"This is you at the U.S. Open. This is you. Be tough, just like you want to win this. Just like you at the U.S. Open." That's what a young Richard Williams, coaching his then 9-year-old daughter, Serena Williams, says in 1991 footage used as part of a new Nike ad featuring the tennis star.
"Boom!" 1991 Richard exclaims as the video cuts from a young Serena to current-day Serena brutally nailing a serve at the actual U.S. Open. To date, Serena has won 23 Grand Slam titles, including at the U.S. Open and is the highest-paid female athlete in the world, according to Forbes' 2018 ranking.
The Nike ad, embedded above and released Monday — timed to Serena's appearance at the 2018 U.S. Open in New York — is inspiring, but it's more than that. It illustrates a success hack: visualization — if you can see it, you can be it.
Visualization, or mental imagery, is a common technique in sports psychology and its based in science. Mentally simulating performance in a competition can improve actual performance and confidence. Basically, your mind experiences mental performance in a very similar way to real performance, using many of the same networks in your brain.
NFL star Richard Sherman imagines himself making great plays when he is getting ready for a big game. "I've had great games before. I've made great plays. I've done the things like I would be looking to do again," Sherman tells CNBC Make It. "I think about those moments. I recreate those plays. I remember how I was in those moments, especially if I'm having self doubt."
But imagery is not just for athletes. Studies have shown that mental imagery works when it comes business and management. Anyone can use it when gearing up to make a presentation, give a speech or even ask for a raise.
For example, if you have to have a difficult conversation with a direct report or a boss, "Mentally rehearsing maintaining a steady assertiveness while the other person is ignoring or distracting you can help you attain your goal," psychologist Daniel Kadish told Real Simple.
"Envisioning this calmness may also decrease physical symptoms of stress, like an increase in heart rate or stress hormones," according to Kadish.
In addition to a lesson on mental imagery, the ad is an homage to pursuing your passion with hard work.
"If you don't dare to try and chase your dreams, you'll rob yourself the joy of doing it. Don't just dream it," Serena says in a tweet she published sharing the ad.
Serena won her Open matches on Monday and Wednesday, and will play her sister, Venus Williams (for whom dad Richard was also an early coach) on Friday.
On Monday, Serena also gained attention for playing in a tennis tutu, which was a collaboration between Nike and American fashion designer artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection Virgil Abloh.
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