Inspiration from Inbound 2016

This post is a guest post by Amrita Aviyente, who won the SheStarts Inbound 2016 give away.

About Amrita: I am an engineer and the founder of Date My Wardrobe — a Boston based tech startup connecting fashion designers with consumers for high-end fashion rentals. I am also passionate about bringing more women in tech and love all things tech, travel and tennis! Being an entrepreneur, I try and learn from people from different walks of life — and tennis players are one of them. I want to take this opportunity to share what I have learned from Serena Williams over the years and at Inbound 2016.

My love for tennis and entrepreneurship…

On August 11 2016, I became a US citizen. I moved to the US (from India) over a decade ago for graduate school. This country has given me tons of opportunities and has made me dream bigger than I could have ever imagined. So this day was very special. On top of this excitement, while I was waiting in line at Faneuil Hall for my oath ceremony, I received an email about a new speaker announcement for Inbound 2016. I was ecstatic. Not just because I was becoming a US citizen and I will be able to vote for the first time — let us not get into the details :-( — but also because Serena Williams was coming to Boston to speak at Inbound. I have managed to watch a number of grand slams but never got a chance to see her play. Inbound16 was a great opportunity to hear from the one and only :-) , the best — Serena Williams.

This year, Serena Williams made her mark as one of the greatest athletes of all time by winning her 22nd Grand Slam title, tying her record with Steffi Graf for most major championships in Open Era. Now she is only second behind Margaret Court who has won 24 in her career.

Serena Williams and Michael Strahan and Inbound16

At Inbound, Good Morning America’s host and NFL legend Michael Strahan interviewed Serena Williams. Serena shared a lot of things and lessons learned about life, career and her interest in fashion. Based on this talk and her career, which I have followed, here are a few lessons learned about what it takes to be successful:

# 1 It’s Going To Be A Long Journey

keep climbing!

Serena Williams dominance in tennis has continued for almost 2 decades. She was the 2nd African-American woman to win a grand slam title in 1999 when she won the US Open. She was 17 then. She has won all 4 grand slams (feat also known as Serena Slam) twice and that too 10 years apart (2002–03 & 2014–15). She has won a total of 22 Grand Slam titles. She was the Gold-Medalist at the 2000 (doubles), 2008 (doubles), and 2012 (singles and doubles) Olympics.

But as you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy journey. She has had her set of losses; series of health scares, and her tennis ranking slumped to over 130 at one point. Nothing is an overnight success and Serena puts that perfectly.

“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”

I compare the journey of an entrepreneur somewhat similar to that of a tennis player… just like Serena Williams. Nothing is an overnight success and requires a lot of hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, sacrifices and much more.

# 2 Believe in Yourself

When Michael Strahan asked what mantra she lives by — she said:

Never stop trying. The minute you stop is the minute you give up on yourself. Always go for your dreams and never stop believing in yourself. There will be times when no one will believe in you but you have to believe in yourself. You will succeed and when you do, stay humble. A humble spirit always creates more”.

As an entrepreneur, you have to be bold enough to keep trying and keep learning all the time.

“I don’t want to be satisfied. I want to keep that insatiable desire and keep going”.

Many entrepreneurs toil diligently to make their vision a reality, which does take a very long time and tremendous amount of hard work. They just don’t give up. Tennis players are no different!

“I just never give up. I fight to the end. You can’t go out and say, ‘I want a bag of never-say-die spirit.’ It’s not for sale. It has to be innate.”

# 3 On Being A Champion & Surrounding Yourself With One

“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”

Think of the entrepreneurs who bounced back from the greatest falls in their career including Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart, James Altucher and many more.

At Inbound, Serena Williams also shared how it is important to surround yourself with champions. She is youngest of the five sisters and as you can imagine, it can be hard and challenging to beat the elder ones. There was no bigger challenge than beating her elder sister (Venus Williams) in professional tennis. They have also won many titles together. They still motivate each other and practice next to one another.

“It is important to challenge yourself with the best in your field.”

# 4 On Having Multiple Interests

It is extremely important to have an open mind to all the possibilities this world has to offer. If you focus on just one thing, then you can become blind to everything else around you.

In addition to be the greatest athlete, Serena Williams also has a deep passion and interest in fashion. She went to fashion design school in 2000 and launched her own line with HSN a few years ago.

Last, but not the least, I would like to end this post with another quote by Serena Williams — perfect for all SheStarts members reading this:

“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”