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Baseball: The Best Leadership Trainer Ever

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Baseball is hard. Harder than just about anyone realizes, and the number of youth players in baseball has been declining over the last several years. It's hard. You hit a round ball with a round bat and it's a game of attrition and failure. There is no place to hide out in baseball. When you're in the batter's box, it's you alone against the pitcher and his team behind him. Yes, your coaches, teammates and fans can support you but there's only room for one in the batter's box. And you can ask God for help, but you're still the only one that can swing the bat.

In any other endeavor, if one gets three out of 10 it would be considered a failure -- be it an Econ midterm, free throws from the foul line, or closing percentage in a sales position. But three out of 10 in baseball could get you into the Hall of Fame. Learning to deal with failure, that long walk from the batter's box back to the dugout with your head held high, is something that could benefit us all. In today's world of "everyone gets a trophy," helping our children learn how to deal with, and face failure could be the greatest gift we can give them. We're not always going to get a hit, or score the winning run, or even catch the ball. That's life. We're going to fail at some point, or in some cases, many points. It's how we're taught to move forward after the failure and understand that it's all a part of life. It's about getting back in the batter's box and not being afraid of striking out again. To be fearless and aggressively go after the ball is the way the most successful in business approach their at-bats.

By having our individual performance and contribution be a part of the bigger picture in our team's collective fate is similar to how life in corporate America works as well. We are tasked with a specific job description and responsible to perform certain tasks and functions to the best of our ability in an effort to make the company an overall success. In some cases, our actions act as a buoy for the team, while other days we're the anchor. Either way, we learn that irrespective of our individual efforts, the team can still win or lose, despite or because of those efforts. The key is to be able to live with that.

Leadership in the business world is sometimes measured more by style than substance but in the world of the entrepreneur, substance trumps style every time. Wins may not be determined by runs scored but rather by the actual success or failure of a business or start up. Everyone loves a winner but if I'm leading a team, I want teammates that have lost some games too, so that when it happens again they're equipped to shake it off, hold up their heads and get back into the game, or the firefight, or the boardroom and make it happen. Everyone loves a winner, especially when they've earned our respect by the way they've dealt with loss and failure in their past.

Legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson once said: "You can learn little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat." And while I'm not advocating a love affair with loss and failure, I would encourage a healthy respect for it and learning from it, unless you think you'll always bat 1.000 both personally and professionally.

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