Space: The Final Frontier

Space the final frontier

There’s nothing like a challenge to focus one’s mind, attention, and organization of one’s life to meet that challenge. I was playing doubles last Tuesday night and right before the match, I received a text from someone who I play singles with fairly regularly. He wanted to know if I was up for playing the next morning at 7.

He is without question my most competitive singles opponent and I always relish the challenge of playing him. His competitive fire is amplified by his tremendous conditioning, indomitable will, intelligence, and tenacity.

It also helps that he is six years younger than I am, although I’m not using that as an excuse! We tend to split our sets but I would still give him the nod as he has probably won a bit more than I. 

I’m not sure if it’s because I love the challenge of playing him or maybe I subconsciously dread it (?), but there are definitely times when I get out there and feel a bit anxious and nervous. If I really try to analyze it it’s not rational. On the other hand, most of what we feel isn’t always rational because we’re not Spocks. We’re human beings who are flawed and conditioned by our pasts, upbringings, environments, biases, fears, etc. so our feelings can supersede our rational selves. 

I tried to take a step back to see if I could gain further insight into why playing him would trigger nerves given that the consequences for my life were immaterial and really only had upside since we all benefit from taking on challenges. Were my nerves related to fearing failure or actually fearing giving it my all for a sustained period of time and not having what it takes to persevere?

Was I afraid I couldn’t keep up with him and be disappointed that he advanced beyond me? Did I not want to make mistakes and disappoint myself? I’m not sure I have any of the answers but sometimes it’s the questions that are more important as they can open up a rich area to be mined for deeper personal inquiry.

Once I agreed to play singles the next morning it immediately focused me on managing my energy during the doubles match knowing I would have to give it my all less than 12 hours later. It also got me thinking about what post-match steps I should take to help prepare myself for the morning battle. The first thing I did as we got closer to the end was to access an app on my phone that controls my newly built pool and jacuzzi. I turned on the jacuzzi and the heat so it would be ready for me when I got home.

My body was feeling the impact of having worked out with my trainer at 6 AM, having endured a one-hour tennis lesson later in the day, and then playing two hours of doubles that night. My lower back tends to get stiff after such exertion and getting in the hot water can feel soothing and therapeutic. Despite the much cooler temperature of the pool I also felt compelled to jump in there after my jacuzzi. It looked so inviting and refreshing. And it was. The contrast between the heat and cold was invigorating. It was also vital that I get a good night’s sleep so I could be refreshed in the morning (and hopefully not sore) so that I could give it my all. 

In spite of the aforementioned nerves, I got off to a good start and was much more consistent than he was. And while I was happy with how I played in the first set, I was more pleased with my mental state. I have to chalk up my much more relaxed frame of mind to a spontaneous insight that crossed my mind early in the match. For whatever reason, I started thinking about the line from the introduction to Star Trek in which Captain Kirk says, “Space: The final frontier.”

It’s interesting what triggers can be very helpful to us. On the other hand, it’s probably more important to know which ones can trigger us in negative ways. If we can avoid the negative triggers and focus more on the positive ones, then life can be much easier and more enjoyable. Back to space. For whatever reason something made me think about that line from Star Trek and I began to contemplate more deeply about space and how important it is in life.

Yes, I know my mind can work in some very strange ways. And to think all of this was happening while I was playing tennis. Go figure.

And although the association was with Star Trek which is associated with outer space, I was much more interested in space that was here on earth.  If you think about space, it’s a pretty powerful concept. For example, the most successful coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson, always talked about the importance of spacing when designing his offense. Space was critical to carve out between the players on offense and their corresponding defenders. Adequate spacing was critical to successfully running his Triangle Offense.


Space can be a matter of life and death when it comes to driving. With the proper amount of space between you and the car in front of you, you can respond to situations versus having to react to them with very little margin of safety. This dramatically lessens the chances of getting in an accident because there’s enough time to course-correct without needing to panic, hit the brakes hard, or swerve. 

Space also applies to successful marriages and partnerships. It’s important that people be free to be their authentic selves. We have all heard how people talk about how important it is to give their spouses or partners space. No one wants to be hovered over or micromanaged. We want to feel empowered by using our strengths and gifts in ways that help each party grow individually and collectively as a partnership. 

Communing with nature allows us to think more expansively and cultivate awe and wonder which are great triggers for a more spacious consciousness. When we listen actively we are creating space for the other person to communicate versus only waiting to talk. 

Space is also important when it comes to investing. A few legendary investors attribute much of their success to their ability to cultivate independent thinking and not being swayed by groupthink or their emotions because they were far away from Wall Street. John Templeton lived in the Bahamas and swam every day in the warm ocean waters while Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have been in Omaha and Los Angeles respectively for their careers. These are just a few notable examples but they all felt that by being out of the swirl and day-to-day of Wall Street, allowed them to have the space to think more independently and be more reflective so they could make more clear-headed decisions. 

After this notion of space entered my consciousness during the match I kept using “Space: The final frontier” as a mantra by constantly repeating it to myself. This automatically settled me down and allowed me to create a detachment from my emotions and to almost be an observer of myself and my game. This was a big step forward as I can most definitely let my ego take over and allow my emotions get the best of me. I can get caught up in my performance, or lack thereof, and it can really anger me or trigger big emotional reactions that, while they may not always be public, are not healthy and do very little to elevate my performance. 

I want to do well, but if I don’t have that kind of space between stimulus and response then I’m going to let previous shots influence my present ones and most likely future ones as well, and almost always to my detriment. I kept saying to myself, “Space: The final frontier” after every shot. I didn’t just limit it to the ones that didn’t go my way because I wanted to be even-keeled whether the result was unfavorable or favorable.

I feel like creating space has been helpful in my contribution to CWS by helping me come up with important, high-impact ideas that have influenced how we run the business, how we capitalize and finance our investments, and how we deploy our capital. I can’t think of any important insights that have been generated when I have been immersed in the hurricane of the business. Rather, these moments of insight have been a byproduct of a curious, searching mind that scours a vast and diverse set of resources while having carved out the space from the day-to-day to let ideas bubble to the surface from which insights can materialize.

These insights, which are rare but we don’t need that many to make a big difference in one’s life, then need to be strong enough to result in feeling convicted to pursue a particular path. And from there then what is needed is the courage to take action and mobilize the resources to bring them to fruition. 

If I had spent most of my time networking with people in the industry and listening to what they had to say, then it’s possible we would have pursued fixed-rate loans for the bulk of our portfolio like most of our competitors have done. Instead, I have kept my distance and focused on creating sufficient space to think independently and do a lot of reading so that I could develop my own insights and convictions such that what others thought or did had very little sway over me. In fact, it was more the opposite. The more they pursued fixed-rate loans the more I would smile to myself that I’m sure there will be times they come to regret it when they can’t refinance or sell without paying big prepayment penalties.

I mentioned that when thinking about space during my singles match I was more focused on utilizing space here on earth for personal growth. With that being said, when sending rockets into space they must reach a speed that gives them escape velocity so that they can leave the earth’s atmosphere safely. We also need our personal escape velocity so we can create the space we need to reflect thoughtfully on our lives and to make the best decisions to optimize the quality of our lives and those of others while avoiding those that lead to harm. We can’t just think ourselves into escape velocity, we have to feel it completely as well. It’s a state of being that must be cultivated. 

It’s important that we develop emotional distance and the fortitude to get out from inside of ourselves and have that space so that one can think clearly, work from a calm, but determined center so that we can develop a clear vision and conviction about the path to go down and the courage to take the actions that are most beneficial to us. 

One of the great satisfaction that I have in playing tennis is what I do when I find something is not working. If I can develop the space, the self-awareness, and observational skills to drill down deeper and figure out what’s not working and then make those corrections and see the results, then I can really improve my performance. For example, the night before when I was playing in the doubles match there was a sequence in which I was hitting some returns of serve into the net.

While it was frustrating I decided to adopt a curious mindset, versus a self-critical, judgmental one. This led me to keep asking myself what was I not doing that was resulting in the ball not getting enough loft? I came to realize that I wasn’t turning my body before hitting the ball. Once I started doing that then I saw instantaneous improvement in my service returns such that I could hit them over the net consistently with speed and effective placement. This enabled me to put my partner more on the offense when my strong return forced my opponent to hit a defensive return that would often set my partner up for an easy, winning volley at the net. By having my own space to reflect and think I made adjustments that enhanced the partnership, which was very satisfying. 

The next time you find your emotions taking control over your rational mind, try taking a few deep breaths and saying to yourself, “Space: The final frontier.” You just may establish the escape velocity necessary to greatly improve your state of mind and decision-making.Click To Tweet

One comment on “Space: The Final Frontier
  1. Janetmarie says:

    Hi Gary
    Your thesis made me smile this morning. ThankYou. You are always
    refreshing our outlook.

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