An in depth interview with the 25-year old Traveling Tennis Coach who joined a Refuga trip

13. July, 2016

A big part of the experience when joining a Refuga trip, is the other participants on the trips. That’s why we want to showcase some of the participants who joined us. This time we have talked to Adam Blicher, who is a young, talented Tennis Coach with big dreams.

Adam joined our trip to Kilimanjaro a few years ago and he impressed us big time. We’re not tennis nerds (personally, I actually don’t know the rules of the game), but Adam has many great insights into performance and in living differently. He is just 25 years old now, but traveling full-time while making a living coaching young people.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do, where do you come from, age, education etc.?

In my everyday work I first and foremost try to enhance the quality of life of the Tennis Players that I’m working with. Second, I use the stress & demands of Tennis to help them build character on their Tennis Journey. Third, I assist them in understanding how they function as human beings & what they need to do in order to be in their optimal performance state when they are competing against children from other countries trying to climb the international rankings.

I graduated a couple of weeks ago with a Masters in Sport Psychology from the University of Southern Denmark & turned 25 a couple of days later.

 

How did you get started with Tennis?

I started playing tennis by coincidence. When I was 5 my dad was at a meeting in the local tennis club where I was accompanying him. I was handed a racquet & a foam ball & started hitting against the wall. Instantly thought it was funny, but at the time there were no children my age playing in the club so it wasn’t until the year after I actually started playing.

 

When did you decide to focus on coaching?

In the club I grew up in it was a tradition that you helped out as an assistant coach from a young age a couple of hours a week, so I have basically been coaching since the age of 12. It wasn’t though until the end of High School that I decided that I wanted to pursue coaching full time & make a living out of it – so by the age of 18.

Last & definitely the most arrogant photo from The Nordic Championships! …but hey, the wheather was amazing ☀️

Et billede slået op af Adam Blicher (@adamblicher) den


 

Your work is both on the court coaching, but you’re also an entrepreneur. How does your work life look like (fx a normal day or month)?

I hate to give a vague answer like “it depends”, but it really does & I guess the flexibility & variety that I have had in my everyday life during the past 5 years has suited me tremendously well.

I’m very bad at working on multiple projects at once so I focus only on 1 project at a time. I like to take several days at a time where everything I do besides eating, exercising & sleeping is centered around the same specific task/project. As I have done a lot of consulting for the Danish Tennis Association there are periods of time where I’m behind my computer no matter where I’m geographically located in the world.

Approximately 15 weeks a year I’m traveling to foreign tennis tournaments & Coaching Conferences where I rise early & log a couple of hours work before breakfast & then again after dinner.

The past 5 years I have used 2 weeks every semester exclusively on my studies, making sure that I gained the necessary knowledge & was able to pass my exams & then the rest of the year just occasionally attending lectures when it suited into my schedule.

Furthermore I at least go for 1 Internship a year on a Tennis Academy in order to learn from more experienced & accomplished coaches than myself.

At last I have weekly Skype Consultations with National & International Tennis Players working on the mental aspect of tennis. This has been a constant source of income that has covered the costs of my Podcast, the social media marketing I have been doing & made it possible for me to go on the non-paid internships the past couple of years.

 

I was the trip leader on the Kilimanjaro when you joined and I must say, I have never met anyone as young as you with as much insights into personal development and performance. Can you share one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned your self working with so many talented people?

First of all thank you!

I think I have been good at seeking out opportunities where I have been the youngest & less experienced person in a lot of different situations. At the same time I’m probably using ¼ of my time working for free, clearing the path for people above me in the ladder who are doing the things that I aspire to. Basically I’m trying to add value & create a better & easier life for the people that do what I want to do in the future. That has benefitted me tremendously & I have learned my biggest life lessons from those people.

The most valuable lesson for me has been replicated several times throughout my life. The first time I took notice, but probably didn’t understood it, was when my big brother gave me Stephen Covey’s “7 habits of highly effective people. The 5th habit Stephen talks about is called seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Later on in my life on my Master Coach Education I learned about how everyone interprets the exactly same situation differently. At last the most influential person in my life, besides my parents, Erik W. Petersen, has taught me to respect other people’s way of life. To never judge another person & try to decide what is right or wrong for him/her, when it sometimes can be hard to do that even for yourself.

So in my everyday life & work I always try to let others talk first. To be curious when there is something that I don’t understand, keep asking questions until I get a grasp of meaning & then no matter whether I understand it or not help the other person to understand my point of view without judging who is right & who is wrong.

 

You have taken a quite different career path than others your age. Have you had any challenges doing that?

I think everyone who is as snobbish as I am not settling for anything less than exactly what I want will meet challenges & face resistance. Sometimes I actually think that it is easier creating a different career path simply because there is less competition. I am very aware that the challenges & struggles are something that I have chosen to endure myself. If one day I do not want those struggles anymore I can just choose to settle for less. I think the struggles is a natural part of what I do & without the hardship & lessons learned on my path I do not think that I would appreciate reaching the goals as much as I do.

When taking a different career path you have to define the path yourself and it’s often very difficult to just follow in the footsteps of others. How did you and how do you decide which way to go?

Whenever I’m thinking about a new project I’m trying to think about how the project will help me separate from the masses of tennis coaches. How it can help create the story about me as the first to do x or if someone has already done what I’m going to do, make a slight twist to the project in order to separate myself.

I get a lot of inspiration following coaches from other sports such as John Wodden, Nick Levett & Gary Curneen & then I think that I have been fortunate to meet a lot of inspirational people throughout my life that have inspired me.

Happy & honered to be back in The National Suit

Et billede slået op af Adam Blicher (@adamblicher) den

 

How did you find Refuga in the first place?

I have followed a danish entrepreneur called Martin Thorborg for the past 10 years or so & at some point Nikolaj’s homepage & his book called “Better” popped up. The book looked interesting but had just sold out, so he offered the book for free on PDF if you signed up for his newsletter. I normally hate newsletters so I was a bit hesitant to do it, but I thought what the h… & signed up. The book was great so Nikolaj gained a lot of trust from me right there & then maybe a week or a couple of weeks later I received the first newsletter. Because of the high quality book that Nikolaj wrote I paid attention to the newsletter & saw that a trip to Kilimanjaro was advertised & you could apply for a spot.

What made you decide to join us in climbing Kilimanjaro?

My initial thoughts were that I wanted to meet this Nikolaj dude & if he chose who was able to go on the trip there would probably be some other very interesting persons on the trip as well. Besides that I had never been to Africa & I had definitely never climbed a mountain before. So I decided that even if Nikolaj & the other participants turned out to be complete douche bags I would at the very least experience a part of Africa & have climbed the highest freestanding mountain in the in the world.

I then applied for a spot on the trip. The only challenge was that I didn’t have the money to participate on the trip, but that’s typically how I approach my life. I figure out what I want to do, how I would benefit from it & then find a way to make it happen. In this instance Nikolaj was very nice to me & made it possible for me to pay in a couple of portions. Thanks, Niko ;)

 

Tell us a bit about the experience in Tanzania?

First & foremost I think the group of people that Nikolaj gathered would have had a terrific time no matter where we would have been & what we were doing, no doubt.

It was an amazing experience for me to have 7 days without my phone, my laptop & the internet. Nobody was able to reach me & I didn’t have the opportunity to reach anyone else than the group unless an emergency happened. Being completely offline made a huge impression on me & as a direct consequence I changed my social media habits when I got home. So instead of checking my feeds several times every single day I’m only checking facebook, instagram, Linkedin & my mail on wednesdays & sundays. Admittedly I sometimes cheat, but I haven’t missed out on anything as a consequence of my reduced notification checking & have only had a couple of people reacting negatively towards me about my habit changes over the span of 2 years.

I also lived for a couple of months without internet in my apartment & changed my smartphone to an old one, but both were to extreme for me. I got back the internet in my apartment & my smartphone, but I haven’t installed my mail, facebook or twitter on my phone, which has also made it easier for me not to binge check my social media accounts simply because I haven’t got the opportunity.

To sum up – probably the biggest lesson for me was due to the offline experiments that I did afterwards. I have come to realize that oftentimes my level of satisfaction is increased if I limit my opportunities. If I have too many opportunities & things that I can do I will no matter what I choose be a little unsatisfied & doubt whether one of the other possibilities would have been better / more fun / created more value.

 

Are you still in contact with some of the other participants from the trip and how would you characterize those relationships?

To think that everyone you meet on a Refuga trip is instantly going to be your new best friends & your business is going to skyrocket without paying any of the other participants a dime for their advice/work is of course not going to happen.

Some of the relations created on the mountain where absolutely fantastic. In a few cases I did though figure out when I got back home that the magic of the relation probably was that we didn’t have any alternatives. BUT, when that is said there is no doubt that I generated friends for life (hopefully they agree). I celebrated New Years last year with several of the participants & several of them was on the shortlist for my birthday party.

Besides the friends gained I think I have gotten some of the most valuable hands on, concrete advice and mentoring on how to develop my business/brand by some of the fellow participants by phoning or writing to them. At multiple occasions I have presented ideas for the other participants & said that I would be happy to pay them their hourly salary for their help/advice/expertize, but EVERY single time they have denied & added loads of value to me.

At last I think that the Refuga community that Nikolaj has created is fantastic to be a part of. I haven’t used it too the degree that it deserves & to be honest I probably should add more value to the community than I do at this point in time, but the amount of help & trust that I have witnessed that the community members offer each other is truly unique.

On the team we always make sure to coordinate shoes before going on court ✔️

Et billede slået op af Adam Blicher (@adamblicher) den

 

You have created a very popular podcast. Can you tell us a bit about it and what it has given you?

Before I start every project I ask myself:

  • What will I gain from doing this project?
  • What specific actions do I have to do?
  • How much work/struggle/resouces is it worth to me?
  • What is the worst result that I will be satisfied with?
  • If the project completely fails – How will that negatively impact me?
  • How can I get back to status quo in case the project fails?
  • What actions can I take to minimize the risk of the project failing?

My answer to question 4 for the Podcast was/is:

Learn & improve as a tennis coach by getting a more in-depth understanding of high performance in tennis
Build & maintain long-lasting relationships to thought leaders within the world of tennis.

The reason why I have used space to explain the above is that I always think it’s very tough to determine whether other people are successful doing what they are doing because we often have no clue what their objectives are. For me the 2 parameters above are my objectives & success criteria.

The listener count & the fact that the Podcast hit the “New & Noteworthy” category within 2 weeks of publication has been an absolutely fantastic bonus & something that I only fantasized about.

Regarding the first 2 criteria I have:

  • Learned how to periodize physical & on court training on the Professional Tour
  • Learned how to beat jet lag, dehydration & cramps
  • Learned how it’s possible to create a Team Environment in an individual sport
  • Learned how to develop the players from their personality
  • Learned how to use match statistics to better prepare players for upcoming opponents
  • Received a job offer from one of the persons interviewed on the Podcast
  • Been Invited & attended a Tennis Conference as a special Guest
  • Been on Skype Calls & added to What’s App Conversations with people I consider thought leaders within tennis
  • Visited & learned from one of the best Coaches in the industry
  • Been invited to join one of the top male tennis players training sessions & meet the staff

 

Do you have any long term goals that you’re working towards?

I’m generally very interested in people who choose alternative paths in lives. They usually have a great mentality, spirit and a belief in themselves. I’m even more impressed when it’s young people, like yourself.

The ultimate goal for me is to eventually get an opportunity to go on the professional Senior Tour with either a male or a female player. I’m definitely best at coaching girls, no doubt – so the Women’s tour is 1st priority & where I think I can create most value.

The irony of the goal is that even if I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to eventually go on tour it might not present itself for another 10 years at which point I would prioritize having a family & kids over traveling 30-35 weeks a year with a player on the tour.

On a daily basis besides evolving as a human being & a tennis coach I’m working towards creating a personal brand within the world of tennis. To continually make projects like the Podcast that can positively contribute to the world of tennis no matter whether it’s a book, an e-course or the christmas calendar for tennis players that I have in mind.

I strive to one day make it possible to one day be geographically independent. Be able to stay remotely & not be tied to one single place. This goal might very well change when I hopefully one day create a family & have kids, but at the moment it’s a big priority of mine.

 

Do you have any advice on living differently and taking an alternative career path to other young people?

I often times think that people who have a lot are afraid of losing what they already have. Which means that they live with an extremely defensive mindset. Always trying to protect what they have already achieved, trying to avoid tough situations & working extremely hard to achieve something, risking that they will fail. In other words never getting out of their comfort zone.

Being born in Denmark we are incredibly privileged, to an extend that is hard to grasp. Something that has proven very evident for me during the past 5 years traveling to 20+ countries. I believe that your life shrinks & expands according to the level of your courage. Sometimes my courage is bigger than my abilities, no doubt!  But as a danish citizen I will always get picked up if I fail either by family, friends or in the last instance the system. It gives me an extreme security to know that no matter how much I screw up I can always go back & have a normal 8am-4pm job & have a decent life.

Do I think that everyone should aspire to live the life that I’m doing, absolutely not. In long periods of time I’m neglecting my family & friends, sometimes I forget about my own health & get caught up in my work to an extent where the only thing that makes me stop is when my body tells me to relax & I get sick. I often ask myself whether it is all worth it, but as long as what I can achieve is more valuable to me than what I have to go through/sacrifice I’m going to continue down the same path.

Do I think that more people should strive to take an alternative career path & try to design the life that they truly want with all the hardship that it takes, absolutely YES.

 

If we are not talking Tennis specific stuff, but more generally, like performance and entrepreneurship, where do you go to for inspiration and learning new stuff?

I have been very inspired by Tim Ferriss & pretty much followed everything he has done since he wrote the 4 Hour Work Week. His Podcast was a defining factor in my decision to start my own Podcast where it is my quest to dissect high performance in Tennis by talking to different experts.

Pretty much all of my entrepreneurship inspiration stems from persons I have heard on The Tim Ferriss show or read about in his blog posts.

I think Derek Sivers (episode #125) is probably the single best Podcast episode that I have ever listened to. He is amazingly aware of what is important to him & how we wants to live life. Very clever in the way he goes about his life.

I follow Ryan Holliday & have read his 2 books that I really like “The Obstacle is the way” & “Ego is the enemy”. The first book about handling the uncontrollable events that happens outside of you, whereas the recent book is about the internal struggles we experience as human beings.

Austin Kleon’s books “Steal Like an Artist” & “Show your work” has made me understand how I can create a relation to my audience even before I have a product to sell. I try to share a little piece of my work each & every day on one of my social media platforms. Furthermore Ryan Holiday’s article about how he uses “Common Place Notes” has served as the method I use to store notes from the books I read, the podcasts I listen & the social media posts that inspires me. All together my Common Place Note functions as the place I go everytime I fill up my buffer with Tweets, Facebook- & Linkedin updates.

Building my personal brand & understanding how to position myself among my fellow coaching colleagues, I have gained a lot of inspiration reading “22 immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries & Jack Trout. I know absolutely nothing about marketing, but I do think I learned a lesson or two reading that book, or at least I’d like to think so.

Regarding high performance I’m extremely fascinated by Joshua Waitzkin who was a chess prodigy as a child & later became World Champion in Tai Chi Push Hands. He is now helping the top 1 % of performers in the business world & has laid out his training principles in his book “The art of learning”.

Russ Harriss has to a large degree inspired how I consult the players that I’m working with on the mental part of life & tennis. He is a psychologist that have specialized & written several books on ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy). He writes in an easy to understand everyday language & has even made a pixie book that explains the basic principles of the evidence based Therapy form, ACT.

At last I have been very inspired by the way that you, Nikolaj have managed to design your own life & travel the world while working. Including that inspiration I gained from you I think Rolf Potts’ book “Vagabonding” was a deciding factor for me 4-5 years ago in the way that I have tried to organize my life & travel 15ish weeks a year while studying at the same time.

 

Where can we find you online?

I think you should only follow me if you are a tennis fanatic otherwise you will drown in tennis related stuff as that’s just about everything that I post on each & every social media platform.

My Personal Website is www.adamblicher.com – Consider it more of an online business card

My instagram handle is @adamblicher where you’ll find pictures & short videos from every time I go on foreign trips with tennis players.

My Snapchat handle is @adamblicher – A look behind the scenes whenever I’m at training camps, tournaments, Coaching Conference or other tennis related events.

My facebook page, which you can find @adamblichercoaching is first & foremost a platform where I share coaching ideas of mine with fellow coaches

My podcast is on Itunes & is called “The Adam Blicher Show: Dissecting High Performance in Tennis”. You can find it either by searching in the Podcast App on your Iphone or downloading the app called Stitcher if you are using an Android Smartphone.

 

Adam, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Personally, I’m really looking forward to following your career going forward.

Thanks, Niko – Like wise! :)

Nikolaj Astrup Madsen I am the founder of Refuga. I'm danish, but I'm traveling the world while building Refuga and whenever I have time I go for a run in the mountains. I hope you will join me on this journey!

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