“It’s a long road to wisdom, it’s a short one to being ignored.” Flowers in Your Hair, The Lumineers
Most of the time, we walk around in a fog. Never stopping to take inventory of who we really are. One day rolls to the next and we simply … exist. We gravitate towards our strengths and avoid our weaknesses … saying things like, “I’m not good at math, so I’ll go to law school.” (Ok, so maybe that’s just me … but I bet you can relate).
I grew up playing baseball and success came easy. I was taller than most, hit the ball a long way, and threw hard. By the time I reached high school, however, everyone was big, they all threw hard, and while I still hit the ball a long way, it was much harder to make contact. (Read: I struck out a lot). As a junior and senior, I was the last guy to make our varsity baseball team … the final roster spot.
Here’s the thing … I was also the last one to know how close it was. I shuffled divorced parents, anxiety and depression, bad skin … typical kid stuff. But the baseball field … that was my sanctuary. When I stepped on a diamond, I could overpower people on the mound and hit the ball a mile. I had horrible hair and greasy skin … but I’d strike your ass out and all was right in the world. So, when my varsity coach told me I was the final man – and that I would have to continue to work to keep that position – it was a shock. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been. I wasn’t technically sound. I simply assumed success would continue to come easy. It was a tough wake-up call at 15, but I needed it … even if I didn’t know it at the time.
Fast forward 20 years (or so). My youngest son – aged 9 – found out today that he made a very competitive travel baseball team. Perhaps the best program in Charlotte … maybe all of NC. I also learned he was the last guy on the roster. Number 10 out of 10. His last workout pushed him over the edge. Accordingly, he’ll have to work his ass off to keep his spot.
This is an exceptional opportunity. For E, most things come easy. He’s always been a very good baseball, soccer, and basketball player. He breezes through school, currently reading at a twelfth-grade level. He’s polite, the greatest brother on the planet, and an extraordinarily sweet person.
Adversity, though, can open our eyes. The conversation I had with him tonight was awesome. Yes, we celebrated his achievement (we saw Spiderman and drank milkshakes). We also talked about what it means to really work for something. Most importantly, we talked about failure … and how to view it as opportunity. The greatest gift his coach could have given him wasn’t a roster spot … it was honest, level-headed feedback.
Before we left for the movie, I heard him banging balls in the basement. With his older brother, they hit hundreds of balls into a net. In our house, we don’t teach our kids to dwell on their strengths, we teach them to tackle the “hard”. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.”
He won’t play baseball forever … or any sport for that matter. He’ll encounter a subject in school that gives him a real challenge. He’ll fall for a girl that doesn’t fall for him. In every scenario, he’ll be prepared. If he doesn’t make this same team next season, he won’t wonder, “why?”
Friends, take some time to look in the proverbial mirror. Being good at something is fun. Tackling the “hard” is far more rewarding.
Lyfe Lesson: Honestly analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Chase the hard. View failure as opportunity. Don’t ever stop working.