I started out this series of blog posts about “Exponential Learning and Peak Performance” by using my son’s experience in his first baseball game of the season as an example.
I wrote that the ability to perform at your peak when it matters the most, and to be resourceful when things aren’t going well is a developed skill. I wrote about the predictability of success, and how turning “failures” into successes is something we need to train. (See the previous 4 blog posts here)
I also mentioned that my son (who just turned 12) has become known to be very good at this. Numerous times has he come through when it matters the most. I shared this because it is important to understand that there is a reason for this, and how we can apply it to our lives - whether it is about learning to sing effectively or to live a creative, productive and inspired life in general.
So now that we have ended the baseball season, how about I round it off with another example from my son’s baseball world.
He and his team have had a fantastic season, and now they reached the championship finals – to be played as best of three games. (If you don’t understand baseball, keep reading anyway, because you will get the gist of it anyway)
In game one of the finals, he is the closing pitcher. He comes into the game with two innings left and his team has a comfortable lead 5-1.
But now the nightmare begins…
In my first article, I wrote about the pressure of starting the first game of the season. I wrote about how he managed to turn it around after a troublesome start. (This is part of the training to be resourceful when things aren’t going well.)
But here he is in a situation endlessly more challenging. Because after a lot of great attempts, things are going downhill. His pitches are not the consistent strikes as we have been accustomed to seeing. We are in the last inning and he finds himself in the worst situation ever. The game is suddenly tied 5-5. And worse, after another unintentional walk, the bases are loaded.
Can you imagine the pressure? Can he find strength within and work it out?
We don’t know. Because this time, our coach (who is fabulous), can’t let him be in that situation and decides to replace him. It’s a decision any good coach would make and my son knows it. Yet, naturally, it hurts. How would you feel? Would you feel you have let down your team? Would you feel rejected?
Now as so happens, his teammate in the bottom of the last inning hits a fantastic walk off home run and we win game one.
But now the question is, how will my son be able to bounce back? You see, in game two he is scheduled to be the starting pitcher.
Fast forward to game two and my son is indeed the starting pitcher. He has prepared, and is excited…
...but things don’t go well.
With every miss, he tries to shake it off, tries to refocus. The attempts are admirable, but it’s just not working. It’s not just his fault. Some errors by his teammates make things worse. A strange call by the umpire goes against him. Ever had that experience? Would you start blaming your teammates? Blame the umpire? He doesn’t. Never has. He knows everybody makes mistakes. Yet, one can sense the energy draining from his body with the increasing frustration.
In the third inning, he is replaced and we are down 1-7. Not exactly the fairy tale comeback from the previous game that we would have liked, right? So again, how would you feel? Would you start thinking in the line of “I’ve been doing well all season, and now when it matters the most I fail”?
The team is down 4-8 but fight back to tie it 8-8. They fall behind again 8-12 and then come back once again to tie it 12-12. And then starting the last inning, they are batting first and are down 12-13.
Now here’s the thing, his batting hasn’t worked in the game either. He has struck out twice, which has never happened before. What is wrong? Can you imagine the frustration? You’re playing your worst game of the season when it matters the most. It’s even worse if people have come to believe that you are the one who is supposed to do well in these situations. And yet, unlike John that I wrote about in the previous article, he tries to be a good role model and support his teammates.
So here we are. We are down 12-13, we have a runner on second base and my son is up to bat…
And that’s when it happens…
He swings, and WHACK…
The ball flies above the outfielder and almost goes to the fence. He gets to second base, and the runner ties the game! It’s not only the most important, but probably his best hit ever.
He then steals third base…
His teammate hits a single, my son runs home to take the lead, and the crowd goes wild.
Fast forward to the bottom of the last inning. The other team bats last and still has a chance to score. My son now plays third base. With two outs and a runner on first base, the batter hits a fly ball. It sails beyond third base towards the side fence to go foul. But my son runs like crazy, and right before the ball is about to hit the fence, he makes the catch of the season for the win! They are now champions.
You can imagine the celebration…
So what’s the lesson here? Well, we could write a book about all of them.
Talk about fairy-tale ending. Talk about coming through when it matters the most.
Now, here’s the thing: What do you think my son will remember? The bad start or the unbelievably successful finish?
What if he had “given up”? What if he had started thinking that he wouldn’t hit that ball today, that it was a horrible day, or given up on trying to catch that last ball? Or worse, what if he has started to blame external sources, such as umpires or teammates, which is the common response when things aren’t going well?
The feeling of success naturally becomes even greater because of the prior struggle. And it’s not about victory over the other team really. It’s about victory over yourself.
I wrote before that people tend to give up far too easily. Most of us have bad experiences in life. Most of us fail and lose. Most of us are knocked down, replaced and rejected at some point. Some use this as fuel to become better and find ways to experience success, while others make the determination to give up and never do it again.
What we must remember is that successful people are those who have failed the most.
It is far too common that when things don’t go well we blame outside circumstances whether it is the government, the economy, the music industry, or the umpire.
The bottom line is that no matter how badly things seem to go, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. There is always an opportunity to be a role model for others. There is always a possibility that something wonderful can come out of struggle.
Even if my son hadn’t made the hit that tied the game, scored the winning run, and caught the winning catch, he could still have felt victorious from having been a presence to support his teammates who all did fantastic things in this game. Even if they lost, we could still have been able to transform it into a terrific learning experience that would fuel future success.
And in closing, I’d like to stress one thing: To be able to be resourceful when things aren’t going well is much more than having a “positive” mindset and “believing”. To learn effectively and exponentially from every experience (including every vocal practice and performance if we relate this to singing) is an advanced developed skill.
How does this resonate with your life? Feel free to share…