23 Jun What’s Your Story: Are You A .300 Hitter?
You Deserve To Live An Exceptional Life!
Tony Gwynn was an exceptional baseball player! He was among the greatest baseball hitters who ever played the game. He passed away on June 16, 2014, at the age of 54. As a baseball player, he never gave up and approached the game with passion, wonder, and curiosity. He worked consistently over his career to improve his hitting ability. He took joy in applying his daily discoveries and insights on self-improvement. In 1999, as he closed in on his 3,000th career hit, he said, “Really trying to learn all I could about the game, you began to understand the nuances of the game, and it became really fun.”
I think Tony knew something about Navigating For Success, especially the art of creating a roadmap to reach desired goals and the daily practice of continually learning and improving. The Japanese have a word for the art of continuous improvement: “Kaizen.” Their business leaders used the philosophy of Kaizen to gain dominance in the automotive industry at a time when it seemed as though that the American car industry would always be dominant.
I wished I knew about Kaizen back when I was an aspiring baseball player in 9th grade. I loved the game until that spring when I tried out for the Clara Barton 9th grade team in Fords, N.J. I thought I was determined; and I was, right up until I stepped into the batter’s box to hit. I dug my cleats into the dirt at home plate and glared at the pitcher, Norman, a tall gangly kid with acne who looked at me with a sneer. All I needed to make the team was to get on first base with a hit. The coach was not too enthusiastic about my playing ability, but he was kind enough to give me a shot at fame.
Norman wound up, cocked his left leg high in the air and hurled the ball right at my head! I threw myself backwards as the missile increased to a dangerous speed. Within a split second, the umpire called “strike one” as the ball curved over the plate and I lay sprawled on the dirt.
The rest was history. Two strikes later I knew the future I had imagined as a baseball player was not to be. I would have to find success elsewhere.
No so for Tony Gwynn! He dug in and never lost his focus. Every day for almost 20-years, seven days a week of spring training and 6 month, 162 game grinds, Tony never gave up his sense of wonder and dedication. While many of his fellow players lost their passion and backed away from daily improvement, Tony was eager to continually grow and better himself.
In 1994, close to winning his fifth of his eight National League batting crowns, he spoke about the modern player: “They just feel like stuff is supposed to happen to them, they’re not going to have to work for it. And that bugs me because I know how hard I had to work to get where I got. Sometimes they sit there in amazement at why I come out here every day. But I cannot let their way of thinking into my head.”
Are you living like Tony Gwynn? Are you passionate about something? Are you persistent in your pursuit of excellence? Or are you like me at age 15, flat on my back with dirt on my face, scared to death of facing my nemesis, Norman the pitcher? You see, at that time I gave up my dream of earning a varsity letter and being a regular on the team. Maybe I just did not have the skill to succeed. Or maybe I did not have the heart to persevere and keep facing my fear until I mastered it. I think I was just too scared to stand my ground.
I guess most of us find ourselves, one time or another, lying on our backs in the dirt, confused and scared shitless! But, hopefully, we eventually learn that failure is a temporary thing and we find something to pursue with resilience, dedication, and focus. Real love, personal power, and pride tend to show up through failure, adversity and persistence. Tony knew that and was able to keep his passion alive even in the face of fear and uncertainty. He had a Roadmap To Success that directed him and fueled his actions. And, he was able to master the art of Kaizen by making small, daily improvements.
So, while we may not be hitting .338 over 3,000 games like Tony Gwynn, we can nevertheless find ourselves on the varsity team of life; whatever arena we choose to play in, it is important to dig our heels in and keep swinging. All you need to do is choose your arena, work out a Navigating For Success map, and continue to take actions that will help you to master your unique challenges. Most of us have a Norman in our lives. The key is to keep your personal power and not let your fear drive your power away.