This isn’t one of those “pick the odd man out” exercises. Believe it or not, these three “sports” display oddly similar patterns and lessons.
Let‘s get to it.
Baseball being a team sport is self-explanatory.
Sex being a team sport is…again, self-explanatory.
Perhaps less obvious is that ALL entrepreneurial endeavors require a team, even if it’s an unofficial team. I’m looking at you Mr./Ms. Solopreneur! You still need a team to support you through all the ups and downs. That could be in the form of a supportive partner, a mentor, advisors, or fellow solopreneurs to bounce ideas off of.
You’ve got 3 strikes to get a hit in baseball. Yes, there’s risk in striking out. Yes, there’s risk in hitting into a double-play, or worse. But by and large, if you want to score, you need to take that chance and swing the bat. Side note for baseball purists: yes we can argue that walks and on-base percentage are important, but teams still rely on base hits to drive in those walks.
As with baseball, entrepreneurship is about taking a swing at opportunities. The most amazing opportunity could be grooved right down the pipe for you, but if you don’t take a swing, that opportunity won’t swing at itself.
I’m aware this contradicts the last point…welcome to baseball, entrepreneurship, and well, life.
Baseball players are often taught to “look for their pitch.” This means being patient to avoid bad pitches, and waiting for a good pitch to swing at. Likewise, as an entrepreneur, you don’t have the time or resources to pursue every opportunity. Sometimes the most critical and difficult decisions come down to deciding which opportunities NOT to pursue.
This illustrates two important skills worth developing: (i) recognizing the difference between a good and bad pitch/opportunity; and (ii) the courage to take a swing when a good pitch/opportunity comes your way.
There’s a baseball anecdote that to succeed at the class AA level, a player needs to make adjustments after every game. As a AAA player, you need to adjust after every at-bat. As a major league player, you need to adjust after every pitch.
In short: the faster you make adjustments, the higher you’ll go and have more success as a baseball player.
Lean Startup’s “Fail Fast” mantra preaches a similar lesson. It’s not so much about failing, but more about learning from your failures and adjusting faster than the competition. It’s how small startups win the fight against big, entrenched incumbents. Because they adjust, faster.
Swinging a baseball bat is a complex act involving dozens of tiny mechanics. Batters only have two-tenths of a second to decide whether or not to swing, so thinking about any of these mechanics can easily overwhelm a batter during the heat of a game. Instead, batters are taught to “see ball, hit ball.” In other words, break down complex mechanics into something simple. It’s even been scientifically proven that overthinking in baseball leads to subpar results.
“Wow” is right if you’ve been watching this 2017 World Series ⚾️. Baseball is a game of averages, but even so, outlier events still occur on a regular enough basis that one should expect anything can happen.
Every entrepreneurial venture will also face its fair share of unexpected events. Mike Tyson said it best:
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
Typhoon flooded your supplier, delaying your production schedule? Yea, that happened. Apple acquired one of your component suppliers and stopped selling to you? Yea, that happened too. There’s no way my previous startup could have predicted these specific events, yet we did expect some setbacks along the way. Initial shock aside, only thing to do was get back to work and adjust as quickly as possible.
Baseball is probably the only sport where a 70% failure rate (.300 batting average) is considered Hall of Fame material. Even the best players fail. A LOT.
Baseball teaches players to look for the silver lining in every failure. So you struck out? At least you inflated the pitcher’s pitch count before you went down. So your team lost? At least you discovered a weakness in the opponent’s seemingly invincible pitcher.
“Without failure there is no progress.” — Rich Hill
Today’s society is allergic to failure, glossing them over with participation trophies that only serve to hide the important lessons. You’d think this would lead to higher self esteem, but the opposite is true. Those who stand out are the ones who still maintain the confidence of winners, even when they don’t win. They’ve embraced failure as the norm.
So how exactly does one embrace failure?
It starts by taking a good hard look in the mirror, but not beating yourself up. It’s a delicate balancing act, but the purpose is to identify the adjustments that need to be made. With a new plan in place, move forward from the failure by focusing on process, process, process.
We all yearn for glory. Hitting that game-winning home run, raising the MVP trophy, then riding off with the swimsuit model. But sometimes, even when you do all the right things, you still won’t get the result you hoped for. If you’re solely focused on results, this may lead to decreased confidence which can and will lead to decreased performance.
The great irony is that by focusing on process, not results, you end up getting better results over the long run:
How many times have we seen the post-game interviewer ask the game’s hero how he or she did it? The response is almost universally the same: putting in work day in and day out, no matter the outcome. Trusting the process. That could be practicing your swing, despite your batting slump. That could be persisting with sales calls, despite the rejections.
By ignoring the outcome (which is often out of your control), and focusing on the process (which most definitely is under your control), you’ll be able to maintain your confidence over time. Do this long enough, and the law of averages will eventually come back into your favor.
The baseball season, as is any entrepreneurial venture and meaningful human relationship, is a long marathon full of twists, turns, win streaks, slumps and everything in between.
The key to making it out to the other side is simply a matter of staying the course and not giving up.
And the key to not giving up, is the very under appreciated mental game. No matter which “sport” you play: baseball, entrepreneurship or dating, cultivating your mental toughness will help you over the long run.
I hope the “nine innings of mental game” described above will help keep your focus and confidence on point as you progress through the game of life/baseball/entrepreneurship/relationships.
Whomever said baseball is boring simply wasn’t paying attention!
Don’t forget to take another pass at the nine points and think of them in terms of dating and relationships 😃
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