Babe Ruth was a Balla’

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The Home Run Hitter

I played on an adult kickball team.

Don’t judge me.

My team’s first game was a rout and we were mercy ruled. For those that don’t know about the mercy rule, it means that the other team was ahead by twelve runs and the game was discontinued to save what little pride we had left.

The basic adult kickball – drinking beer while running to base, bar-b-quing in the outfield – strategy is simple: get on base.

From an ant pile that approximates a pitcher’s mound, I watched the opposing team score run after run using a very simple method. The ball was kicked lightly down the third base line, which gave the kicker time to get to first base. Several of my teammates are new to sports and needed some direction. They were instructed to bunt the ball to their left and run. This simple maneuver is a guaranteed recipe for success. The kickball is huge: the size and weight of a prize winning pumpkin. Because of this, if the kick is properly placed, it is physically impossible to throw the ball the distance required to get to the runner out.

A combination of nerves, ego and the visions of glory killed any chance we had of success. One by one each player went up and kicked with all they had. One by one each player popped the ball up to someone in the infield and was called out. All we had to do was kick the ball 8 feet to the left and run, but our egos wouldn’t let us do it. We wanted glory!

Because we are conditioned to expect big things, I think we can become preoccupied with them and deviate from a plan that actually works. There isn’t a whole lot of glory in a succession of base hits. They don’t make movies about folks that grind everyday and achieve their idea of success a little bit at a time.

Babe Ruth is a baseball icon to such a degree that he is a household name even one hundred years after he played. According to forbes.com, for every 450 at bats he had, he hit 41 home runs. To make the math simple, that is about 1 home run for every ten times he went up to bat. Arguably the greatest slugger of all time only hit a home run one in ten times he tried. As far as home runs go, that is a great percentage, but it still means that nine out of ten times he fell short. I think that is a nice metaphor for life. In our minds we strut up to the home plate of our lives, call our shot and let it rip. We are Babe Ruth and we feel like we should crush it and hit it out of the park at every opportunity. We can’t always manage to hit a home run, they are rare, but we still expect it. The expectation that we should isn’t where the problem lies, necessarily. The problem is our reaction to the misses. Sometimes when people take a big swing for the fence and fall short they can’t figure out what went wrong and they get frozen. Failing can become failure.

When a person has bought in to the idea that they are the home run hitter and that prosperity is one heroic crack of the bat away, striking out is tough to deal with. The problem can’t be us, or how we are going about out our plan. After all we are Babe Ruth.

If you are a home run hitter type that is continually scratching your head about why people that are less able than you are succeeding faster than you, I bet I can tell you what the difference is between you. While you are waiting, planning and getting ready for your at-bat to make the big score, the other guy or gal is doing. They are racking up base hits. They are taking steps forward one at a time while you try and figure out how to skip the steps all together.

Maybe you are all that and your number is coming up soon, congratulations when it does. If not, make a plan. Instead of thinking about that victory lap, think about getting to first base. Once you are there, take a look around; is it where you want to be? If so, what is the plan going to be to get you to second base? If not, what needs to be tweaked? Small steps might not be quite as gratifying as the home run, but it moves you from waiting to doing and that is a good thing.

When we are stuck, we spend a lot of time and energy determining who or what is to blame. We have to reconcile the fact that the cosmic forces of the universe are against us. Not so when we are moving forward, obstacles and excuses fall behind us. I am not saying that home run chances don’t present themselves or that they shouldn’t be attempted when they do. If something pops up, point the bat towards center field, grip it and rip it. I am saying that moving forward, no matter how small the increments is a better plan that waiting for the big move. If you already have forward momentum, a swing and a miss is a much smaller deal than if you are static. With momentum you will keep moving forward, without it you might stay right where you started.

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