There’s No Crying In Business!!
“Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball”!, Tom Hanks famously said to Bitty Schram’s character in a League of Their Own. Hank’s character was infuriated over Schram’s mistake and be-rated her, which prompted the crying. This scene ran through my mind this morning at church as the pastor spoke about how life is filled with curve balls.
I grew up enamored with baseball (I’m watching the Indians as I write this). I could tell you detailed stats of every ball player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I hit and threw rubber baseballs against our garage doors for endless hours each day. I worked meticulously to be one of the few left-handed shortstops. I loved playing the game (also in softball form) until last year, when I accepted the cries of my body and exchanged my bat and glove for a set of irons and a driver. As the pastor shared Biblical examples of “curve balls”, I reminisced about my playing days, but thought more about how the mechanics of baseball pitches play as perfect analogies in the business world, particularly the curve ball.
For those of you that are not devout baseball fans, please allow me to explain the mechanics of a curve ball. A curve ball can take many forms, but the premise is to deceive the batter in thinking the ball will arrive across the plate in one location, however the spin on the ball makes it drop to another location. If you, the batter, do not see the rotation of the laces on the ball, you may think it is going to hit you. You turn to avoid the plunk, but hear “strrrrrrrrike”! You are perplexed to see the ball had glided across the plate. Often batters are overly aggressive and swing for the fences, only to be fooled and look silly. Other times the batter reacts too slowly and look a fool as he swings softly long after the ball crossed the plate.
A curveball is such an art that it takes years of practice for a pitcher to pitch it and a hitter to hit it. Some never master it. Such is life right? I have shared my personal journies through the death of two children and a less than normal childhood. I have given talks about bullying and navigating dangerous corporate waters. I have swung and missed, in embarrassing fashion, at curve balls at work and at home, but one thing is consistent… I adjust my helmet and gloves, take a couple practice swings, get back in my stance, and patiently wait on the next pitch. Each time I get back in the box, I don’t know what is coming or where that pitch will land. I know that if I want to get a hit, I must stay back on the ball, avoid swinging too early or too late, and aim to make contact.
In work and life we face curveballs every day. Once in awhile the person throwing the curve at you is erratic. Sometimes you will have a dozen pitchers wind up and throw at you. This once happened to me and I learned quite a bit from the experience. I was once responsible for the completion of a project and it’s end product, but had no control over how the widget was made. The widget was put together, but needed a lot of work. My goal was not to make the widget maker look bad, but rather improve the widget. The widget maker believed I had compromised my integrity and focused on exposing that rather than fixing the core problems. Curve ball one came at me and I expected a fast ball and so I swung erratically. My first reaction was to defend endlessly. My boss was great, gave me a figurative pat on the ass, and pushed me back in the batters box.
The second, third and forth pitches by the widget maker were erratic and missed the strike zone. The issue became less about me winning and more about the integrity of the product. I quit defending and began offering solutions. When one so,union was ignored, I stayed back on the ball and offered another solution. When my character was questioned again, I stayed back on the ball and offered partnership.
My point to the work story is simple this, don’t swing erratically when life throws you a curve ball. You my not know where that pitch is heading, and honestly your curve ball may take a life time to land. I don’t know where the curve ball of the loss of two children will land, but I must stay back and wait patiently, for it will land. The situation with widget making had a resolution. Eventually the character attacks subsided, because I wouldn’t swing erratically. Eventually the integrity questions were replaced by conversations of resolution. Because I wouldn’t swing at the curveball, there was no cause for the widget maker to continue throwing it. The problem was successfully remediated.
Friend, my encouragement to you is this: there will be a lot of curveballs in your life, particularly at work. The next time you find yourself in a tough situation, think of the curveball and remember, patience keeps you from looking like a fool and being erratic. A skilled leader will wait for the right pitches and swing accordingly. If someone challenges your character, don’t swing. If someone effectively challenges, appreciate it as a learning opportunity. Bottom line is this friend, your job takes skill, and to master skill you must practice. Find your routine and never stop practicing!
May this week be fruitful for you!