A friend of mine is having surgery today, and others who are ill will need surgery as well. So I feel hesitant to talk about simple challenges involving tennis grips and how to hit the ball. But I had a life lesson yesterday that is applicable beyond tennis, which I have always said is—along with other sports—a metaphor for life.

There’s a really nice guy I play tennis with who offered me some advice. I welcomed his suggestions. He was a 5.0 player decades ago, and even now sees the minutest details I may never perceive. He knows what grips the other players use, their hitting patterns, weak strokes, and what kind of ball they will serve from the angle of their racket face. He has shown me how to notice whether he is hitting a flat, side spin or top spin serve—although I can’t see it at all in a game. He knows his stuff and wanted to share it with me.

Over the last few weeks, he said my grip at the net was incorrect. I learned from videos that he was absolutely right. So to improve my game, I changed my grip. He said my stance when serving was limiting. I tried his recommendation, and it seems my serve has more power. All good…so far.

The problem is, I now have to think much more about what I am doing. It’s not automatic, instinctive reflex. And these changes are messing up my whole game. I have plummeted in a very short time from playing my best tennis to much poorer performance. My teams generally lose our sets. I am incredibly frustrated.

Now I know what I am doing is good for me…in the long run. And I would much rather just keep doing what I was doing. So easy. Most people do what they are comfortable with, don’t want to change their behavior, because it is too difficult at first. Or they might fail. They might be ridiculed for their mistakes. They might feel shame and embarrassment.

But I am willing to take chances, make change, go beyond my comfort zone, risk failure.

Another very experienced tennis-player told me about an unusual way to grip the racket, when I make a spin serve. I asked the coach who had given me serving lessons. He said I should try it, but it would take “some time,” before I could do it consistently. Change is hard. Success and improvement don’t happen right away.

Yesterday I was a mess. I can’t believe how befuddled I was. All my strokes were off. So many capable people have said not to think, just relax and let your game flow. Well it’s been impossible recently. I was lucky to get the ball over many times yesterday, much less in the court. And playing felt really crappy.

I was reduced to a deer in headlights. Frozen, unable to move in time, letting balls whiz by that previously would have been do-able net volleys. It was awful. And my vastly improved ground strokes disappeared too. Worst of all, I was horribly upset with the situation. I was not the cool Roger Federer guy, but one of those hot heads who almost smashed a racket.

I don’t like that. It’s not the usual me. Athletics at the amateur level are supposed to be fun. There’s no big dollar prize at the end. Just the satisfaction of a job well done. But now I have to insulate myself from being frustrated and ticked. Maybe that is a good challenge. Sort of Buddhistic: seeing hurdles as golden opportunities that will be overcome with practice and effort.

Most of all, I remember that these are high class problems. Nothing at all to fret about in the scheme of the world’s turmoil. But I was affected. Do you ever get upset, when you can’t perform well at recreational sports?