"Believe in Yourself" and other advice from Venus Williams


This interview was taken on October 18th 2010. Reposting it on the blog for some inspiration. 

Venus Williams, is currently ranked number four on the WTA tour, has 22 Grand Slam titles, is an author, fashion designer, student, philanthropist and icon, but sitting there on her living room chair with her hair pulled back wearing no make up and a plain white t-shirt, you would never know.  She was recently named one of the World’s Most Powerful Women by Forbes Magazine, a list she claims is “always inflated.”

Having already met her a few times, during my time playing on the WTA tour, I was eager to hear her speak as I was now on the other side of the lens.  Off the court, Venus had always been a delightfully friendly person, humorous and giggly. She was like an old soul that is comfortable anywhere and in any situation.

Venus was at home and out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury and agreed to do an interview with 15 Princeton University students via skype. I started the questions by asking her if she remembered me. She giggled, nodded her head and said “yes, your hair is so long”. The response was diplomatic and at the same time honest; a trend that carried on for the whole interview. At 29 years old and in the later stages of her career, her responses tended to be more introspective and uncontroversial giving insight in to her perspectives, lessons of life, her goals and future aspirations. When asked about how she imagined her life in ten years, she responded with “that always changes…I love design, I’ll definitely being doing that because I love it just the same way I love tennis…and of course I’m giving back to tennis in some way…I’ll probably be fairly quiet”.  One could tell, Venus is still figuring it all out.

Listening to her responses to questions about gender equality in sports, being an ambassador to the US and philanthropic work, one could tell Venus is very aware of the power and responsibility bestowed on her because of her athletic achievements. “For me, its great to be in women’s tennis at the premier level…really giving an example to women and…all people around the world…trying to be leaders and trying to give back…” It was refreshing to hear an athlete taking initiative and using her fame and wealth constructively “being a role model is even more rewarding than winning a tournament” she concluded. Furthermore she was very aware of the fact that many athletes abuse this power given to them “you have to stay true to yourself and be responsible and not every athlete is and that’s definitely a shame…”

Venus has done thousands of interviews that have probably covered many of the same questions we asked her but she never gave us stock answers, they seemed genuine, Through her giggles and big smiles she offered nuances and humor about her imperfections and insecurities such as her love for junk food,  going off tangent in interviews, her inability to correctly spell women vs. woman and forgetting lessons she has learned through life. One would expect her to be a lot more boastful but she was the complete opposite and almost self deprecating.

Although she was fun, relaxed and welcoming Venus definitely kept a lot of private information from us. She is a very “low key” person in contrast to her sister, Serena and did not divulge information about her personal life. However she did share her strong views on how her religion and family has helped her reach such great heights stating that “I think that’s [faith] been the main difference between Serena and I and our contemporaries and the reason why we are still here…having a good family I think [also] helps a ton.”

Venus has accomplished so many amazing things in her life; becoming the first African-American to be ranked world number 1, win 3 Olympic Gold medals, start a charitable foundation, create her own clothing line, model, author a book and recently, become a part owner of the Miami Dolphins. When asked how she finds inspiration and creativity to manage it all she quoted her sister, “[Serena] said if you take your opportunities, more will come. Just by us… trying to be positive, trying to be good people, trying to be role models, trying to be innovative…more opportunities came.”  

She is a superstar that doesn’t require superfluous accessories. Her self confidence and stately demeanor were apparent even in the simplest of settings; sitting at home with a knee injury babysitting her dogs. The best piece of advice she gave us was “believe in yourself”.


Tennis Advice for Beginners


If you are just starting to play the beautiful game of tennis and want to get better faster, here are some top areas of your game you should be focused on improving.

Fundamentals - Be sure to spend extra time learning good foundations for all of your strokes, especially your serve! Having strong fundamentals not only prevents injury but allows you to eventually add more power and finesse. 

Consistency - Practice hitting as many balls as you can in a row, don't worry about how fast or hard you can hit it for now. It's important to be able to stay in a rally. 

Serve - Take time to master a good toss. Discipline yourself so that you are not hitting serves with horrible tosses. Not only can you hurt yourself but you will never learn the proper technique. 

If you trying out for your Middle School or High School team here are the most important skills coaches will look for  order of priority:

1. Serve- Are you able to start the point with your serve consistently? Practice serving as though you were in a match alternating sides. See how many serves out 10 you can make. A pro makes 70% first serves. 

2. Consistency - Are you able to keep at least a 4 ball rally before making an unforced error?

3. Attitude- Are you positive even if you've lost the last 100 points in a row? Are you having fun and encouraging yourself? Coaches detest negative players as they bring the whole team down. 

For more tips and helpful info visit my Youtube Channel or click the Videos tab. 

Self-Care for Success

my adult coloring book

my adult coloring book

At the end of it all I’m learning that self-care is what allows you to the ability to push yourself toward your goals in a sustainable manner. If we are unable to self manage and care for our bodies and minds, things tend to fall apart pretty quickly and suddenly life gets very hard.

One message I have repeatedly received from self-help books and speakers is that self-care and self-management are of utmost importance. Often we tend to neglect ourselves and this has a negative effect not only on us individually but on society at large.

I’ve noticed that it takes a lot of self-respect to understand the importance of self care and do it consistently. For whatever reasons and excuses its so easy to fall pray to neglecting proper nutrition or adequate sleep and exercise. Even small acts such as holding your bladder during work or not putting on lotion to soothe dry skin effect us in many negative ways.

A few months ago it was made apparent to me that I don’t pamper and encourage myself the way I do others. Although I will argue that I do take decent care of my physical fitness and eat pretty healthy, I was indeed harsh to myself.  I noticed even the way I washed my face and brushed my teeth was so rough. This roughness mirrored my self-talk.  I started to make a conscious effort to be gentler in my actions. I smiled and used delicate gestures as I applied lotion, washed my faced and pressed gently as I brushed. In a few weeks time, these actions had an extended effect. They made me think nicer thoughts about myself and over the past few months I have noticed how much negative self talk has been dissolved replaced with more encouragement and freedom to do things without self judgment. 

I now look forward to the time I have made an effort to put aside for what I like to call pampering minutes.

Here are a few things I’ve been doing for better self-care:

  • Self oil massage
  • Regular pedicures
  • Cooking a nice meal for myself and plating it beautifully
  • Recently I discovered coloring in my coloring book brings me so much peace and a break from my thoughts.   
  • Yoga
  • Going to Raw Juce and getting a detox shot
  • Cutting fresh fruit for myself to munch on
  • Taking a few extra minutes in the morning to do my hair. This is new for me, I usually throw it in a bun or in a braid, but I want to show myself that I care about my hair.
Oil massage on Sunday

Oil massage on Sunday

3 Easy Ways to Practice Positive Affirmations

positive affrimations

Positive affirmations work. They take some time but they work. The key is to whole-heartedly and fully believe in what you are saying or hearing or writing. As Louise Hay stresses in her book You Can Heal Your Life, you have to affirm what you want with as much intention and belief as you would express what you don’t want.

Building a daily habit of positive affirmations will eventually lead you to change the behavior or thought patterns you wish to delete, alter or enhance. Here are 3 easy ways to practice positive affirmations throughout your busy day.

1. Listen to a recording to and from your commute or before going to bed. I like this one by David McGraw. It has 500 positive affirmations in 45 minutes. https://youtu.be/0lkCrPjmwks

2. Scribble your affirmations down on a piece of paper when you have a spare minute, perhaps while listening to a mind numbing meeting, waiting for your food at a restaurant or waiting in line.

3.  Say your affirmations while doing self-nurturing activities: while putting on lotion, while combing your hair or perhaps while getting dressed in the morning. 

How to Ask for and Receive the Right Support to Reach Your Wellness Goals

uberoi sisters tennis

Let’s face it, it’s hard to stay committed to your health and fitness goals. A support system is so important to help hold you accountable for the commitments you have made to yourself.

Most of us need a little nudging to remember to push past instant gratification in favor of our long term goals. We already know that diets and extreme schedules don’t work (in the long run or even in the short run).  So when you are making behavior modifications that lead to long term, sustained and maintained results, it takes time and you’ll need some help.

What is tricky here is that we usually don’t receive the kind of support we need  from family and friends. It often ends up with feeling frustrated, getting angry, guilt tripping and feeling unloved.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some very harsh, annoying and belittling “support” from my family and friends ie: “Happy 21st Birthday Neha! Don’t eat cake or you’ll get fat!” Even though it could be coming from a good place, it’s not helping you.

Here are 5 tips for how to ask for and get the type of support you need.

1.     Define for yourself the specific reasons you want to make that shift in your behavior. Why is it important to you and how does it impact more than one aspect of your life?

Example: I want to practice yoga regularly. I’ve had such an intense aversion to it but I have found that yoga is extremely beneficial to me for the following reasons: reduces my anxiety and stress significantly which allows me to feel happier, improves my flexibility which has been a big goal of mine, it makes me feel very energized and I carry that energy with me throughout the work week. No matter how much I don’t want to be on the mat at the beginning, I am always so thankful I made it through the class and relish feeling ‘yoga stoned.’

2.     Identify the right person for the job. You make think the obvious answer is your husband, boyfriend, sister, mother… but first reflect on how they give feedback or support, do you like it? Is it well received?

Example: One of my sisters, is extremely persistent and if I tell her my specific goals she will nag me until I curse. I feel like my SO is the right person for the job, he understand how to nudge me without being overbearing. Hired.  

3.     After identifying and assigning the task to the right person tell them why you have chosen them and what exactly your behavior modification goals are. It’s not enough to just say I made a commitment to do yoga 3x a week.  Explain to them all the positive effects your behavior change has in your life. This will help them better support you by reminding you of the bigger goals when you just don’t want to get out of bed.

Example: Wow, I’ve noticed yoga is really helping me reduce anxiety, improve flexibility and make feel just so good overall whenever I do it. I think it’s really important for me to keep doing it every week.

4.     Reach out to your support buddy. Maybe you just need some extra push to get up, put your running shoes on and go for a jog. Or maybe you need some inspiration for a new protein shake recipe. Text them, call them, Snapchat them, FB message them whatever is- use your resource.

Example:  My supporter will ask me what my weekend plans are. If I say I’m going to yoga, he’ll usually call or text me to see if I’m awake and headed to class. It definitely helps.

5.     It’s important that you give your supporter the authority to give you that little nudge you need. This is a delicate balance between setting boundaries and allowing them to hold you accountable. Make sure they don’t step out of bounds (asking you questions or pushing you to do things unrelated to your goal) and make sure you allow them to push you a little.

Some other ideas to keep yourself on the right track to reach your goals:

  • Make it competitive. Find a friend that has a goal they are working on (it doesn’t have to be the same as you). Start a Google Doc excel sheet to track your progress. Set the notifications to every time a user makes a change to the sheet. Seeing those emails will surely motivate you to stay on track!  
  • Hire a wellness consultant to help you define your goals, figure out a personalized strategy and stay on track!

Have a tip that has worked for you? Share it with me in the comments section!