Note: Even if you’re not a sports person, I think you’ll appreciate this post.
Yesterday was Opening Day of the new professional baseball season in the US. My team, the Los Angeles Angels, sadly lost their game in extra innings. But as I read the recap and box score of the game, I had some cool reflections on what baseball can teach us about life.
In baseball, one of the statistics that gets a lot of importance is a hitter’s batting average – how often they succeed at getting on base. A player is considered to be having a great season if their batting average is above .300. The players considered truly “elite” average above .300 over several seasons.
Simply put: a baseball player is considered to be world-class if they succeed in hitting the ball 3 out of every 10 times.
Let that settle in for a moment.
A baseball player is celebrated and paid tons of money for getting on base only 30% of the time.
But when it comes to us, how often do we think, no way is 30% good enough. In fact, most people I know would think 30% is failure. We expect ourselves to hit a home run Every. Single. Time. Or else.
Everything has to be “perfect”.
I can’t screw this up or make mistakes.
I can’t show weakness.
I shouldn’t feel depressed or anxious, because that means something’s wrong with me.
This better work out, or else I’m a loser who just won’t ever amount to anything.
If I don’t knock this out of the park, then I’m just not good enough.
(BTW - in case you were wondering, all those statements came from stuff I've said to myself more times than I’d like to admit! But maybe you resonate with some of those?)
But here’s what I’ve found to be more true to how life actually works:
Some things we do will work, and others won’t.
We’ll put some stuff out in the world that goes viral, and other stuff that gets crickets.
Some people will like us, and some won’t “get” us no matter what.
Sometimes we’ll nail it the first time, and other times it will take lots of time and several attempts.
Sometimes things will go how we want, and other times it will be a total trainwreck.
Some days we’ll feel like we can conquer the world, and other days we’ll want to find the nearest rock to crawl under.
And all of that is totally OK.
One of the players on the Angels, Mike Trout, is widely considered the best player in all of baseball right now, and some consider him at 26 to already be one of the greatest baseball players ever. And yesterday, on Opening Day, Mike Trout went 0 for 6. He didn’t get on base once, and his last at-bat was a strikeout with runners on base and the opportunity to win the game for the Angels.
Does anyone think after that performance, Mike Trout should just give up and quit right now?
So why should we when things don’t go how we want?
One of the most beautiful gifts of a deeper understanding of how life actually works is realizing that many things we’ve been conditioned to turn into an “us” problem or flaw are actually normal parts of the creative process and even more, part of being human. We won’t always “get on base”, but that’s okay. There’s always another at-bat. Another performance or audition. Another day. Another attempt. Another post or tweet. Another person to connect to. Another idea to experiment with, because like a stream carrying a constant flow of water from its source, we have the endless capacity for fresh thought, wisdom, and insight. Another mood, because we’re never stuck in a feeling and like clouds, moods come and go on their own as fresh thought arrives.
But the best part of all is, we don’t have to knock it out of the park every time because our wellbeing is never contingent on what someone else thinks or how something goes. Our fundamental “ok-ness” is unwavering and present, independent of and untouched by our circumstances. Whether something bombs or booms, we’re good to go. We don’t have to rely on any circumstance or any person to “fix” us or make us whole because our wellbeing is never up for grabs. What awesome news!
To be clear, I’m not suggesting we lower our standards or not try to do our best at whatever we’re up to. Funnily enough, I’ve found the exact opposite happens when people start to glimpse the truth of this. With an awareness that each moment is a clean slate with potential for fresh insight, people see that if they screw up, they can always begin anew, leaning on their innate wisdom to come through them and guide them. And with their wellbeing never riding on something turning out a certain way, they’re free to play full out in everything they do. They can go “all in” on something as if their life depended on it, with the freedom and confidence of knowing that it doesn’t.
So, if you’ve got something that lights you up or you feel inspired to explore, go for it! If it goes how you want, awesome! If not, that’s okay. You can always start again. You’ll probably learn a lot and grow just by showing up in the arena. The insights that tend to only come from “being in the game” might help spark the missing piece of the puzzle, a next step, or a new direction for you. And all the while, remember this:
You never need to be perfect in order to be enough.
So, how about it? Let’s play ball!!