Building Cathedrals

Steffi_Graf_für_RexonaI came across the transcript of a speech recently, given by tennis legend Andre Agassi as he was introducing his wife, Steffi Graff, during her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

One particular passage has really stuck in my mind, as it reminds me of how success and happiness in our outer world can only truly come from the strengths, values and principles we carry in our inner world. Here is the passage:


“Not long ago we were on the road and I looked out our hotel room window from the upper floor of a very tall high rise. I could see the rooftop of an old and beautiful cathedral. It was stunning with its carved stone and marble – all done so perfectly. I could not believe the work of art I was seeing and I wondered how many years did they take to create this and what drove them to be this committed? Then I began to appreciate something greater. I realized that when this rooftop was built it was by far the tallest building. In an age long before airplanes or skyscrapers these artists believed each day as they went about their work that no human being or one set of eyes would ever see their creation. How could they not have cut one corner? How could they consider no task routine? I can only think it came from a place deep inside – the need to be true to themselves was their reason and their reward.“

The point he was making was that Graff had achieved great things in her tennis career not because she coveted the applause of the fans or because she needed the recognition and reinforcement of being a “winner”, but because her success was a natural manifestation of who she was as a person.

More broadly, the above passage reminds us to always be guided by our inner compass whenever we undertake a task of any significance, and to ask ourselves whether we would truly put in the same amount of effort – the same commitment, heart and soul – if we knew that no one would ever see our work, and that our efforts would go unnoticed and unappreciated.

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