I’ve spent the majority of my adult life living anywhere besides Chicago. But I take the Cubs with me everywhere I go, as well as the lessons I’ve learned. One of the best parts of baseball is the lack of a clock, and the requirement that the defense shut down each half inning. It’s about the game and not how to beat a clock.
The past week has been nothing but disappointing for Cubs fans, which is why I’ve embraced my other baseball team, the Nationals. With an amazing streak and a hold on first place in their division, it’s been a great start to the season (minus their absent offense).
Last night though I watched them start out five runs down, come back within one run and then fall apart after stranding runner after runner on base each inning. Without really giving up, I realized I was no longer interested in watching. I knew what was happening, and watching them come close without getting any more runs in was painful. I also knew it was just one game, and thing would turn around, either in the next series, or on the road next week.
The Cubs have taught me some valuable lessons from disappointment, loss and mistakes. In baseball, and in life, there is always another day, another game, another opponent, and another season. Bad days happen, perfect days are rare, and good days should have a little extra celebration.
Lesson #1: Hope (Springs Eternal)
Cubs fans have long held the belief that next year will be the year, no matter what happened in the previous or current year. Some games neither the offense nor defense shows up, or only one is there. Some games just end terribly, and some games are so amazing you start thinking about a long winning streak before the next series rolls around. Bad games happen, and you learn from them, figure out what went wrong and work through the problems to fix them in the future. Life mirrors this well. Some days are awful, so days you can regret getting out of bed, but things get better. Hope gives you the ability to keep going – whether you’re down eight runs, sitting all alone in last place or on a winning streak. Bad days, difficult jobs or people, and rough times happen to everyone, but they don’t go on endlessly. At some point things turn around, become easier and everything comes together.
Lesson #2: Keep Playing & Never Give Up
Hope only goes so far. If you have hope but don’t keep moving, nothing comes from it. You have to take action and make strides towards change. You might be down eight runs, but you don’t just throw your glove down and refuse to go bat, go back onto the field. You play until the game is over – until the last out in the last inning, whenever that comes. I have had jobs where I woke up every morning and dreaded going into work. I found ways to deal with it on a day to day basis, while working long term to put myself in to a better situation (a.k.a. find another job). Sometimes life throws you a curve ball you didn’t see coming. In baseball you have two options: swing or take the pitch. In life, you don’t always have two options, it might be just one, or it might be more than two. You have to deal with the result as well – and it may not be as simple as a strike, a ball or a hit. What matters is how you respond, the reaction you have, and continued effort in whatever it is, even if it’s just life in general.
Lesson #3: Learn from Your Mistakes
Athletes watch video of their games, make adjustments and practice. They step up their workouts, their trainings, their drills. We don’t tend to do much with this in real life. Career wise we have annual reviews, and many people step up their game just before and just after review time. What do you do the rest of the year? What do you do in your personal life? There is no formula for doing a personal annual review. The closest thing we have is New Years and the traditional resolutions. Some people do this at each birthday. Shouldn’t it happen more often? Making a commitment of your personal time, you should involve a review. Make sure the activity makes you happy and is worth your time and energy.
Mistakes are hard to admit, hard to have pointed out to you, and a solution isn’t always clear. Owning up to a mistake is the first step. How do you fix it? Just like athletes you need to make adjustments, work harder, and try new things. Changing a routine is difficult, and like changing a batting stance, may not be the long term solution. Recognize what works and what doesn’t; and realize it may not be a simple solution. Mistakes and improvements can be a long term process.
Lesson #4: There is always another game (or day)
I take great enjoyment from genuinely good days, because I know there will be days that seem like a catastrophe, where nothing goes right. And when those catastrophic days happen, I know it won’t last. Beyond playing until the game is truly over, I know there will be another chance. There is always another day, another game, another opportunity at making things go the way I want them to. Every day we have an opportunity to do everything better. Why not work towards that? But together everything above, and with each Cubs (or Nationals) loss, I hold onto this knowing the next game means more.