Like many of you, I’ve peeked in on the baseball playoffs a time or two over the last couple of weeks. I love competition and admire those who have the discipline and courage to pursue excellence in a field as competitive as professional athletics. I’ll admit that whenever I watch a team celebrate, I think, “If only I would have applied myself, maybe I could have had an evening like that.”
Admitting that makes me chuckle. Because wanting something and working for something are two completely different things. That’s a lesson I learned long ago.
Antioch, CA is a beautiful place to start a Little League baseball career. The warm sun on your back as you step up to the plate, the cool breeze ruffling the grass in the outfield…it’s enough to make any eight-year-old feel like Babe Ruth. And as a young boy, scuffing my cleats against the dirt and squinting at the pitcher’s mound, I had big dreams of playing like Babe Ruth.
Early on, I was pretty good. I started every game, and batted in the top half of the lineup. I played with confidence and left each game feeling satisfied and successful.
But as I aged up, the competition got tougher. I began to struggle at the plate. The pitchers were bigger, the ball moved faster, and the players who worked regularly to improve their game took my starting spot. When I did play, I batted near the bottom of the lineup.
As you can imagine, my confidence collapsed. My frustration was palpable and ultimately turned into a bad attitude. About that time, my coach pulled me aside for a conversation. What he said next would change my mindset—about baseball and about life.
“Rick,” he said, “there’s a simple answer. If you don’t like what’s happening, practice or quit!”
What????? I was flummoxed. “You want me gone?”
“No,” Coach replied. “I want you happy.”
It took a while to completely understand what he was saying, but it was really quite simple. Struggling stinks! So do something about it.
The business world is full of frustrated people who are going through a slump. It’s not usually because of someone’s capability to do great work—often, it’s a question of either effort or fit. I’ve encountered many early- and mid-career professionals who are struggling or stagnating in jobs that they just don’t like. It’s nearly impossible to get motivated and work on personal and professional improvement when you don’t find what you’re doing purposeful or enjoyable.
If that’s a spot you’re stuck in, it’s time for a Seventh Inning Stretch. Push pause, reset, and consider the following options.
- It may be time to change your game. Not every job is the right job for you, and you may have outgrown your current role. Think about trying something new. This isn’t quitting, it’s finding something that makes you happy.
- It may be time to “choke up on the bat.” Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds both advocated choking up for greater bat control. Many players today don’t do this because they’re swinging for the fences, but it’s not always about the home run. Advancing the runners is an essential part of the sport, and hits are better than strikeouts. Shortening your swing toward attainable goals can yield more reliable results.
- It may be time to get coaching. If you find yourself frustrated because you’re not seeing the results you are used to or expect, ask yourself if there is room for growth in your skill set. The answer is almost always YES. Find an expert to help you recommit and refocus on your goals and improve your performance.
I never became a professional baseball player. I won’t ever raise the Commissioner’s Trophy to the roar of thousands of fans. But I’ve been fortunate enough to have achievements worth celebrating over the course of my career. And the champagne celebrations only come with hard work, discipline, and a commitment to continued improvement.
No matter what field you’re in, the lesson is the same: Practice or quit. Practice at what makes you happy. Quit what doesn’t. And keep reevaluating. There’s nothing more rewarding than being a business champion!
So step up to the plate.
If you’re proficient at continuous improvement, please share some of the resources you use to learn and grow. Or tag someone who is a role model of this for you!