Turning Pro Tips: Li Na

Have you read Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art? If so, you know he’s written an entire section (and a separate book) on Turning Pro.  I love the idea of that in order to take our lives to the next level, we have to take on a different attitude. I see this is everything from writing, to eating (or overeating), to tennis. So, I’m going to be sharing a series of Turning Pro Tips featuring real-life pros from different walks of life sharing tips that have helped them take their passionsand their lives to the next level. Today’s featured tips are from Li Na, China’s tennis star who is currently ranked #2 in the world after winning her second Grand Slam tournament at the 2014 Australian Open.

Turning Pro Tips by Li Na. Yes, Li Na is a tennis player, but you can take her tips off the courts and use them to change your life!

Photo Source: The Straits Times

Here’s a little secret about me that you may not already know. I’m a writer. Well, of course, I’m a writer in that I write this blog. Duh! But what I mean is that I’m actually writing a book. Crazy, I know.

One thing I’ve learned about any creative endeavor is that it’s so easy…in your head. Say, for example, I have this great idea for a story, I prepare my cup of tea, sit at my computer and type for five minutes before realizing I need some more sophisticated software in order to write a novel. I spend the next three months researching software for writers. That’s followed by at least another month of learning said software. Then I prepare another cup of tea and sit in front of my computer with the new software and realize I have no idea what I’m doing. I spend the next six months researching and reading books on how to write a novel. It feels like this story could be trapped in my head forever!

Just come to the court. Just play. Don’t think too much — Li Na, Tennis Champion

One year later and I have nothing more than a basic concept and a few sentences. What I’m learning is that creative enterprises are less intellectual than I originally thought. You can get completely LOST in your head if you’re trying to be perfect at it. I want to set a mood with that stupid cup of tea. I might even light a candle because I heard someone at a writer’s workshop say that once. Oh yeah. Light a candle. What a great idea. Then I have to go out and find the perfect candle. I can spend more energy on the candle than writing words on a page.

Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance. The antidote to Resistance, according to Pressfield? Turning Pro.

Turning Pro

Steven Pressfield talks about the tactics of Turning Pro, when the artist makes the shift from being a mere amateur. The amateur may make art when the mood strikes them, but the pro creates processes to make art happen every day.

The choice to change is always right, because if I really want to prove myself, I have to change something. Otherwise I will stay the same level forever. — Li Na, Tennis Champion

So that’s what this series of posts will be about, tips for Turning Pro. My goal is to share tips from a wide variety of professionals too. You already know my passion for tennis. Of course I love watching it, but I also play too. I’m not great. Some might argue that I’m not even good. I don’t really care, because for me it’s about getting out and playing, enjoying the challenge, finding ways to improve, and meeting some great people!

I read Serena William’s biography, On the Line, where she discussed a little book of motivational tips she kept nearby when she first began playing matches. She would grab that book and read certain quotes to help her stay focused and motivated between games.

You know, last year when I said I wanted to be Top 3 in the world, nobody believed me. And at the beginning of this year I said I wanted to win another Grand Slam title, and nobody believed me. The most important thing is I believe, my team believes. That’s all. — Li Na, Tennis Champion

My goal is that this series of posts can be your “book of motivational tips” that you can go to when you need a dose of inspiration. Don’t think I’m being completely selfless here because I’ll be coming here too. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes!

Pro Tips from Li Na

I thought it would be perfect to start this Turning Pro Tips series with Li Na, China’s professional tennis player who turned pro in 1999 and then quit in 2002. She didn’t re-enter professional tennis again until 2004. She had to really want it to fight her way back so she knows the value of hard work. In fact, I heard an interview with her recently where she said that every day she worked on challenging herself. These are definitely the kinds of tips that we can use beyond the courts. So here are some of my favorite quotes from Li Na.

  • Even at the worst times I try to believe in myself and never give up.
  • I have to think about what I should do on the court. I don’t have to think about what I did in the past.
  • In response to a question about her age: I would like to say age is nothing. Still can win the Grand Slam. So pretty happy about my age. I got more experience on the court.
  • Tennis is the sport you have to play, how you say, not only against opponent, you have to see what you should do on the court.  More important is yourself.
  • In response to a question about her use of humor in answering interview questions and whether or not her husband ever suggested she should stop: If he said, ‘Enough’ I think we will divorce (laughter). You know, I will keep my way.
  • Everyone be happy for every day.
  • In response to a question about whether she wants to win another Grand Slam Tournament: Of course is very easy to say I want to win another one. But I know how much work it takes. So if I want to win another one…or two, I have to go back on the court and work very hard.
  • If I want to win, I have to go back to the court, hard working and also be even more tough than before. Otherwise no chance.
  • So many people think maybe she will stay the same way forever. But I will change.
  • In response to a question asking one word to describe her: Tough. If you see in end, Oh, she’s got the title, but the people don’t see how tough working I have been. How tough the job I was doing. Also, you know, is very tough like if I play Safarova, 43 degrees (109F), and we play three hours on the court. It’s very tough to hang in there and finally win the match.
  • From Li Na’s coach, Carlos Rodrigquez: “It’s my job to push her to do something she knows how to do, but she is scared to do.”
  • I just keep fighting and try to be the last one standing.
  • Today is the dream come true. Since I was a young player, I want be the Grand Slam champion. Some saying I’m getting old. So, you know, the old woman like the dream come true. She know it’s not easy.

Congratulations to Li Na for her success so far in 2014. I hope we can use her example, of working hard to reach a dream, and use it for our own lives too!

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Updated by Marly · Permalink

2 Responses to Turning Pro Tips: Li Na

  1. “One year later and I have nothing more than a basic concept and a few sentences. What I’m learning is that creative enterprises are less intellectual than I originally thought. ”
    Creative enterprises are about 99% sweat equity & 1% creativity. Wait…didn’t someone famous say something along those lines??

    I get your dilemma. I’ve realized there’s no one stopping me from writing, especially these days when there are so many venues for the writer beyond just tangible, bound books. I’m a writer too, & for years I would say, I’m a “writer.” But I’ve realized, if I don’t take myself seriously, no one else will. Ya fake it till you make it, right? (Oh boy, I hate it when I give in to making trite statements.)

    Anyway, I look forward to your series–excellence is something that is always a fascinating subject of study & no better way to learn than from others who’ve achieved it in one way or another.

    • You’re so right – you have to take yourself seriously. Isn’t it interesting that in order to do that (take yourself more seriously) you have to give yourself permission to fail? To fall flat on your face? The two are in such distant corners of the ring, these seem like heavyweight boxing champs ready to duke it out! Maybe instead they could make daisy chains and sing Tiptoe Through the Tulips in the middle!! 😉


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