Hey batter batter, saaWING batter batter

by | May 27, 2013

Tony Gwynn was not a home run hitter.

In twenty seasons with the San Diego Padres, he only hit 135 home runs. Compare that to the home run record holder, Barry Bonds, who hit 762 home runs in his twenty-one years of professional baseball.

Tony was a “contact hitter,” one who rarely strikes out. Put a contact hitter at the plate and they probably won’t knock it out of the park, but they’ll at least make contact and put the ball in play. They’ll consistently get you singles and doubles.

I like Tony’s style.

Too often in life, we make one of two mistakes:

  1. We don’t take action unless we can hit a guaranteed home run, so we rarely step up to the plate.
  2. We swing for the fence every time we’re up to bat, so we usually strike out.

The first mistake is fear, cynicism, waiting for guarantees.

It’s the guy who has a lot of ideas, but rarely, if ever, acts on any of them. Or, he rarely offers ideas, but is quick to shoot down the ideas of others.

This is the guy who watches the game on TV and criticizes players, coaches, and umps from his overstuffed chair — all the while subconsciously plagued with guilt for not living up to his potential.

He justifies his inaction and assuages his guilt by labeling himself “realistic,” “practical,” “sensible.”

The second mistake, on the other side of the scale, is grandstanding with no follow-through.

It’s the drifter on the sea of life, the guy who’s always searching the horizon for the next big thing, the next wave to surf. Who, every time you talk to him, is into a new ground-floor opportunity. Who often falls prey to get-rich-quick schemes. Who buys a lot of gold mines, only to quit digging every time when he’s three feet from the main vein.

This is the guy who has the shiniest bat and the best glove money can buy, but who rarely makes contact because he never spends time in the batting cages. The flashy, charismatic Wall Street hustler who’s revealed as an empty suit when the deal goes south.

The first mistake keeps us out of the game. The second mistake may make for a few spectacular highlights, but results in a poor overall record.

With both mistakes, there’s a whole lot of talk, and not a lot of consistent, productive action.

The first guy whines from the sidelines, “I could do that,” speaking of someone else out on the field.

The second guy brags, “I’m gonna be rich and famous,” but doesn’t stick with anything long enough to become so.

I think we can learn a lot from Tony Gwynn:

1. First of all, show up and play the game. Fear be damned. Step up to the plate and take a swing. And never criticize players from the couch.

2. Spend a lot of time in the batting cage. A LOT. The biggest contributing factors of success are the things no one else ever sees.

As Longfellow wrote,

“Heights by great men reached and kept were not obtained by sudden flight but, while their companions slept, they were toiling upward in the night.”

3. You don’t have to hit home runs to be great. Hit enough singles and doubles and eventually you’ll score, and ultimately you’ll win.

Just show up every day and make contact.

As a writer, that means putting words on paper every day — with or without a big idea.

In sales, that means making new contacts every single day.

In any endeavor, it means doing something every day to get closer to your goal. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have a home run idea or not.

Success is about compounded effort over time, not occasional heroic effort that fizzles out. Commitment and consistency matter more than natural talent or genius.

Tony Gwynn was not a home run hitter. But as a contact hitter, he holds the Padres’ records for hits, runs batted in, and runs scored. And that’s the only thing that matters.

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