It’s amazing how absent-minded I am on the squash court. At the last two Sunday one-hour clinics, the instructor teaches us shots and strategies, we practice them for 15 minutes, and then we play games against each other with the intent of using them in a contest. What’s unbelievable is that I forget to do them, whether it’s a high lob to the back court—I finally remembered after 3 1/2 games last week— or a rail or drop shot on the side of the court opposite my opponent, when I am returning serve.

I just can’t remember. Today I was in the third losing game before I realized the other guy was a lefty, and that I had been serving to his forehand each time. And hitting to that side of the court as well. What the hell is this dumbness all about? It’s nuts to be so completely thoughtless and unaware. As I was leaving the courts after two hours, I saw someone flick his wrist a certain way and then, finally, realized I was hitting my backhand wrong.

How can I be so out to lunch? Is it nervousness that is to be expected, when attempting a new sport or task? While feeling sorry for myself and whining to a friend, he told me to have patience, that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something, that I have only been playing squash for under two years. Nevertheless, I am still pissed and disgusted. It’s pathetic to lose awareness to such a degree.

Maybe this is what many folks experience in daily life, when doing their job, dating, or handling the logistics of everyday chores: they forget what wise or experienced people have told them. They aren’t sure what to say, which decision to pick, what shirt would look best, etc. I don’t have problems with a lot of those challenges.

But I am a complete ignoramus on the squash court. In tennis I can now often see an opening and control my body in time to hit the ball there. I just have to stay with it in squash.

I am reminded of an article I read today about tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who attempted to climb Mount Kilmanjaro and failed to reach the top. She couldn’t breathe and was carried down on a stretcher.

Nothing about the experience, she insisted, had altered her definition of success, which despite her countless trophies and record 59 Grand Slam titles has never revolved solely around winning. “I’ve always said, ‘The only failure is when you fail to try,’ ” Navratilova said. “The other failure would be not giving your best effort. And I feel I did both: I tried and gave my very best effort. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

I am not sure I agree with her last sentence, suggesting the result was more fate than personal failure, but I like the part about how you have to make the attempt and give it your best effort. If only I could remember a few of these pointers for improving my squash game, then I would feel that I gave it my best effort…even if I lost, as I did all 10 games among three players today. Patience…and practice. Have to build that muscle memory. 10,000 hours, here I come…