I was the keynote speaker at a High School Baseball Team’s fundraiser dinner.
I was happy to do it because so many people helped me when I was coaching an underfunded college program.
So the talk I gave was on 5 of the lessons baseball taught me.
Now, admittedly, I’d say that baseball…either playing or coaching, has taught me more than any other experience outside of being a parent – and many of those things that I learned through baseball have been at the core of any business success I’ve had.
So I thought I’d share the 5 things with you…
The 5 lessons baseball taught me were…
How to handle adversity.
“Every strike out brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth
Baseball is the game that I think best prepares you to deal with the challenges, adversities and failures that we encounter in life…and make no mistake, you’ll have them.
It teaches us to keep little thing little.
When you’re 7 or 8, crying after a strikeout is common.
But you learn that it’s just part of the process. You discover that to achieve anything, you’re going to have bumps in the road.
The second lesson I learned was the importance of being both a good teammate while also being the best version of yourself.
You’ve heard the phrase when you are on an airplane that is about to take off…they tell you that in the event of a change in cabin pressure your oxygen mask will drop. Then they tell you to put yours on before assisting anyone else.
That’s baseball…more than any other sport. It’s the perfect blend of personal responsibility and opportunity and being a team player.
No other sport gives us all an almost equal opportunity to shine as individuals, but also requires us to play thinking about others.
You bat and it’s just you. No one blocking for you or setting a pick. Hit or strike out…you won’t bat again for a half an hour probably. You have to dwell on it. Not like the next play in basketball or football.
But on defense…everything involves multiple players. You can’t pitch without a catcher. You can be the best shortstop on the planet…but you still have to throw it to first.
Whether you’re an employee or employer…you’ll have individual responsibilities and opportunities – but you can’t do it alone.
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a business or raising a child…you’ve got to do your job, but yours isn’t the only job.
The third thing that baseball taught me was the need to stay the course.
In professional baseball they play 162 games…in the NFL it’s 16.
Baseball teaches you to never get too high or too low because you have to come back tomorrow. A loss isn’t the end of the world. The goal is to simply do your best and to get better every day.
Baseball teaches you perspective. That no one goes undefeated. The best teams still lose a decent number of games.
But what I’ll tell you is this… over time I’ve discovered that nothing worth having comes without commitment, persistence and time…and the ‘grind’ of a baseball season prepares you for that in a way few other sports could.
The fourth thing that baseball taught me was that there are only a few things that are crucial to success in almost any pursuit when you get right down to it.
This one isn’t obvious when you’re in the middle of it…but it’s so true.
In most things in life…you can boil what success is based on down to a few things.
In business it’s figuring out how to get customers and profitably give them what they want.
In baseball it’s all about run creation and run prevention. That’s it.
Some people create runs by employing the bunt and the hit and run. I personally didn’t use either and didn’t ever call for a hit and run….and during my last 3 years in college baseball I called for 3 bunts.
That was my approach…but there are plenty of people who create runs with small ball.
Run prevention could be having a hard throwing pitcher striking everyone out…or it could be groundball pitchers.
But it all boils down to run creation and run prevention.
Just like everything else in life…if you figure out the real drivers of success in what you’re doing rather than focusing on all the trivial stuff…you’ll be able to beat the competition more often than not.
The final lesson I wanted to share was the importance of appreciating today.
This was the one that was hardest for me to grasp. I was always chasing the next thing. The next goal…the job.
I can only remember enjoying about 5 wins as a college coach. The rest were more of a relief.
See, now I can look back and know what mattered. It was the people. The shared experiences.
Now, when I talk to my former players…and understand that I stopped coaching at the college level over a decade ago…but I talk to at least a couple a week still…it’s always about the people and the experiences. And that’s really my favorite memory…more than any win, any accolade or anything else.
The relationships and the shared experiences.
In fact, I talk with my best friend who I played ball with from little through HS a couple of times a week at least…probably more. And baseball was really the foundation of our friendship…the common bond. Now our families vacation together and kids play together in spite of him living 3 hours away.
And baseball was the cause of that. And when we talk about baseball…we often talk about what we’d give to go back and just have one more practice at our old high school. The time with our teammates, the way we’d challenge one another…so enjoy the moment, because before you know it – those moments have passed and you don’t get them back.
So enjoy them all.
That was the core of my talk…and the truth is it’s some of the stuff that is at the core of my life so hopefully it was of at least a little value to you.
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