This summer, our family has been introduced to the incredible world of travel ball. My son and daughter both play on teams, so EVERY WEEKEND we pack up the car and head to different cities to play tournaments. This last weekend we found ourselves in Kansas City, Missouri, for the boys’ eight-and-under state championship. My son Nick was fired up because his grandparents were in town from Houston, Texas, and he wanted to show them what he could do.
During his first at-bat, Nick struck out and you could not imagine the look on his face. Nick is a fierce competitor and, on top of that, a very emotional kid (he must get that from his mother). It killed him that he didn’t produce, even though he went down swinging. He plodded back to the dugout very upset. I asked what happened and Nick said he was nervous because he wanted to do well. Then I asked him if he was done being nervous and ready to hit next time. The look on his face said it all. That ball didn’t stand a chance. His next at bat he crushed a line drive to left field, blasted around the bases, and got an inside-the-park home run. I am one of the coaches of his team, so I rarely get to video record his batting. After seeing the look on his face, I knew he was going to do something big, so I grabbed my iPhone and pressed record. Check out the home run, and then I want to comment on two things I learned.
First, it wasn’t a traditional over-the-fence home run, followed by a slow trot around the bases – but he got the same result. When we are planning our business strategy we are very specific about what we want to accomplish and what success looks like at the end of it. Funny thing is, it rarely happens the way you draw it up these days. I have seen people come apart because the plan isn’t working exactly like it is supposed to, but WHO CARES as long as you get results. A key to winning is that no matter what happens, you find a way to adjust. Things are going to get in your way, disrupt your plans, and even bring you to the edge of failure, but you have to overcome it and just figure it out. It has happened to me so many times that it is actually one of the things that I look forward to on a project. What is the monkey wrench going to be this time?
Second, when Nick struck out he had a few choices. He could have walked back to the dugout in tears (which at the age of eight still happens). Or do what he did: accept the reality and get fired up about it. I am reading a book by Randy Dobbs called “Transformational Leadership” and one of the first things the author talks about is never giving up. Here is a guy that grew up in a home with an abusive stepfather and broken family but drove himself to become one of the top guys at General Electric, working for Jack Welch. No magic here – just take your lumps and choose not to lose.
Nick’s team learned another lesson as they went into that state championship as the number one seed. They had been run-ruling every team they played until the third day when they got their butts kicked by somebody they should have beat. There is another blog post for me about not underestimating your competition, but I will leave that for another day. Is your company good at jumping the unexpected hurdle? Are you getting fired up and figuring out new and unconventional ways to get home runs, or do you let the strikeouts get you down?
Share your success-in-the-face-of-failure moments in the comments section.