Marat Safin and Ai Sugiyama Hang Up their Tennis Racket

To put it euphemistically, I’d say 2009 was an interesting tennis year. Roger Federer made history, Serena Williams shout at a line judge, Andre Agassi confessed he used crystal meth, Robin Soderling upsetted Rafael Nadal on clay, Andy Roddick stepped up on Wimbledon’s turf, Kim Clijsters made a stunning comeback at the U.S. Open, etc.

Notwithstanding, I would like to dedicate this blog post for two of my favorites who are hanging up their racket this season, Marat Safin and Ai Sugiyama.

No matter how many tantrums this tall, dark and handsome Russian tennis player has thrown on the court, we all find Marat Safin impossible to resist. In 2000, when he pummeled Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open Final, the world believed that the young man could be No. 1 for several years to come. However, Marat Safin spent 13 seasons chasing after that success everyone predicted for him without really reaching it. Instead, we witnessed an athlete with raw talent breaking dozens of rackets, forgetting his equipment before a tournament, getting bored with interviews. As Tom Perrotta said about Marat Safin’s magical misery tour, “Sometimes he was great. Most times he was hilarious. But he always entertained.

Some observers qualify him as a lazy player, an underachiever. Yet, let’s think about it, how can he underachieve when he is that emotional on court? In 2005, Marat Safin finally got another chance, he eliminated Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinal to later win the title and become No. 1. Redemption some would say?

Marat Safin and me at Montreal Rogers Cup 2009

I was ecstatic to catch Marat Safin at his last Montreal Masters Series

As for Ai Sugiyama, indefatigable Japanese player, she challenged the boundaries of athletic longevity. She retired at age 34 with the all-time record, for both male and female players, for the most consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances which currently stands at 62 [1]. Not only she is one of the most consistent tour players, she is also the very first Asian to be ranked No.1 in either singles or doubles. I had the chance to watch her train at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. It is inspiring how she never loses for lack of hustle.

Ai Sugiyama and me after her training at Toronto Rogers Cup

Honored I was to meet one of the best doubles player in the WTA tour Ai Sugiyama

What I Learned from Billionaire Stephen Jarislowsky

Let’s admit it, we all want to be rich. Why some succeed while others fail? Do we have to be an utterly relentless businessman/businesswoman in order to thrive in this consumption-focused world? That’s what I was hoping to learn from Stephen Jarislowsky, a Canadian billionaire investor and philanthropist.

Stephen Jarislowsky and me in Montreal

Generally speaking, it seems that most self-made millionaires have dealt with important challenges before finding the road to success:

  • Born in Germany, M. Jarislowsky emigrated to the United States,
  • studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University,
  • served the US Army,
  • studied Japanese at the University of Chicago before serving in counter-intelligence in Japan after the war,
  • got a MBA degree at Harvard Business School,
  • worked as an engineer for Alcan Aluminium,
  • started Jarislowsky, Fraser & Company Limited.

Today, he is Chairman and CEO and former President of Jarislowsky, Fraser, which he built into one of the largest and most successful investment management firms in Canada, managing assets of over $40 billion. His personal wealth has been estimated at $1.2 billion, making him the 25th richest person in Canada[1].

Not only his achievements impressed me, moreover I find his vision of life quite interesting. Stephen Jarislowsky sees the value in traveling, which gave him opportunities to learn languages, to grow accustomed to new cultures, to meet friends. I couldn’t agree more, body and mind grow closer during travels, when we get to new places where no one knows us, we become ourselves.

Furthermore, I was dumbfound when the billionaire told us he was disappointed by his education at Harvard Business School. He blames the absence of philosophy and history courses in the curriculum. He believes that a cultural background is necessary to “take the cobweb off your eyes.”

When asked about his recipe of success, Stephen Jarislowsky mentioned three fundamental virtues needed to become an outstanding manager: curiosity, knowledge and courage. “Do no not behave like others when you are not convinced by them.”

On a more debatable topic, he opined that emotions lead to nearly nothing. To his eyes, the choice between following love or responding to the call of duty is rather clear. “We need to think to survive,” he says, “I need to put value on myself, and doing so doesn’t allow me to become attached with somebody else.”

What are your thoughts on this? Do we really have to choose between love or career? Is this a quandary we have to face at a certain point of our life? Can’t we have it all?

he is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and former President of Jarislowsky, Fraser, which he built into one of the largest and most successful investment management firms in Canada, today managing assets of over C$40 billion[2]. His personal wealth has been estimated at $1.2 billion, making him the 25th richest person in Canada