Planning for the future
One of the questions I get asked by young people in particular is whether I had a career plan. For Dylan, his life and career has always been about working towards big dreams and goals – something he has achieved in spades.
“My main [dream] was to normalise disability and [make it] mainstream in a way where it became normal,” he explains. “When you see me [playing tennis] on TV and there are millions of people watching and the crowd's full, it kind of feels normal. But that was so far from normal eight years ago. Did I think that would ever happen? Absolutely not.”
Dylan says although he had planned goals for his tennis career, mainly revolving around major tournaments and Paralympic Games, he likes to “get stuff done” when it comes to changing perceptions of people with disabilities.
“If I want to do something, I'm going to do it. I find a way to keep knocking down doors and smash down that glass ceiling,” he says.
Things he cares about most
Dylan says he has had to get better at prioritising and time management now though, as he is receiving an upwards of 200 requests a day. Something he says was a major consideration when it came to his retirement from professional sport.
“[There are] three things I want to achieve [with my platform] - a fully-funded, guaranteed National Disability Insurance Scheme; free personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests for people with disabilities; and to help change the level of employment for people with disabilities,” he says. “If [a request] doesn't fit within these three things it’s going to be hard to do this year.”
“I'm purpose-driven and my purpose is to change perceptions so people with disability can live the lives they deserve to live,” Dylan explains. “I asked myself, “Do I need to play tennis anymore to live that purpose?” And I don't think I do.”
Dylan says he has benefitted from an incredible support network throughout his tennis career but he believes it's time for another athlete with a disability to have the exposure that he’s had through his career.
On how he remains grounded even when winning Grand Slams and becoming an Officer of the Order of Australia, Dylan says he has become less focused on accolades and more on the impact he can make to his community.
“The things that motivate me [now] are like how you think about me, because we're friends. What my family thinks about me and just being a good person.”
“But it took 28 years for me to feel like that,” Dylan admits “The reason I needed those extrinsic motivators was because I didn't feel worthy at the time because I was disabled. It took me so long to come to terms with my disability and who I am. It’s like a weight off my shoulders [now].”
Dylan also points to mental fitness as something he will focus on going forward and highlights the importance of asking for help when you need it - something he has found integral to his success.
“Sport was one of the best things to teach me to have resilience through adversity… [and] how to work hard. [But] I'm very excited and I’m ready to put resources and my energy into something else.”
Dylan and I also discussed whether he’ll keep casually playing tennis - the answer might surprise you! You can listen to our full conversation by clicking on the video above.
Shayne Elliott is CEO of ANZ