Lessons from Baseball on Self Esteem
I’m one of those people who rejoices in the start of the baseball season. I love that crack of the bat, the shortstop’s acrobatic mid-air throw, and most of all, the thrilling throw to the plate that ends with “Safe!” if it’s your team, or “Out!” if it’s not. This year, in addition to all the usual fun I get from baseball, I started to think about how much baseball has to teach about self esteem. In baseball, as a hitter, it’s guaranteed that you will fail far more than you succeed. And an ability to cope with failure without excessive or cruel self criticism is a big part of self esteem.
A batting average of .300 is a great batting average in baseball. For example, .300 would be hitting 3 times in 10 chances. What that means, without the math and baseball lingo is that, in a really good season, a batter is going to fail to get to base more than two thirds of the time. And when you’re talking about Major League baseball, the batter’s going to fail over and over in front of tens of thousands of people. So, do baseball players all have stellar self esteem that enables them to hack so much failure? Since I’m not a baseball player, I have no way to know for sure. What I do know is that the only way a person doesn’t crumble under performance pressure and failure is to have realistic expectations. It’s realistic to expect failure, even at things you’re naturally pretty good at. It’s realistic to expect other people will notice when you fail, and not all people will be nice about it. It’s realistic to expect that it takes time and a lot of learning and fine tuning to get good at something and a lot more to excel. It’s also realistic to expect that you’ll usually get better with practice and that there are people out there who can share their knowledge and experience to help you improve if you can to listen to what they say with an open mind and a minimum of defensiveness.
The take away message? Strike outs in life happen to everyone, all the time, and if you do it, it doesn’t mean anything at all about you except that you struck out that one time on that one day. Want to be a better batter? (Or teacher, or carpenter or engineer, etc.) Get ready to strike out a lot more. Want to be a really excellent batter? Get ready to strike out a whole lot more, in front of more people, and let them criticize you on your performance until you figure out what you need to get to the next level. So make like a baseball player. Batter up!