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The Story of Qantas Flight 32 and The Power of Mental Models

Although I have a few other blog ideas on the horizon I thought I would share a concept that I found fascinating as I am currently reading the book Faster, Better, Smarter by Charles Duhigg. He is the author of one of my favorite books, The Power of Habit.

In the book, Duhigg explains the famous story of Qantas Flight 32 and how the pilot was able to avoid catastrophe of a 400+ passenger plane when they suffered in-flight damages to the air craft. Charles Duhigg's interviews regarding this incident says that this particular incident was "the most damaged plane while flying to have landed safely." So how was this tragedy avoided? I'm going to focus on how the story relates to your tennis game: mental models.

The Power Of Mental Models

When the alarms started going off while flying thousands of feet above the ground, pilot Richard Champion de Crespigny he did not resort to a reactive state of mind. Instead he went through his mental models of "what if?" Meaning, he had already rehearsed dozens of scenarios that could play out during the flight. More specifically, when he asked his copilots what parts of the plane that were actually functioning, he found that the plane's capacity to fly was similar to the old basic planes that people would fly as a hobby. The mental model he placed in his head of flying one of these planes allowed him to have a script of protocols (often conflicting with what the computer's instructions were telling him during the incident) that allowed him to safely land the plane with no injuries to the passengers. His mental model that was in place before the plane's malfunctions most likely saved hundreds of lives.

Relating to Your Tennis Game

Many tennis players do not use the time they have between points (20 seconds) or when they switch sides (90 seconds) very wisely. To help take full use of this time, try to use mental models to help you predict what you think the point will look like. Rehearsing this in your head will allow you to be less surprised with what happens during the point and makes you think of upcoming patterns based on the past points you have played. Remember all players have patterns and the more you can pick up on that the better you can envision the future point unfolding. This will allow you to focus on strategy rather than strokes. Remember that focusing on strokes will only increase your chance of choking in the match!

Here's a video to help with learning the difference between hitting with spin and power:

Upcoming Articles (in no particular order)

  • Singles strategies that work

  • Perceived vs. actual effort and why it matters

  • Interview with Adam Blicher: Soft Skills

  • Playing high altitude vs low altitude tennis (and which pro would do best at a mile high)

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