Bob.”

Thanks for reading.



Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is more important than the outcome.



So today I went into the city to spend some time with my friend, the great Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player and Arthur Ashe’s hero. We had a great lunch with tennis pro Fred Weiland and then Bob and I walked over to the Central Park Tennis Courts and talked to some people, including Caroline, who runs the courts, about Bob and me giving a talk there.

On my way up to the city, I got a message on Facebook from Ben Sturner, CEO of Leverage Agency, one of the top sports and entertainment agencies in the world. Ben invited me to his gorgeous office, filled with sports memorabilia on Fifth Ave. My schedule allowed, so I stopped by.

Ben and I were sitting in his office talking about when I could talk to his team about goal-setting. And then he said, how about today?

“Let’s do it,” I said.

I didn’t have anything prepared, but I have spent my whole career preparing.

As a speaker, the last thing I want to do is rely on my notes. My goal is to speak from the heart and as a result, I know the material better and can give impromptu talks like today in New York City.

How can this help you?

1. Know your stuff.
2. Be brave (and flexible) enough to perform in a moments notice.
3. Give it your all, whether you feel like it or not.
4. Never turn down an opportunity to share your knowledge and improve your craft.
5. Help others.

Thanks for reading.


From Arthur Ashe on Tennis

“It is not just the more talented player who wins. Some players may try a little harder. Some players may be a little smarter with strategy and tactics. Some players may be in better shape. Some players may have a better temperament for the game. All of those things, added up, can negate a talent advantage. For instance, if you ask who was more talented in his prime, John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors, it’s no contest: McEnroe. But if you look at the number of pro tournaments each has won, there is no comparison: Connors has one hundred and nine, McEnroe has seventy-seven. (Connors also leads in Grand Slam singles titles, eight to seven.) To be a winner, you must be a fierce competitor as well as a shot maker.”

Desire wins. Want it more than you’re afraid of it….

It doesn’t matter if it’s on the field, in the classroom or in the boardroom.

Thanks for reading.


“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is more important than the outcome.”

Well, I have a few big days coming up.

I head into NYC today for the USTA Tennis Teachers Conference. I will be speaking alongside industry leaders, such as, Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert, Mary Joe Fernandez and Peter Burwash on Monday. Then, on Tuesday, I will be doing a book signing at the US Open Bookstore just before Billie Jean King.

As I tell my close friends, this is going to be…


You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Everything is a stepping stone to something better. Once you think you’ve made it, you’re done. I will never think I’ve made it. I seek to constantly improve.

Bruce Springsteen was once asked backstage after one of his concerts, how he gave such a great performance every night.
Bruce said, “That’s easy – two things…

#1. Every night I tell myself that this is the most important concert of my my career…and #2…

It’s only rock and roll.

What does this mean? Your effort should be all out, but your attitude should be a little relaxed.

It’s only rock and roll.
It’s only tennis.
It’s only a talk and book signing…

Next blog message from NYC…

Thanks for reading.


Today I will be giving a talk at Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education with Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player. It comes at a good time, just after the inauguration of our first black president and just before Black History Month.

We will be interviewed live on NBC Philadelphia at their studios and then by Comcast Sportsnet. There will also be several local newspapers reporting the event. Our talk begins at 7pm.

Now I know what you’re thinking…what does a Chinese-American tennis pro have to do with this?

I’ll tell you what. It’s not about the color of your skin. It’s about people helping people. It’s about giving people hope.

If I can fail out of college twice and become Pro of the Year and Mr. Ryland can overcome segregation and other challenges, imagine what YOU can do…

The message today will be…


Check back tomorrow for a full report.

Thanks for reading.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to the great Ian Rubel.

Recently, I have spent quite a bit of time with Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player. In our conversations, we talk about playing and teaching tennis, the experiences he’s gone through, and life.

Mr. Ryland has seen it all. He lived through segregation before Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. He has coached some of the best players in the world. Earlier this week, Bob and I were sitting at his kitchen table in his apartment overlooking the New York City skyline when he told me the secret.

“You gotta work hard. If you want to become as good as the Williams sisters, you have to train like the Williams sisters. They are not more talented than everyone else, they just work harder. And don’t give up.”

So you have to put in the work. There is no substitute. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. There’s plenty of talented people out there, but it’s the ones that work hard and keep going that succeed.

“Arthur Ashe wasn’t a great player. I wasn’t a great player. Ivan Lendl wasn’t a great player. We just worked hard,” said Mr. Ryland.

Pete Sampras said the accomplishment he is most proud of is finishing number one in the world, six years in a row. He said, “To me, greatness lies in going out there day after day and getting the job done.”

So work hard at practice, at work, at school, but remember something else that Bob Ryland said…

“Have fun!”

Thanks for reading.


Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player.

Bob’s wife Nancy said he couldn’t put the book down!

New friends. Notice the photos of Bob and Arthur Ashe in the background.

A wonderful gift from the great one.

So yesterday I spent the day with Bob Ryland. I don’t know where to begin. It’s amazing enough that he was the first black professional tennis player. But he was also Arthur Ashe’s hero. He coached the Williams sisters, and travelled around the world as Bill Cosby’s personal tennis coach.

I went to Mr. Ryland’s apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City to talk about the book he wants me to help him write. I hit the record button on the brand new bright white digital recorder as the 88 year old tennis legend talked about his life, on and off the court. He brought me back in time to his early days in Alabama around the 1920s. He was called racist names and frequently saw blacks “strung up” in the trees outside his front door while walking to school in the morning. He really had to sit in the back of the bus, and if it was too full, he had to either stand or get off. They had separate bathrooms and water fountains for blacks. And in college, the black players had to wait until night to sneak into the dorms to sleep. The white boys on the tennis team went into the shops to get them food and brought it to them. And yes, he almost got killed several times.

I have read about those days in the history books, but Bob Ryland lived those days. If Bob was a bitter man, I probably wouldn’t blame him, but he says, “I’m just a regular guy. I overcame adversity and became better because of it.”

Bob has coached the Williams sisters and told me a secret. “They weren’t more talented than everyone else, they just worked harder. 6am to 6pm was their workout schedule.” So if you want to become a great tennis player, just train like a great tennis player.

So Bob knows the importance of overcoming adversity and how hard work beats talent, but the thing that really stuck with me is that Bob really is just a regular guy.

I asked him what the most important lessons he has learned in his life and he said: be a good person, listen, and smile.

He didn’t mention anything about tennis…a regular guy?

I don’t think so.

None of my blog readers should ever complain that their life is tough.

” ‘Game. Set. Life.’ can help you accomplish whatever you want in life and teach you how to stay ahead of the game, concentrate, focus, and give you confidence. I wish I had read this book when I was playing.”
-BOB RYLAND, December 2, 2008, New York City

Thanks for reading.

Checkout “Game. Set. Life.” in The Daily Racquet in Hawaii…