Most Powerful Women

Champ to Facebook exec's kids: how to win

July 8, 2013: 10:56 AM ET

Billie Jean King won the first of her 20 Wimbledon titles in 1961, at age 17, and has returned to the ivy-covered club every year since. These days, King's passion is business, running World TeamTennis with her partner, Ilana Kloss. King took a break from this year's Wimbledon to come to Fortune Most Powerful Women: London—and scored a point about how to win by calling the daughters of Facebook (FB) VP Carolyn Everson to the stage. I had interviewed Everson, who oversees Facebook's global ad sales (and had relocated to London for six months to shore up the European business) earlier in the day, and her twin girls came to see their mom on stage. Here are 10-year-old Kennedy and Taylor Everson learning  a bit about teamwork from an icon who knows the game of success in business and sports:

And here's more advice from King on how to win--edited from our on-stage conversation at Fortune MPW: London:

Every decision we make, there's a consequence. Every single one in your life. The ball's coming towards me, I have to accept responsibility for it.

I have to decide where I'm going to hit it, the spin, how hard I'm going to hit it, all those things. If I'm returning a serve, I have less than 1/10th of a second to make those decisions, OK?

When it goes out, you take in the information. I call it, not failure, I call it feedback. Because that's really what life is.
When we fail, it's really feedback, right? When we win, it's feedback.

I try to get people to concentrate more on why they win. Here's what I'll ask a young person when they come off the court: "Why did you win?"

I will spend a lot more time on that than when they lose. Because it starts to build up the self-confidence that you need to start to understand your strengths--and understand, you know, what makes you tick.

It makes you allow yourself to be the best you can be.

If you keep harping and spending your time on why you lose (sometimes you have to do a deep dive and analyze why), but if I can get someone to understand why they win and understand what makes them tick, their chances of winning are so much greater.

75% of the time in a match, you're not hitting a tennis ball. The champions use that 75% of the time better than anybody else. And they're stronger emotionally.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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