Jim Duffy: All humans – even Andy Murray – have a ‘shelf life’

Sir Andy Murray was forced to pull out of the Australian Open because of injury (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Sir Andy Murray was forced to pull out of the Australian Open because of injury (Picture: AFP/Getty)
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Everyone needs to realise that eventually it is simply time to move on to a new phase of life, writes Jim Duffy.

Are you one of those people who is obsessed with the shelf life of foods? I must admit to being a shelf life nut. As I browse and surf the shelves in my local supermarket, I will always search to the back of the shelf to get the best use by or sell by date.

I mean, why have mince that will last for two days when you can have mince that will last for five days, right? It’s all down to personal preference on what freshness means to you and how this impacts the choices you make.

From bread to bacon to orange juice to broccoli, each has a shelf life that holds value. That extra day can mean so much. But, what happens to us as human beings when we think about our own use by date?

Shelf life and how we approach this in relation to our own journey in life is hugely significant in the choices we make. But, I see so many people out there in so many spheres who simply do not or cannot interpret their own shelf life.

By this I don’t mean their timespan to death, but rather their usefulness to themselves and others at certain periods in life. I guess the question is how do you know when you are going stale?

How do you know when your best days in any one particular area are over or indeed should come to an end?

The classic examples here are sports people. In particular, boxers who think that they can still compete at the top level, despite everything slowing down.

World champions like Muhammad Ali kept coming back believing that they could win.

Managers and advisors and colleagues and friends could all see that Ali’s career was over. He should not continue to box. But, the individual himself could not see this. It takes a very special individual to appreciate when his or her game is over and they should step aside and open a new chapter in life.

I’m looking at Sir Andy Murray just now, wondering if perhaps he should have a look at his own shelf life.

Here are my thoughts, knowing that he is a national treasure and universally loved by so many of us. Firstly, he has nothing to prove.

He is a grand slam winner. He is an Olympic gold-medal winner. He has been the number one in the global rankings. He has done what many UK, never mind Scottish tennis players, could only have dreamed of. It is fair to say he has accomplished the dream of every little boy who ever picked up a tennis racket.

Add to this he is happily married with a wonderful family, cash in the bank, investments and so it goes on. And all this while he is what many of us class as a young man. But, this week he has had to pull out of the Australian Open.

This is really tough for him. He is a sportsman who just loves to compete, while he truly loves his sport and his fans. His quote on withdrawal from the Brisbane International Tournament this week showed how much his sport means to him when he said, “the little kid inside me just wants to play tennis and compete”.

But, the burning question I have is, does Sir Andy know his sell by date and is he being honest with himself?

“Boo hiss,” I hear you shout, it’s just a hiccup. Look at Roger Federer. He is 36 years of age and still going strong. All fine and well, but he is not Roger Federer. They both don’t share the same DNA. While having great trainers, fitness regimes and coaches can all iron out differences in performance, everyone is an individual and as such needs to approach their respective careers in different ways.

Hopefully, Sir Andy will fly home and do two things. The first is, of course, to go to all the top doctors etc to assess all the options for his hip and general fitness and health. I am sure he will get a barrage of tests and possible health regimes and surgical options.

But, that is only the tip of the iceberg. The second and more important thing he must do is be 100 per cent honest with that little kid inside him. He must be true to himself and reflect on what he honestly feels his future holds. This will be tough. What I don’t want to see is Sir Andy hobbling and straining over the next five years to try and compete to win another grand slam.

I’d rather Andy focused on what is real and in front of him – in the next chapter of his life. He has and continues to inspire so many of us, so imagine what else he could do if he decided to turn his hand to it.

Shelf life is a huge deal for Andy and if you are honest a big deal for you too. Whatever job you are in, business you run, role you are involved in, knowing when you are ready to hang up your gloves or put down your racket is truly special.

Opening up the next chapter can be just as fulfilling, just as lucrative, just as much fun, if you know when it is time to make that move.

I’m not offering you a new diet here for 2018. God knows the papers are full of them. No, I’m offering you a new way to think and perhaps help you or others to transition into a new chapter with a long and meaningful shelf life.