The Power Of Pride

This past year, Serena Williams gave a virtuoso performance to win the U.S. Open. She dominated the tournament. To anyone who saw this tennis, it was obvious that all her opponents were clearly outmatched and outgunned. Her strength and speed were too much to handle for the women’s tennis world – Serena did not lose a set to any of her opponents during the entire tournament.

A few years ago, Jie Zheng was playing Serena in the semi-finals of a major, and she, too,  was outmatched and outgunned. Zheng stood just over five feet tall, as compared to Serena, who stands 5’10”. Serena also had her by 100 pounds of muscle. Further, Zheng had only won three tournaments, while Serena is an all-time great with 18 majors in her trophy case.

But, pride is the great equalizer. Pride gives you amazing energy and strength that is beyond measure.

A terrible earthquake had devastated Jie Zheng’s homeland just months before this tournament. She pledged to donate all of her prize winnings to the earthquake victims in her country. Her pride was evident in every ground, every step. Her energy on the court was amazing, and so was her speed. Zheng matched Williams stroke for stroke, and at times clearly outplayed her on many points. Zheng held her own, her pride endowing her with great purpose.

I, too, felt the power of pride when I completed my dissertation and defended it for the last time. I finally finished my long scholastic journey. While I was relieved, what I remember most was the intense feeling of pride – it was quite euphoric – and that feeling lasted nearly six months. Pride is an amazing force that you cannot get from any substance.

Pride should be added to your business equation. When Roy Vagelos, the CEO of Merck, discovered that a small village in Africa was suffering from river blindness, he knew he needed to take action. About 90 percent of the villagers would be  blinded by the time they reached adulthood due to a small parasite in their drinking water. Roy decided that his company must make a vaccination to help these people.

Unfortunately, the villages had no money, and developing and distributing this vaccine would cost the company $20 million. Although the stockholders were against it, Roy Vagelos made the fateful decision to go ahead and create this vaccine. To date, river blindness has been virtually eradicated from this area in Africa.

To share in this company pride, Merck erected a statue at company headquarters which shows a small boy guiding a blinded older villager, using his cane as the guide. The statue reminds the staff at Merck how important their jobs are to the world. It is a memento of company pride.

There are many facets to be proud of when you are a USGTF member. Here are just a few examples:

  • The opportunities that the USGTF provide in the business of teaching, coaching, and networking and the high standards they entail.
  • Member benefits, including personal-use discounts with all major manufacturers and current ongoing education.
  • International aspects to the organization – being affiliated with a worldwide entity.
  • Being able to participate in regional, national, and world tournament events.

When you have great pride in being a USGTF member, you will have greater energy each time you give a lesson. Go teach and be proud!

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. This column is adapted from his Washington Post bestselling business book Full Throttle. Dr. Steinberg speaks to businesses about mental and  emotional toughness. He has been the official USGTF sports psychologist for the past 15 years. Email him at, or visit

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