3 Life Lessons, 3 Business Lessons, from Billie Jean King


{I’ve already posted once this week about former tennis champion Billie Jean King:  Sheryl Sandberg was Not the First to Lean In – From Billie Jean King to Sheryl Sandberg (a Reflection).}

Billie Jean King, seen here in 1977, learned to play tennis on the public courts near her Long Beach, Calif., home.
Billie Jean King, seen here in 1977, learned to play tennis on the public courts near her Long Beach, Calif., home.

In this week when we are hearing a lot about Billie Jean King, (PBS featured her on an episode of American Masters, and her match with Bobby Riggs is being discussed in this 40th anniversary year), she was also interviewed on Fresh Air:  Pioneer Billie Jean King Moved The Baseline For Women’s Tennis.  Great interview!  (Listen, and read the transcript, here).

Here is such a rich excerpt from the interview.

I retired at 40 from tennis and went to the World Team Tennis office the very next day. I had already planned what I was going to do in transition. I call it transition, not retiring. Tennis was not my primary. It was my secondary. It was my platform to try to help equality. So I just moved into World Team Tennis and if you watch a World Team Tennis match, you see my philosophy on life.

It’s men and women on the same team, equal contributions by both gender. And when the children come out to watch, he or she sees the socialization among us. They see us working together and we’re in this world together, men and women, and we need to champion each other as humans. And it’s very, very important to do this.

Here are some pretty good business and life lessons from this excerpt:

#1 – Know your own “why.”
Billie Jean King was the best of the best among tennis players, but she defined tennis as “not my primary.  It was my secondary.  It was my platform to try to help equality.”  It does not get any clearer than this.  Her “job” was to advance equality.  Tennis was just the way to go about her job.

#2 – Get to work – every day. 
So, she retired “from tennis,” and then she went to work “the very next day” to continue her work for equality.  No wasted days, no wasted time.  She got to work…

#3 – She demanded that diversity/equality be practiced, and modeled, fully. 
She helped create a “product” in World Team Tennis where men and women and families watching the contests could “see the socialization among us.”  What vision!

I have known a little about Billie Jean King.  This interview added greatly to my admiration for her as a person.

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