“The one constant through all the years has been baseball…Baseball has marked the time…It reminds us of all that once was good and what could be again…”
— Field of Dreams
I am a serious baseball fan. My son, Matthew, rekindled my love of baseball when he chose that sport over my childhood sport of basketball. In following Matthew’s baseball career and learning more of the intricacies of the game, I have noticed the parallels between baseball and business, as well as the parallels between baseball and life.
“Will he continue to do what has been his life, or, maybe more important than life itself – baseball…”
— Vin Scully, For Love of the Game
Here are some of the things that baseball has taught us that will make our businesses and our lives better…
Run out every pop-up. Assuming the outcome of an event before it has occurred is not a good strategy in business or in life. Not every “sure thing” turns out to be accurate, just like not every pop-up is caught for an out. You do not want to be standing at home plate “holding your jock” the one time the fielder drops the pop-up. You want to be standing on 2nd base.
Pick up your teammates. You see it all the time — a player makes the last out and instead of heading into the dugout, he heads out to his position. One of his teammates will grab the player’s hat and glove from the dugout and bring it out to the player in the field. It is called “picking up your teammate.” How do you pick up the teammates in your company? How do you pick up your teammates in your life?
Never bunt to break-up a no-hitter. There is great quote from the golfer, Jack Nicklaus – “I never told a fellow competitor, ‘Good luck.’ I always told them, ‘Play well.’ I wanted to beat them at their best.” If a competitor is performing at a high level, don’t resort to tricks to beat them. Raise your game and beat them at their best.
Put on your “rally cap”. When the team is down in the late innings, the players resort to putting on their rally caps as a way of generating good luck. This entails wearing your hat inside out, sideways, or any other non-traditional way. The players are not afraid to look silly in the short run in order to generate success in the long run. What are you willing to do in the short run to generate long term success? The satisfaction of long-term success will far outweigh the short-term discomfort.
Never bring your bat into the field. Never bring your glove to the plate. I actually owe this one to my son, Matthew. While being interviewed by a college coach, the coach asked Matthew what made him a unique player. He responded, “I don’t bring my bat to the field and I don’t bring my glove to the plate.” Baseball is a game where the best players in the world fail (i.e. make an out) approximately 70% of the time. You are going to strike out at some point in your business career. You are going to make an error at some point in your personal life – if you are like me, you will do both on a regular basis! The secret is to not let a singular failure distract you from longer term success.
Go where the pitch takes you. The pitcher never tells the batter where he is going to throw the ball or what type of pitch he will make. Similarly, in business, your competitors do not share their business plans with you. The market does not give advance warning to changes in interest rates or stock valuations. God does not give you a head’s up before He drops tragedy in your lap. If the pitch is outside, don’t try to pull it. Instead, punch it to the opposite field. If the pitch is inside, don’t try to slap it into the opposite field – turn on it and pull it down the line. And, when you get one down the middle, Go Yard! In business and life, you cannot control all the variables. Instead, go where the pitch takes you.
“There’s no crying in baseball.” Balls take bad bounces. Bloop hits drop in between fielders. Umps make bad calls. Sometimes, the outcome is not fair. That’s why baseball is such a great parallel for life and business. Life isn’t fair. The outcome is not guaranteed. Business isn’t fair. The best plans and the hardest workers sometimes fail. All you can is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, put one foot in front of the other, and keep going.
“Hey…Dad? Wanna Have A Catch?” In the shadow of Father’s Day, never forget what is most important. Have a catch with your Dad. He will be gone before you know it. Have a catch with your son. He will be a Dad before you know it.
Is this heaven? No, it’s MichaelMarconTweets.com
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.