‘Don’t Just Show Up – Com­pete’

She’s won ‘ive Wim­ble­don sin­gles and six dou­bles ti­tles, and runs two suc­cess­ful busi­nesses. Venus Williams, 38, shows us how it’s done

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - WORK -

Learn fast, move faster.

Start­ing a busi­ness from the ground up [Venus owns fit­ness-wear brand EleVen and de­sign firm V Starr In­te­ri­ors], there’s noth­ing that you don’t do. So you have to learn quickly. And ed­u­cat­ing your­self doesn’t have to mean univer­sity. It’s about meet­ing peo­ple, read­ing all you can, and un­der­stand­ing how other CEOs run their busi­nesses.

With a ten­nis game, if I lose, it’s on me – but in busi­ness, it’s my em­ploy­ees’ liveli­hood. Now I al­ways have a back-up op­tion, and move for­ward as soon as I no­tice some­thing isn’t work­ing.

You can al­ways find a way.

When I was grow­ing up, there was no fool­ing around. There was no be­ing lazy – and that’s down to my par­ents. I know the power of hard work. My father’s phi­los­o­phy was ‘al­ways find a way’. When you be­gin some­thing, you might not know how you’ll fin­ish it – but just start and be­lieve that you will.

I was taught con­fi­dence as a child. My par­ents told me I could do any­thing, so I be­lieved them. You have to be your big­gest cheer­leader – and even if you aren’t, you have to fake it. To do that, you have to change the way you talk to your­self. Out loud. Ev­ery­one should talk them­selves up in bath­room cu­bi­cles!

Fail­ure is your per­sonal fuel.

Fail­ure isn’t a bad thing: it’s a chance to look at your­self, and at what went wrong. There’s no-one else you can blame. You can fail at some­thing over and over again, in dif­fer­ent ways, and that’s ac­cept­able – but only if you’re learn­ing from it.

Venus’s Busi­ness Es­sen­tials BOOK

Orig­i­nals – How Non-Com­formists Move The World by Adam Grant. It looks into how to change the sta­tus quo and ex­per­i­ment in busi­ness.


‘The Busi­ness Of Fash­ion’. But I strug­gle to sit still even when I’m lis­ten­ing to some­thing. I al­ways want to be work­ing.


Sal­lie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, which en­cour­ages women to in­vest. She’s grown her ‘irm ex­po­nen­tially in the past few years, which I ‘ind in­spi­ra­tional. Af­ter a game, I eval­u­ate ev­ery­thing: what my mind-set was, whether it was a re­sult of tech­ni­cal mis­takes. From there, I work even harder. I use it as fuel – be­cause

[if I lose] I’m re­ally up­set.

Don’t just show up – com­pete.

You have to wake up and get out of bed, so why not make the best of it? My sis­ter Ser­ena al­ways says you can’t just show up – you have to com­pete. I hate meet­ings and I hate e-mails. I don’t even like car­dio that much; it hurts in the butt! But we all have to do stuff we don’t like – and once it’s done, you feel amaz­ing. At least if I put the work in, I can look in the mir­ror and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t suc­ceed but I gave it my all.’ It’s not about al­ways be­ing com­fort­able. If you’re com­fort­able, you’re a couch potato. Un­com­fort­able is Olympic-gold level. ■

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