If you’re seeking inspiration, look no further. No, not from me! Check out “Scripted” with Ali Farag right now! If you’re on the fence, keep reading for my take on the wisdom Ali shares, and then go watch it. Seriously.
We all know that Ali Farag is a phenomenal player. His name is definitely on the list of contenders as the “GOAT”. Let’s take a moment to list out some of Ali’s phenomenal attributes on the squash court:
- Uncanny ability to read the game.
- Graceful, yet powerful movement.
- Tactical prowess in his ability to have his opponents on a string.
- He makes the game look effortless and easy due to his mastery of its layers.
- Mental strength to have a high winning ratio.
There is certainly more, however the glue that brings this all together; and that elaborates on the fifth point is his approach to life, and squash.
Ali speaks at length about numerous concepts that many of us will greatly benefit from hearing, internalizing, embracing, and enacting. Some of these include:
1. Compassion: this includes compassion for oneself and others. For instance, if you’re driving and someone cuts you off, it’s very easy to have a fit, abuse the “reckless” driver, and possibly dole out justice if we become extremely heightened. Ali speaks of having compassion for others by seeing the good in others, and giving them the benefit of the doubt. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, how different would your internal and external response be if you simply said, “maybe they have an emergency. I hope everything is okay. I’m glad we didn’t have an accident”, or maybe you think to yourself, “gee, they must have had a terrible day to be driving so recklessly. I hope that they find some peace”.
2. Embrace challenges: this is a surefire way to grow and excel. Many of us shy away from obstacles, but the resilience, grittiness, and consistency developed through the process strengthens us. Have you heard the story of Milo from 6th century Greece? He was a wrestler, and the story goes that Milo gained extraordinary strength by carrying a newborn calf on his shoulders as a boy. Every day, he repeated the process. As Milo grew up, so did the calf, until eventually, Milo was carrying a full-grown bull on his shoulders. When we accept and embrace challenges, we develop a steeliness within ourselves. With each challenge; just like a muscle grows stronger after each training session, our minds and bodies grow stronger.
Ali also spoke of setbacks often being blessings in disguise. In his case, it was the major injury he sustained. For me personally, it was covid and being forced to innovate. If you look closely, you can, and will find the seed of opportunity in setbacks.
3. Thresholds: this refers to the idea that we all have certain thresholds in various aspect of our lives; be they physical or mental. Imagine stepping onto a track to run 10km. Depending on your level of conditioning, running technique, confidence, motivation and more, you will be able to maintain a certain threshold pace. The marathon legend Kipchoge; after countless years of training, raised his aerobic threshold pace to 2:50 min/km or 4:35.5 min/mile. A weekend warrior would be lucky to have an aerobic threshold of 7 min/mile. Reflect upon your fitness thresholds, but also your mental thresholds.
Ali referred to his mental strength threshold being an 8/10 compared to say a Mohamed El Shorbagy who may have a mental strength threshold of 9/10. Ali delineated his thinking by then referring to managing stressors in such a way that he never reaches his 8/10 threshold. For instance, imagine two athletes: athlete A has a mental threshold of 8/10. Athlete B has a mental threshold of 9/10. Athlete A is able to manage relatively minor stressors like a poor referee decision, or a lucky bounce, or a skiddy ball far better than athlete B. Maybe these stressors require 7 of the 8 “deposits” of mental strength athlete A has developed. Imagine however that athlete B, despite having a 9/10 threshold, is very easily agitated, and the same three circumstances cause him to exceed his threshold, and he/she loses is.
This is a critical reflection point for us all, because there are two skills each of us must improve: (i) raise our threshold, (ii) train our presence, awareness, and acceptance, so that minor stressors do not tip us over the edge.
4. Joy: this may seem trivial, but finding joy in daily activities is the secret to success. In fact, success does not bring joy – Ali referred to this when he spoke of a phase in his career after achieving everything he had aspired to achieve. Strangely, he was upset and unfulfilled when he won, and upset when he lost. It was only when he found joy in all aspects of life and his squash; by being grateful for all that he has, that he truly became happy, and began performing at his best once again.
Mentors and Support Structure:
Ali consistently spoke of his good fortune, in having folks like his wife (Nour El Tayeb), Mike Way, Karim Darwish, his brother, his parents, and many others, supporting him over the years. He was adamant that without them, he would not have achieved nearly as much as he has. This is directly related to the theme of happiness we just discussed.
All of us want to improve at squash, so here’s a specific line of thinking you can employ the next time you’re on court. Imagine that your opponent is consistently in front of you, controlling the ‘T’. Many of us get frustrated and either go into our shells, or we get angry and use force to blast a way out – both of which rarely work. Instead, we must maintain a level head, and go through a logical process.
Example of logical thinking:
Opponent is in front of me all the time. Why?
My length is too short. Why?
I’m late on the ball and thus flailing at it. Why?
My return of serve is too loose and I’m getting picked off. Why?
I’m not volleying the ball and am being forced to dig out of the back. Why?
You get the point. Such a line of thinking may lead you to the conclusion that you need to improve a particular technical element of your game, decision making, or a host of other possibilities. The point is, that there’s a logical approach to the challenge.
Faith can be a triggering word for many of us. It can invoke particular mental constructs and images based on our culture and upbringing. To some, faith can mean religion, whereas others may see it as spirituality. It could have a negative association or a positive one.
For Ali, his faith brings him a sense of peace and certainty. He has absorbed some great values and character traits such as humility from it. To me, faith brings about a strong sense that everything is happening for a reason. Whether this is objectively true or not is almost irrelevant, because what the mind believes, it can achieve! When a curveball comes my way, my faith allows me to see it as a positive challenge; one that I will overcome if I am meant to, and if I am unable to, then it steered me in the direction that is best for me.
If you have not watched “Scripted” with Ali Farag, please do. I have shared some of my takeaways with you. There are lots more! Hearing Ali speak of them is also a different experience. You will see his humility, thoughtfulness, and joy shining through. Enjoy!
Founder of ARProformance,
M.A., CPT, Peak Performance Teacher.
Watch: Scripted | Ali Farag's Approach To The Game
This exclusive interview is not just about the sport; it’s a deep dive into the mental, emotional, and personal aspects that shape a world-class athlete, and Ali’s approach to the game.Watch now