A softball field full of little girls taught me another life lesson last weekend. If you regularly read this blog, you have probably heard me talk about my daughter’s 11-and-under softball team. There are nine scrappy kids from three states that make up the Battitudes team, and when they put on the uniform they come to play. For a few different reasons, we decided to play in a state tournament last weekend that didn’t have an 11-year-old division, which forced us to play with older girls. 14-year-olds! Before each game, the coaches told the girls, “Nobody thinks you should be playing in this tournament except for you, your coaches, and your parents. You have nothing to lose, so just do what you know you can do.”
A few things happened I think are relevant to the business world:
- Deal with what is in front of you. Based on the conversations we had with other teams, I know that players and coaches were looking past us to their next game. Do you know how significant the size difference is between most 11-year-old and 14-year-old girls? I don’t really blame the other teams for not being too worried, because if I took the field and saw our little team warming up, I would not have been too concerned. Do you think that maybe Sony had this thought when an up-and-comer showed up in the portable music business? That would be Apple, in case you have not connected the dots. We all know how that ended. I hear old timers in this industry dismissing the e-commerce space or social media as a tool to connect with consumers, making fun of platforms like Twitter, and I think to myself, “I would shift my thinking if I were you.”
- Trash talk is dangerous. If I have a role on my daughter’s team, it is probably to just be goofy with the girls and try to keep them having fun so they can perform at peak levels, motivating them with small speeches and prayer before each game. There was a parent from another team scouting us and sitting in our stands. He asked me how old our girls were and I told him. His comment was, “They are pretty good for their age.” Normally that comment might slide by me, but not the way he said it. I shared this with our girls right before we played in the championship game and said, “Let’s show him what PRETTY GOOD looks like.” Not respecting your competition is one thing, but if your sales force is out in the market trash-talking, that is probably going to bite you in a place you don’t want to be bit. You gain nothing by giving your competition bulletin board material. Plus, it lacks class.
- Getting outside of your comfort zone makes you better. Put yourself in situations that force you to perform at a higher level. And when you go after those challenges, do so with a warrior spirit. Play for the win. It’s easier said than done, but when you power through you’re often better as a result.
- Heart defines you. Were we more skilled than the team we played in the championship game? Don’t know and don’t really care. All I can tell you is that our girls wanted that trophy. Bad. Desire can’t make up for a poor strategy, bad personnel, or uncompetitive products and pricing, but when all things are equal and you are playing with purpose and heart, you will take down a competitor that might have some advantages over you – every time. What are you playing for?
It was a tough battle right down to the last out. We had gone up 4-1 heading into the last inning. We were on defense and there were two outs, but they had the bases loaded. Line drive to our shortstop. Barehanded grab with a backhanded toss to third for the final out. Battitudes win!
As I type this we are in Des Moines, Iowa, ready to play in the 11-and-under USSSA World Series. Funny thing about winning is that it gives you that confidence that only winning can. One thing I can guarantee is that we won’t be looking past any opponent we face. We know how that can end.