My son Jack’s 12U baseball season is over, which has me thinking back on how he and the team played, on the high’s and low’s of the season (and missing the almost daily practices or games, to be honest). The boys had a great season. They competed hard, they represented themselves and their city well, they showed great teamwork and sportsmanship, they improved at the physical and mental aspects of the game, and they overcame some late-season adversity.
We took a trip down to Iowa for a tournament, and played the best baseball of the season, taking 2nd place in a very competitive field. The boys came back home full of confidence, and what was the result of that confidence? A four-game losing streak to end the league regular season. The boys looked like they had never played (or seen) baseball before. Not exactly the momentum we wanted heading into the state tournament.
12-year-old boys are tough to figure out when it comes to sports (and baseball, in particular). They fixate and get incredibly emotional about specific mistakes, in the moment, which can often carry over to the next play. A big point of emphasis with the boys this season was to “flush it” when they make mistakes; boot a ground ball or strike out in a big at-bat, deal with it in the moment and move on, but don’t let it affect the next play or plate appearance. At a practice leading up to state, and following this stretch of ugly ball, the head coach brought a new idea to the team; when something goes wrong or a mistake is made, do more than just flush it and move on. Learn from it. Redouble your efforts, bear down, and work hard to make up for the mistake on your next opportunity.
The new mantra moving forward became “Go Heavy,” coined by Inky Johnson, a former college football player turned motivational speaker. In one of his motivational talks, Johnson told a story about his son’s first time driving (and rolling) an ATV. Following the roll, which tossed both Inky and his son off the vehicle (with no injuries), he popped his son back on the driver’s seat, hopped on the back, and told him to go heavy on the throttle. The lesson, as he told it, was not about the ATV, but about facing adversity, about getting back into the driver’s seat and doubling down on your efforts when you get thrown off.
Success, as we all know, is as much about attitude, perseverance, and effort as it is about talent, planning, and opportunity. Having a plan is crucial to building success; wandering aimlessly toward some hazy goal will get you nowhere, fast. But having that backup plan is equally important, as things rarely go as we expect. Taking it a step further, we need a Plan A, we need a Plan B for Plan A goes awry, and we need the ability to ACCEPT that Plan A failed and fully commit to executing Plan B. We need to go heavy. As Brian Tracy says, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you.”
Smart leaders and smart companies make those preparations in advance. They scope out the issues and have contingencies in place. They build redundancy into processes. They have backups for key positions and people (going as far as taking out “key person” insurance on individuals) so nothing is missed if someone is out. And they prep and train for those scenarios in order to turn a potentially big issue into something that can be adjusted to and dealt with. They are always prepared to move forward, and willing to work hard to achieve positive outcomes regardless of the situation.
So build that Plan B, and if the need comes up to use it, execute it to the best of your abilities. Use adversity to motivate rather than deflate yourself and your team. Set people up for success by preparing for, and accepting, change and mistakes. Work to get better and learn from those misses so they do not happen again. Pop yourself up, dust yourself off, hop back on the seat, and go heavy.