Gotta Learn To Hit The Curveball (340)

I watch just enough baseball to be dangerous. When Pudge Rodriguez was catching for the Texas Rangers I remember going to a few games. His arm at throwing out runners attempting to steal a base was spectacular. Much more so in person than on TV.

Since I was young I was probably more fascinated at throwing the baseball more than hitting it. I don’t understand the physics of pitching at all. Even a non-super fan like me has to acknowledge the brilliant talent of a pitcher who can make the exact same motion, including where they release the ball — and have a different pitch come out each time. One at 95 miles an hour with the next pitch just breaking 80 miles an hour.

TV deceives us as we look at hitters who sometimes look foolish swinging at a pitch you’d think they could hit. At the major league level, the real-time speed is so fast it’s remarkable that anybody can even make contact with a ball. These guys are world-class talent. The best of the best. And they’ve been doing this for so long they have a recognition the rest of us lack. They see things better – differently – and they have practiced, practiced, practiced. The best hitters have learned how to hit almost every pitch, but they’ve also learned something else. They know which pitch they most prefer, but so do the pitchers. The pitchers don’t want to give them their favorite pitch. This means the hitters have got to learn to hit non-favorite pitches, too.

This week has been filled with curveballs. Not so different from any other week really, huh?

If you’re like me you may not be able to remember a week where you saw only your favorite pitch to hit. Life is the pitcher and rarely tosses us the pitch we can hit out of the park. Instead, life is skilled at throwing us the one pitch that most frustrates us.

As business owners, we’ve got to do 2 things. Neither of them is easy, but we can improve. We can GROW GREAT at it if we put in the work.

  1. Be patient and look for your ideal pitch.
  2. Learn to hit as many non-favorite pitches as possible.

The patience thing is hard. For everybody. Playing business means we want to play. Not swinging feels too passive for many of us. In this context, the pitch is an opportunity. Not every opportunity is worth your effort, but boy can that be vexing when everywhere we look we see pitches that appear worth going after.

Sometimes that first skill of being patient for your ideal pitch isn’t practical or possible. That’s what happened to me this week. I got a curveball, but I had to hit it. These pitches are our challenges. They appear and you don’t have the option of standing there staring at it with your bat on your shoulder. These pitches don’t disappear. They don’t go away. They only grow worse. So we have to deal with them.

That doesn’t mean we’ll hit them. We may not even make contact, but we have to try. Most of the time we don’t have to hit a home run. If we can just get on base then it means we survive the problem just fine.

Something magical and true is in place when the curveballs (our least favorite pitches) come our way as challenges. The rules of baseball don’t apply. We get as many swings as we’re willing to take. Which is great for us, bad for the challenge!

So these two skills are vital for us.

  1. Be patient and look for your ideal pitch.
  2. Learn to hit as many non-favorite pitches as possible.

Late last week I was presented with a challenge – a pitch that isn’t just a non-favorite, but a pitch that I absolutely hate. You’ve got pitches like that. Pitches you love and other pitches you positively HATE.

I got a pitch I hate. Technology challenges. Simultaneously I was in the midst of trying to wrap up a project I’d been working on so the timing of the curveball was ideal for the Universe conspiring against me. It was awful timing for my success. But what are you gonna do? You’re gonna try to hit it, that’s what.

I swung and missed over the weekend. By Monday I was making contact. Here’s the thing about the challenges that come as curveballs. It’s like a perpetual pitching machine. The same pitch just keeps coming so you treat it as you would if you were in a batting cage. You keep swinging learning along the way. That’s what I did.

By Tuesday I was making solid contact. I knew I was getting close. I was seeing it more clearly. I had adjusted my swing and if there had been video of it I guarantee I would have looked much more confident on Tuesday than I did on Saturday.

Wednesday arrived and I was making solid contact and driving for distance, but the balls were still going foul. Didn’t matter because I knew I had this.

Thursday was frustrating because I was so close, but I still wasn’t on base. My experience with these curveball challenges is that I go from swinging and missing to making contact, to making great contact…until I hit it over the fence. With challenges in our business that’s my experience even in helping other business owners or CEOs out of their problems. We either give up and the challenge defeats us or we hit it over the fence and solve the thing.

By Thursday mid-afternoon I hit the curveball out of the park. It was grueling. I spent about 70 hours working hard to figure it out, but I refused to quit because – well, it was a problem that had to be solved. Like you, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. There I was standing in the batter’s box and life was giving me this ridiculous pitch over and over. I had to learn to hit it. The problem had to be solved. Just as importantly, I had to learn how to overcome this problem. I needed to add to my skill set – the ability to hit this particular kind of pitch.

Business rules are different than baseball rules. Hitters have the advantage in business because we can take as many swings as we want. There is no “3 out rule” in business. We can play as long as we want.

Some hitters are naturals. They recognize pitches better than the rest of us. And they have a natural talent that may be better than the rest of us. The good news is their success has no impact on ours. Best for us to focus on our own hitting and learn how to hit these curveballs…because they’re just gonna keep on coming. Seize the day and take advantage of seeing these pitches over and over again. You gotta learn to hit them. And I have faith that you can. I’m here to help.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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