The One Thing.

The One Thing.

One decade ago, Ashleigh Barty won the girl’s Wimbledon title at the age of 15. This year, she won her first Wimbledon women’s final and her second Grand Slam title.

Barty tends to be very quiet and holds her cards close to her chest, but over the last several weeks, it became obvious how very ambitious she was to win the incredible Wimbledon tournament.

The first Australian woman to reach a Wimbledon singles final since 1980, Barty started playing serious tennis under the watchful eye of Jim Joyce, famous junior tennis coach, at the young age of four.

After a rocket-like trajectory from unknown to competing with the best in the world, in 2014, she announced she would take some time off from tennis and without any formal training, became a professional cricket player.

Since, 2019, she’s been back in full force and has won the French Open and now the coveted Wimbledon Championship.

Barty’s story, like so many others who achieve significant success and fame at a young age, is one of give and take, ups and downs, grand triumphs and heartbreaking defeats.

It is a gross over-simplification and complete misunderstanding of circumstance, character and the power of luck when we see something amazing happen in our lives or in our careers and we attribute it to one thing.

She worked hard. She’s more talented. Her hand-eye coordination is better. She has a better coach. She is in better shape. She demonstrates more mental toughness. She’s more focused and disciplined.

Our lizard brains find one of these reasons and we we latch onto it, deriving comfort from an over-simplified explanation of something extremely complex.

What if Barty’s time off in 2014 actually slowed down her timeline to winning at Wimbledon? How impactful has her 8 month quarantine been to her mental and physical health? Could she have won more Grand Slams if she had not taken the time to play cricket, or is it possible she would have never won a major title and simply burned out like so many young players in the past?

This is the problem with complexity. We want easy ways to solve every problem but some problems are simply not going to be solved in the way we want, on the timeline we judge reasonable or in the long-run according to our terms.

That’s the world we live in. It’s unpredictable, exceptionally complex and messy; it brings both tremendous joy and gut-wrenching injustice to our doorstep without any way to avoid 90% of it. And yet we’ve survived as a species, hell-bent in imposing order over our environment, learning from our mistakes in this pursuit and adapting. Rinse, wash and repeat.

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the arrival of the second half of the year, I opened up the floodgates with an “Ask Me Anything” opportunity for members to pick my brain and get in-depth answers to anything on their minds. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the exercise, although it has taken a tremendous amount of my time and energy to respond to everyone. Our members have been very patient with my timeline for replies and I know the end-product will be well worth the effort.

In each question, boiled down to its essence and for the sake of brevity, one could easily ask “What’s the one thing I should go do?” Or “How is the right way to think about this problem?” and because our members are smart and dedicated, they are prepared for an answer that has many shades of gray.

I consider this one of my biggest contribution to elective healthcare and professional practices of all sorts – to help our members think better. To give them what Julia Galef calls a “scout mindset.” To instill in them the confidence that they have everything they need right now to make good decisions for all stakeholders in their businesses and to abhor the idea that there’s ever “one thing” in a complex world.

Ashleigh Barty won perhaps the most coveted prize in all of tennis yesterday not as a result of some formulaic training regimen or controlled process of performance. She won in a messy and unpredictable world and she knows, as well as her opponent, that the next time they meet, there’s a good chance she will lose. And this not only fails to deter her, but coaxes and invites her to lean into the uncertainty. It whispers in her ear and she is excited by the challenge. She wants to face the test.

That’s what I see in our top-performing members and the path I set our new clients on as fast as they are ready. Instead of being frightened by or deterred by the complexity and unpredictability of hiring and training new clinical assistants, dealing with inflation and wage growth, competing in a world where low price continues to commodify our products and services, coming back from a devastating blow like an associate or business partner leaving at an unexpected time or without notice, the professional practice owners performing at the top 1% of their niche lean into the uncertainty.

They are excited by the challenge. They know they might fail, but they still want to face the test.

They can do this with confidence because they know there are a million ways to the finish line, not one.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.