A few days after losing the 2010 French Open Final, Novak Djokovic said to his coach, Marián Vajda, that he wanted to quit. He was ranked third in the world, a grand slam winner, and one of the favorites to win Wimbledon.
His coach asked him, “Why do you play?”
Djokovic immediately sensed the problem: He was focusing on rankings, titles, and playing to impress others. As a result, he said, “I was really messed up, mentally.”
As he pondered the question, he realized something. Most of his fondest childhood memories included his “favorite toy” – a small tennis racket and a soft foam ball. He started playing, “because I loved holding that racket.”
“Do you still love it?” his coach asked. Djokovic thought about it, got excited, and said: “I do. I still love holding a racket in my hand. Whether it's a final on center court or just horsing around, I like playing for the sake of playing.”
His coach then nodded and said, “That's your inspiration. That's what you need to tap into. Put aside rankings, titles and other external stuff, and just play, for the love of it.”
Djokovic agreed. And he has never looked back.
The following season, Djokovic enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in sports history. He won 43 straight matches, including his first Wimbledon title. And he finished the year as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
“I started to play freely,” he said. “I became the kid again, who just loved to play.” There's a word for doing something for the love of doing it:
The word stems from the Greek auto (self) and telos (end) – an autotelic is “someone that has a purpose in, and not apart from, itself.”
For an autotelic,” The work is the win,” as Ryan Holiday says. “You need to get to a place where doing the work is the win and everything else is extra.”
Before we became colleagues, Darryl worked with Andre Martin to build and implement the first Distribution Resource Planning (drp) system at Abbott Labs in Montreal – connecting distribution and manufacturing operations, working to a single set of numbers, and changing how distribution and manufacturing operations were planned forever.
We met and began our collaboration at Canadian Tire, in Toronto, Canada in the mid-1990s. The team I was leading was in the process of re-engineering how product flow planning was done. Darryl (and Andre) helped us convince the Executive team that our design – essentially flowcasting – would work and also helped us during the initial implementation, especially with respect to education and supplier scheduling.
Shortly after, he and Andre took their idea of an integrated supply chain to see some of the big technology players in the supply chain planning space – with a goal to get them to build a store-level, integrated solution – even offering to help in the process. But every one of them said no. They didn't believe the market need was there and/or a solution could be built to scale to the retail volumes and specific planning challenges.
Undaunted, and in keeping with an autotelic philosophy, they said “fuck it, we'll build it ourselves. And they did. Darryl was the chief architect, along the way teaching himself Java and how to code again.
The result was a stunningly simple and elegant solution, including developing leading retail solutions for slow sellers, seasonal planning, promotions, scalability, and true daily net-change planning, among others.
The love of the work inspired him…and still does.
In fact, he's just finishing re-architecting the solution to a leading-edge, ultra-modern platform to provide clients a robust, flexible, infinitely scalable, and affordable solution.
At any time, someone is always the best in the world.
In tennis, it's Novak.
For Flowcasting solutions, it's Darryl.
Perhaps there's a lesson here.
Maybe, to be the best in the world, you need to be autotelic!