You Have to Outlast the Others

Winning requires preparation and perseverance. Having some talent certainly helps, but it’s not the defining piece of any success story. Talent, as we know, only takes a person so far. However, what we don’t know – or so often neglect – is how far we’re willing to go when our talent runs out.

For instance, I’ve always been good at baseball. When I was a kid, I took to the sport very quickly. As soon as I could walk, I could also hold a baseball. And throw one too. Granted, learning to throw well took some time. I didn’t whip out four-seam fastballs right away – that took some effort and some growing. But, my ability to adapt and learn the game was always a cut above most everyone I competed with (or against). I wasn’t a prodigy, but I was definitely someone who could succeed if I stayed with the game long enough.

And that was just what I did: I stuck with it. When I was growing up, I met a lot of other naturally-gifted ballplayers. Many of whom were better than me. They seemed to hit home runs rather easily. They threw curveballs with an arc that seemed to defy all laws of physics. They could field, catch, and throw with a precision that looked predetermined. I was good, but I still wanted to be greater than they were.

Then, as I got older, something strange began to happen. My skills improved, yes, but the same standouts that kept me hanging around were falling off the radar. They were the same men, with the same names, but their skills somehow diminished overnight. At first, I thought it was only because was getting better. That somehow, I had eclipsed them and could now focus on a new enemy. But, it was more than that. Somewhere along the way, these fellow ballplayers – these prodigies of baseball – had plateaued. They had reached the peak of their natural gifts. And now, without the proper disciplines in place, they fell out of the sport and never returned.

Seems odd, doesn’t it? That despite all their accomplishments and their love of the game, they just up and left. Usually doing so because the going got tough. Looking back, what looks like a mystery actually makes a lot of sense.

For example, Mozart was known as a virtuoso. In the realm of music, he was a genius; highly skilled and possessing an innate knowledge of how strings, horns, and percussion should come together for perfect harmony. But, he also had discipline. The same can be said for Michael Jordan; a man who was cut from his high school basketball team (you probably know the rest of the story). It’s hard to imagine, but consider for a moment how many “unfinished works” there are. How many unrefined or incomplete talents have gone to the wayside because the discipline was the only thing lacking. I’m sure the number is impossible to count, but you get the idea.

If you want to be a success at something, you have to have more than just talent. You have to maintain the course. You simply have to outlast the others.

When you’re hit by a baseball…

…it usually hurts.

It don’t really matter who you are. The brief impact, the sudden abrasion against your skin, the force of a round object against you – all of these events are unwanted experiences for your body. And yet, if you play baseball, you’re bound to be hit by a ball sooner or later. Whether it be at home plate, in the field, or in the bleachers – there’s a good chance you’ll be hit at some point. And when you do get plunked, it won’t be enjoyable.

When we increase the amount of times we do something, we also increase the possibility that something bad will occur. Take dating, for example. The more you go out on dates and the more people you decide spend time with, the more liable you will be to have your heart trampled upon. The same can be applied to driving. Drive a car long enough and you’ll probably witness a few crashes or heaven forbid, be involved in a crash.

If you broke this concept down a little further, you may refer to this phenomenon as “probability”. Or rather, the likelihood that an event will eventually take place. Anyone who has ever driven a car knows that there’s an inherent chance that something bad might happen while they’re driving. The engine stalls, tire goes flat, and so on, but we rarely focus our energies on the one-in-a-million situation. We fix our eyes on the objective instead. “I need to get groceries”; “I need to pick up my kid from school”, among others. The goal outweighs any possible fear we may possess.

So why am I drabbling on about this stuff? Well, I got hit by a pitch this weekend and man, it hurt. I won’t lie about it. A 75+ mph fastball plunked me right in my side. If my kidneys were positioned on the outside of my body, they would have exploded. Thankfully, they are not but you get the idea.

The ironic thing about all this is how I had just been thinking that I hadn’t been hit by a pitch for a while. Honestly, it’s been about three solid years since the last time I’ve been hit. And for a guy in his late 20s who still plays on weekends, that’s not bad odds. Historically, I get out of the way pretty well, but on Sunday I just didn’t. So as I took my hit to the side, grimaced and threw my bat down, I couldn’t help but think of my earlier thoughts that morning.

You know, I don’t think I’ve been hit by a pitch in a while. That’s not bad.

And from that moment on, I was doomed. I’m sure most people can relate to this. The instance we recognize a glitch in our universe, that quick observation of our own extended bliss; we send an open invite to agony so it can return to our doorstep.

But here’s the reality – agony returned because I got lax. I was comfortable with my circumstances. Rather than keep my guard up, I was content to “ride my good fortune out”. Like I was somehow immune to being hit by a ball again. If I were really watching carefully, on guard and ready for anything, I may have dodged that ball and this blog post would have never happened. But on the flip side of that thinking, I could have reflected upon how I’ve kept my mind sharp. Not being content to let a baseball smash into me after so many years of avoiding a wild throw or errant pitch.

I didn’t though (as you know). I got comfortable. Such is the way with most people. However, I find myself not wanting to be like most people. I’d like to think of myself as someone who challenges himself daily. Moment to moment, second to second, with the understanding that I can change things as they are happening without having to sit idly by. Because if I sit idly, then I’m sure to be caught in that familiar “Hey, that hasn’t for a while, has it?” And we all know what comes next when you have one of those silent epiphanies….

You get hit by a baseball.