I help coach my daughter’s travel softball team. I wouldn’t consider myself a softball savant. In fact, if you put me in a room with bunch of softball dads, I would bet that almost all of them know the game more than me. I don’t know every rule of the game, I don’t know the “right call” to make in every situation, I don’t care. Instead, I study success and human dynamics and try to discern what it takes to place an organization or person in a position to succeed.
I got involved in softball because I wanted to strengthen my relationship with my daughter and spend time with her as she navigated her way through the sport. Eventually, I found myself in the dugout and able to influence the decisions of the team and the game. I observed other coaches, parents, and the players. I reflected on the nuances of the game and pondered the keys of softball and why our team would win or lose. I concluded that logic wins and emotions lose.
It’s my belief that success comes when you focus on a few key measures, and when applied on a consistent basis, will lead to winning. I observed overzealous coaches and parents arguing with umpires over obscure calls or stressing over odd plays that were outliers and not the norm. When emotions ruled the game, teams lost. Instead, I began to approach the game logically and searched for key measures that helped us win. I discovered one measure that made sense to me. On offense, we won when ten girls could get on base over the course the game. When I checked the numbers, we never lost when we hit that mark.
It made sense to me that we should set a goal to get ten girls on base, because historical statistics showed we always won. In softball, a player can get on base in many ways. She can get walked, she can hit the ball, or she can get hit by the pitch. From a logical standpoint, it doesn’t matter how a player gets on base, just that she gets on base. From an emotional standpoint, it makes a huge difference.
It’s much more satisfying for a player to hit a beautiful long shot over the head of the outfield defense and hit the ball to the fence or over the fence, then to lay down a meager bunt that plops two feet in front of home plate. Emotionally, a parent wants to see his or her daughter swing the bat and knock the cover off the ball. This may validate all the batting practices and money spent on hitting coaches, but it may not win the game.
For me, as a parent, I would much rather see my daughter make a hard hit to the outfield to get on base then to get four pitched balls that walks her to first base. That’s anticlimactic and not nearly as fun or exciting, but it still achieves the same goal of getting on base.
So, after a few years experiencing softball, I’ve learned that most teams lose because they allow emotions to run the organization and forget to pursue what truly leads to success, which in most cases is mundane, boring, and less satisfying.
Success is simple, but most often, it’s a grind and not glorifying. If I reflect on my life and when I achieved great success, it often came because of a few things that I did on a consistent basis that received no fanfare. Softball, like life, comes down to base hits. Home runs are cool and that’s what we remember and celebrate, but base hits win games.
When it comes to success, emotion must be stripped from the equation, because our emotions will cloud our judgement and lead to failure. It’s not fun to get walked to a base, or hit by a pitch, or hit a soft ground ball to third base that allows the player to sprint successfully to first base, but it’s the essences of success. Those that are willing to grind and to do what it takes to “get on base” will ultimately win, as long as they do it ethically. It takes discipline, perspective, and a willingness to approach life in a logical way that will take you to the next level.
So, what does this mean for you? It’s simple really, what are two or three things, that if you pursued them consistently, would increase your chances of success? For me, as a public speaker, it means getting in front of people and speaking. I may speak to two people, which I have, or hundreds of people. Most of the time, I’m only in front of 75-100 people and it’s not with a lot of fanfare, but I do it often and I’m experiencing success that’s led to bigger speaking gigs and book deals. I spend hours preparing for a talk, traveling, and on the phone with event planners so that I may talk for 45 minutes on stage. Most of the time, my life is a grind, but I continue to “get on base” so that I may ultimately win the game. What about you? Do you continue to swing for the fences so that you may get the glory, but continue to strike out? Or, are you willing to lay down a bunt and get on base?