Serena Williams is arguably the best female tennis player of all time.
At the age of 34, she still has the skills to win championships; even with younger players coming through, her sheer will and dominant energy prove unbeatable. This year is the seventh time she has won Wimbledon Single’s Championship and her 22nd Grand Slam title in the Open Era—ranking only two title wins behind all-time great Margaret Court. And she is competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio—where she has the chance to become the most decorated tennis Olympian of all time.
The lessons we can glean from Williams’ stellar career can be applied on and off the court, in career and in life. Here are the five we think top the list.
1. Age is only a mindset.
“I think in life you should work on yourself until the day you die.”
Athletes have difficult and typically short-lived careers. Playing consistently at the professional level takes a physical toll that can only be sustained for so long. By the time most athletes reach this age, they admit their best days are behind them and it’ll soon be time to retire. But with Williams, she works harder each and every year to stay on top.
Quite often in life, your age is only a mindset. Don’t place limits on yourself because of how old or young you are.
2. Keep fighting.
“I just never give up. I fight to the end. You can’t go out and say, ‘I want a bag of never-say-die spirit.’ It’s not for sale. It has to be innate.”
Sticking to your goals can be an upward battle, especially when you don’t see results right away. Williams has found herself on the losing end of the set early on in the match and requiring two set wins to take the match. In these situations, she holds her head high and keeps fighting.
The important thing is not to throw in the towel just because the odds aren’t working in your favor and time is running out. As long as there’s still time on that clock, you’re still in the fight.
3. Focus is key.
“If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.”
Serena was born in Saginaw, Michigan but her family relocated to Compton, California when Serena was 3 years old. Serena and her sister Venus learned the game on pothole-riddled tennis courts on streets wracked with drugs, homelessness, crime and gangs. They learned how to persevere against unlikely odds.
With a laser-like focus, you’re able to perform at your best. With a laser-like focus, your head is 100 percent in the game. Serena’s ability to stay 100 percent focused during tough matches is just one more thing that separates her from the rest of the competition.
If you also want to become the best at what you do, developing the right focus is essential.
4. Love yourself for who you are.
“I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are. But it definitely wasn’t easy—it took me a while.”
Like many elite athletes, Serena has been the target of criticism over the years. But she doesn’t let anybody else’s remarks subtract from her happiness.
Remember to love yourself for who you truly are. We are all wonderfully unique, so don’t try to become more like someone else. And don’t listen to what others might say about you.
5. Work hard.
“Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard.”
You can see it in her expression when she wins those vital match points. All the hard work is shown through how emotional she becomes when she wins. Williams has had her fair share of defeats and setbacks—there’s no doubt she works incredibly hard to come out on top.
If you want something badly, you can’t escape putting in the work. Know that with hard work, your dreams are always possible no matter what they might be.
Related: 7 Steps to Achieve Your Dream