MESSAGE #999 LEADERSHIP (and failure)

Today I’m going back to where I failed out twice, Rider University, while studying computers.

No, I’m not going back to get my degree (I have a degree from Ferris State University’s Marketing/Professional Tennis Management program).

I’m going back to Rider to be the opening speaker for their Team Leadership Challenge. This is my second time speaking at this great event and this year’s theme is  “Navigating Your Way to Success.”

That’s funny to me.

When I started college it was as if I needed a map, but after failing out twice, I CHOSE to follow my passion (sports) and transferred to Ferris State. My grades skyrocketed. I graduated in 1997 and was named Pro of the Year for the USTA in 2005. After that, I started my own business, wrote a book and became a motivational speaker.

So what is leadership?

I think a big part of leadership is being brave enough to follow your passion. It’s about helping others. Leaders do things because it is the right thing to do, regardless of what others may think. That’s when people will follow. But it’s not about having followers…

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. -RALPH NADER

If you look at all of the great leaders in history, they all made everyone else better, whether it is Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King or Henry Ford. Focusing on yourself is weak. Focusing on others is powerful.

So today I hope to motivate, energize, and inspire the students at Rider, but more importantly, I hope to produce more leaders.


“It is on our failures that we base a new and different and better success.”

I’m very excited about today.

I’m going back to Rider University, where I started college, to speak to Professor Cordonnier’s Sport and Gender class.

I really like going back to Rider to speak to the current students and help out the professors, but what I like most about going back to Rider is the fact that I failed out of there…twice!

Yes, you heard that correctly.

I failed out of Rider twice and then went back and was MC of their Leadership Day, was a facilitator for an athlete-musician workshop and spoke to another Sport and Gender class.

So what happened?

It turns out that failing out of Rider was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had a choice whether to continue with computers, which was my father’s field, or follow my passion. I did some soul searching and decided that if I didn’t follow my passion, I would regret it.

So I “transferred” to Ferris State University and their Marketing/Professional Tennis Management program. The funny thing is that once I started that program, my grades skyrocketed.

Did I get a brain transplant?

No, I became “into” school. Then I graduated and was named the USTA Pro of the Year in 2005.

Most people are just in their sport or job.

But the great ones are “into” their sport or job.

Do what you love, love what you do.

Then you’ll work harder.

Then you’ll get better results.

Then you’ll have more fun and reach peak performance.

Everyone fails, but not everyone gets back on the horse.

Thanks for reading.


Recently, the great Desmond Oon, Ph.D., author of “Can Eastern Wisdom Improve Your Tennis? You Bet.” sent me an email.

Dr. Oon is a USPTA Master Professional, former Davis Cup coach and captain of the Republic of Singapore, played on the international tennis circuit in the 1960’s and board-certified hypnotherapist. He read about my book in the latest ADDvantage magazine for USPTA teaching professionals and wanted to do a book exchange. I was honored.

I remember attending one of Dr. Oon’s workshops while I was at Ferris State University – it was one I will never forget. He hit topspin with a telephone book!

I have since begun reading Oon’s book and love it. Here is an excerpt…

Eastern Wisdom: You Can’t Succeed If You Often Change Course

Oon’s Take: In life, we can’t manage too many affairs at the same time. It is like trying to hold down several pumpkins in the water concurrently. When we try to hold down too many with both hands, another pops up and we have to repeat the action.

If you set out to achieve certain objectives on court, you have a better chance of success, if you stick to your plan of action. Your success rate will fall if you keep on changing objectives, in mid-stream, even before they are realized.

Give your plan of action time to show results. You can’t succeed if you often change course, in the middle of a match.

Thank you Dr. Oon and thanks for reading.


“Your focus is your future.”

I played tennis this morning at the Ferris State Racquet and Fitness Center. I have not been playing very consistently in New Jersey, the court surface was very fast, and I was playing “The Quadfather,” Anwar Khan of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Obviously, my timing was off initially, but I managed to make adjustments. We played three groundstroke games to eleven and I won two of them. After that, we played a set and it was pretty close. Towards the end of the set, Anwar took the lead and I began to get nervous. I started thinking, “What if I lose? What will people think?” I was missing easy shots. But luckily I used my mental training skills, re-focused and went back to thinking about my strategy and placement.

It worked.

I ended up winning 7-6, and 7-5 in the tiebreaker.

This was a great way to end a great weekend.

It was a pleasure seeing some old friends and making some new ones. I enjoyed they workshops presented by industry leaders such as, Scott Schultz, Eddie Luck, David Brower, Paul Marcum, Chris Michalowski, Dan Moster, Pat Kearns, Sam Chrome, Mike Snyder, and Dave Ramos.

The Professional Tennis Management program at Ferris State University helped me reach many of my goals and it was my pleasure to come back, give back, and help inspire the next generation of industry leaders.

Thanks for reading.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to all the great alumni, Professional Tennis Management students, staff and guests at Ferris State University this weekend for the Annual Banquet and Workshop Weekend.

I am sitting here in the Ferris State University Racquet and Fitness Center in Big Rapids, Michigan. I spent a good part of three years here in Ferris’ Professional Tennis Management Program and graduated in 1997. It is exciting to be back not only an alumni, but as a featured speaker. I look forward to seeing some familiar faces, meeting some new people and presenting to the program.

Christin Thurston, formerly Christin Schumann, USPTA tennis professional and USPTA Executive Director of Northern Division, was in the PTM program at the same time as me and is back for the weekend. Below is a brief interview with her.

ET: How has Ferris State prepared you for your current position in the tennis industry?

CT: This program is unique because it not only shows students how to teach the game, but it also provides a marketing and business , which is one of the challenges in the industry.

ET: How has sports/teaching helped you in other areas of life?
CT: It has helped me stay focused on the task at hand and be more mindful of different options in difficult situations.

ET: What tips can you give to someone who wants to get to the next level in their tennis game?
CT: Practice as often as you can, with whoever you can, it doesn’t matter what level they are.

ET: In your experience teaching, do you believe in the saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard?” 
CT: I do agree and as I always say, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” There is no substitute for hard work.

ET: Thank you for your time and enjoy the weekend…
CT: Thank you, it’s great to be back.

Wish me luck on my talk tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.


Photos: Ed on Comcast SportsNet’s Sports Nite, USPTA Midwest Convention (Todd Martin, Ed with Derek Ameel and Collin Cadwell from Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management Program)
Today’s message is especially dedicated to the great Erin Fouty in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
After you read this blog message, you can tell everyone you learned the secret.
I was nervous this past weekend.
Very nervous.
I was one of the speakers at the USPTA Midwest Convention in Troy, Michigan. Todd Martin and Wayne Bryan were also presenting.
I get nervous before every talk I give, but I was especially nervous this weekend because I was going to speak in front of my peers, industry leaders, former classmates and tennis experts.
But I gave my talk, felt great about it, received positive feedback, and sold many books.
So what happened?
Well, whenever I get nervous, I know I am about to do something important. I would rather be nervous than not care. I also think about Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods gets nervous before every shot…but he doesn’t act or look nervous.
If you are nervous and want to feel confident, all you have to do is act confident.
Winners and losers feel the same feelings, they just take different action.
That’s the secret.
Thanks for reading.