Nick slammed into the second baseman and the stadium reacted with stunned silence. A moment later the umpire signaled, “Out!” Then he tossed Nick from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The whole scene played out in a matter of moments but the repercussions continued to be felt days later.
What Nick knew …
With two outs and a force at second, he knew he had to run.
He knew the probability of beating the throw to second was slim to none.
He also knew baseball rules stated he must slide in order to prevent injury to the players involved.
What Nick did …
He remained upright and plowed into the second baseman.
The debate continues among the coaches as to whether he did it deliberately or not. I believe I’m the only one giving him the benefit of the doubt.
But here’s the takeaway problem from this scenario. Knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two different things. If you had quizzed Nick about the situation before the play happened, he’d have answered every question correctly. He’s a smart ballplayer.
On the other hand, he made a foolish decision that eliminated him from that day’s competition and kept him out of the next game (if you’re tossed from a game, you leave the field immediately and have an additional one-game suspension).
Look. At some point, we all know the right thing to do and yet make a poor choice. How do we connect knowing the right thing with doing the right thing?
Practice. This year I’ve experienced a lot of baseball as a coach and a spectator. The one thing I’ve marveled at is the choreographed beauty of practice. From high school to the pros, I’ve seen the stretching, the warming up, the tossing of balls, the fielding of grounders, the camping under pop flies, and the swinging of bats. All this has been a part of the preparation done before a game. It happens during the week and in the hour prior to each game.
If we are to do anything well, we must practice. For me, as a writer, practice comes in the form of jotting down observations, sketching out characters, outlining article ideas, and writing…writing… writing.
Although reading is not writing (therefore not actual practice time), it does serve as doing my homework and studying. To improve at what we do, we must both prepare and practice.
Ponder. In baseball, you have plenty of opportunities to fail. A ground ball takes a bad hop (or in my case recently, no hop at all) and you miss it. A breaking ball slides by the outside corner for a called strike three. A throw to first sails high. Extra effort running to second gets you tossed from the game (as in Nick’s case).
At some point, a failed attempt is inevitable.
The wise person ponders the problem and works out the solution. I want to note what I just said and what I didn’t say. The wise person (as opposed to the smart person or the foolish one) ponders the problem (the inevitable failed attempt) and works out the solution (not berates himself for being stupid, inept, or worthless).
Perform. In a recent game, Todd struck out twice. He failed to get the job done. Twice!
In a third at bat against the same pitcher, after reviewing his past failures at the plate, he parked the ball fifty feet beyond the 350 mark in center field. His homerun put our team up by a run in a regional playoff game we eventually won 3-2.
The practicing and the pondering have a purpose—to prepare us to perform at our peak.
In thinking about the tenuous connection between knowing what to do and doing it, I came to this conclusion.
Smart people know what to do.
Wise people do it.
I’m curious. How well connected is what you know and what you do? What’s something in which you need to walk through all three steps—practice, ponder, and perform?
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