Simply the Best

I had the amazing good fortune over the past few weeks to attend the US Open. I had the even better good fortune to watch Serena Williams play. First, let me just get this out of my system.


Wow, wow, wow. She is AMAZING. Like stunning, awe-inspiring, girl-on-fire amazing.

There’s very little I can say that hasn’t been said before about the woman’s athletic ability, her competitive spirit and her competence on the court, so I’ll share something else that struck me.

She is the best. And it is a privilege to watch that excellence and learn from it. Because in the end, there is a shocking amount to learn from those who are the best. Somewhere inside of all of us we understand this, but it’s an entirely different matter to see it in action. To see the product of hard work, determination and talent all rolled into one.

What was funny as I watched Serena play was that I was also reminded of a quote I recently read from Aretha Franklin (another amazing great in her own right).

“Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”

I realize it’s an odd jumble of thoughts, but I do think there’s something underneath my ramble. In the case of both Serena and Aretha, both women are clearly recognized in their respective fields as the height of talent and ability. Both have also achieved a consistency in their work over a long period of time that demonstrates a level of determination and focus that isn’t solely the product of prodigious talent.

It’s the result of hard work applied to that prodigious talent.

Putting in the effort, day in and day out. Taking what you already possess and are naturally drawn to and honing that and refining it to get better and better. Recognizing your core gifts and building on them with focus and effort and sheer grit.

Those are lessons we can all apply to our own work. Perhaps we’re not destined to be the next Serena or Aretha of the writing world, but by using them and others who are the best in their respective fields as examples, we have models to follow and emulate.

Thinking about a new book but not sure if it’s in your comfort zone. Take Aretha’s advice – “be your own artist and be confident in what you’re doing” – and do it anyway.

Want to write the next book in a shorter time period? Push yourself like Serena and go the extra mile in each and every writing session to get a bit more work done than usual. See what you might be able to achieve when you push yourself a bit harder and stretch beyond what you think you can do.

We have examples all around us of what happens when hard work meets talent. Your dreams are worth the same!

Happy Writing!




Quick disclaimer … I wrote this about two weeks ago and scheduled the post in for today. In that time, quite a bit of press hit the news about the US Open Women’s Final match.

I almost changed the post and then realized that it would be a disservice to (a) the awe I felt watching Serena and which prompted me to write the post in the first place and (b) allow the gaping maw of the news cycle to change a post that came out of how I felt as a creator.

I still think Serena Williams is amazing, but now I also think she’s a woman of incredible character. I’d suspected as much but now feel it even more. I also think that Naomi Osaka is a young woman who’s shown such grace while held clamped in that gaping maw of news. If her performance on Saturday is any indication, I believe we’re going to see many more amazing things from this young woman.


12 responses to “Simply the Best”

  1. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Wonderful message, Addison. Serena and Aretha embody a greatness in what they do/did that we can all admire and aspire to be. We are women, therefore, we can achieve. With determination and fire in our hearts, we can break barriers—our own and benchmarks set by others.


    • Addison Fox says:

      Jenn – beautifully said!!!

      “With determination and fire in our hearts, we can break barriers—our own and benchmarks set by others.”

      I love this!!

  2. I’m glad you posted this as is! Dedication is no easy thing, as we all know. And it is always amazing to watch someone do the thing they have concentrated their life to perfect.

    • Addison Fox says:

      Thanks, Alexia!

      I’m really glad I kept the post as well. I learn so much when I look to other examples externally and it felt like it was worth going forward with! 🙂

  3. What a treat to see the US Open live! Thanks for this post and the reminder how important determination and confidence are.

  4. 1. I am an idiot. I was actually in New York for the Open last week and I COMPLETELY FORGOT that you are living there again. Why am I an idiot? It would have been so great to see you!

    2. YES YES YES YES YES to all of this. I actually got the chance to watch Naomi Osaka play in the round of 16 and DAMN I cannot agree more that we are going to see many more great things from her – but seeing Serena’s greatness in full force must have been AMAZING.

    3. Have you seen The Shop on HBO? I *LOVED* the first episode and I hope there will be more – it’s LeBron James, Snoop Dogg, Odell Beckham Jr., Jon Stewart and several other smart, highly successful people talking about EVERYTHING, including success & greatness & race. There was a moment when they talk about owning your excellence – like Ali – that feels similar to what you are saying here. Like you can’t be the best until you KNOW you are the best. Greatness isn’t just skill. It’s a state of mind – and I think we can all learn from that. Especially people like me who have a tendency to veer too far in the direction of humility sometimes. We need to own the awesomeness and push ourselves to be more!

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Thanks for this post, Addison. In addition to being one of the greatest tennis players of any era, we saw some of the ugly misogynoir against which Serena has also perservered – for the most part silently and privately.

    That match, and its aftermath, exposed some really ugly things about our culture, and I thought she handled the aftermath with class and grace.

    • Addison Fox says:

      So so true, Tammy. That context was actually why I’d considered pulling the post. The focus that shifted at the end of the tournament was SO OPPOSITE of my takeaway of watching this amazing athlete perform.

  6. “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”

    Oh I love this. I’m printing it off and posting on my mirror. Thank you for the inspiration today.


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