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“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.” – Saul Steinberg, cartoonist and illustrator
The sound of the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. The smell of recently-cut grass and a fresh leather mitt. The taste of ranch-flavored sunflower seeds and the satisfaction of an endless crack-chew-spit routine. It’s easy to wax philosophical about baseball. While the game may just be a sport to some, for others, it’s symbolic of business and life itself.
Perhaps I should mention at this point that I’m a baseball fanatic and a youth baseball coach. My wife thinks I take my responsibilities too seriously (and she may be right), but I do it because the kids I’m coaching are learning more than a sport. While this may sound sentimental, I believe they’re learning life lessons that last long after they stop playing baseball.
Whether or not my love for the sandlot is an obsession isn’t the focus here; instead, I’d like to review some of the unparalleled business lessons I’ve learned from the game. Here are some of the skills that can be carried from the dugout into the office.
You never lose. You only learn.
“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” – Ted Williams, professional baseball player and manager
There will be failures in business, just like in baseball. It’s time to rule out pitching a perfect game every day. Instead, consistency is the name of the game. The 1998 New York Yankees champion team, often considered one of the league’s greatest lineups, racked up a .704 overall record. That’s only slightly higher than a 70% win rate (and that’s with Mariano Rivera closing). Most division-winning teams hover around a 50-60% win rate.
Simply put, you are not going to excel at everything you do. No one does. Cy Young — the MLB legend who virtually wrote the book on pitching — has held the all-time career records for both pitching wins and losses for more than a century. As this illustrates, real winners are the individuals who know how to turn their shortcomings into learning opportunities.
Your technique can be developed. In baseball, you can watch tapes and learn from your mistakes to make you a better player. You can study your form to become a better pitcher or hitter. You can work with a coach or teammate to target and improve specific skill sets.
Much like a promising pitcher can perfect their slider, an ambitious marketing and advertising professional can learn how to better sell, market or advertise a service or product. They can review pitch decks after a big presentation and rate their performance. Or, they can track activity metrics such as the number of conversations, meetings scheduled and demos presented — and learn from any gaps in their process.
It’s all about practice and preparation.
“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” – Tommy Lasorda, professional baseball manager
Practice is essentially continued education. In baseball, repetition develops mental muscle as much as it does stamina and strength. It teaches you how to prepare to win. While there is undoubtedly some level of physicality involved in the sport, a home run hero isn’t born overnight. They practice and prepare for years to know when to wait for the perfect pitch.
Preparing your employees for their next challenge means equipping them with the tools to develop their skill sets in a positive, proactive environment. The MLB has a slew of managers that not only excel as coaches; they are imitable life coaches, as well. As a Californian, I have to stay true to my L.A. Dodgers — and luckily, we currently have Dave Roberts at the helm.
The thing about Dave is that he’s a former outfielder and stolen base king who played ten years in the major leagues. He’s been in the trenches and has put in the hours to not only learn his craft but also practice it. And he knows how to share this workable knowledge with his team. As Dave exemplifies, the best coaches are those that understand the realities of the roles of their team members and have been in their cleats.
Preparing for success as an organization means teaching your team members to take advantage of opportunities as much as it means helping them anticipate inevitable curve balls. It means acknowledging and tracking both their successes and shortcomings. And it means empowering your organization to learn the value of proper patience, preparation and practice.
What has baseball taught you?
June 11, 2019 at 07:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs