By: Jamie Collins
Greetings, TPS Nation! Today, I’m sharing a post I recently published on my LinkedIn profile. Juggling back and forth between the blog and my new publishing platform has definitely kept the fearless founder a wee bit busy (notwithstanding those soul-sucking moments of writer’s block – please cue the muse). For those of you who already read this particular post, swing on through our LinkedIn group and chime in on one of our interesting discussions or better yet, leave a comment on this post to convince our fellow readers they should join our super cool “social club” on LinkedIn, so they don’t continue to miss out on all the fun.
For those of you who didn’t already read this post – this one’s for you.
As the parent of an 8-year-old boy, I spend quite a bit of time attempting to transform “teachable” moments into what I deeply hope will become important life lessons for my son in the future. But all too often, I am reminded of an incredibly important life lesson by that same 8-year-old, blonde haired, green eyed, dimple boasting cutie. One such moment occurred a few weeks ago.
Take Me Out to The Ball Game.
Baseball season is in full-swing. My son, Gavin, has reached the age where he is now on the “Minor League” team, meaning that the boys are finally given the opportunity to pitch and catch for the first time ever, in lieu of coach pitched baseball. Two weeks ago, Gavin and I made our way to the first practice of the season. It was clear from the car ride over that Gavin had his heart set on becoming the team’s pitcher. It was, after all, a coveted spot available each inning for one lucky and talented little boy on the team. By all accounts, he is a talented baseball player, so I figured we’d give it a whirl, and see what happens.
During practice, Gavin finally had an opportunity to finally try his arm at pitching. Every ball he threw was off, most striking the ground just short of home plate. They were coming in too low. He was having difficulty exerting control over the ball. I could see frustration oozing off of him. You could tell Gavin was not at all pleased with his performance. He likely saw his dream of being proclaimed the pitcher taking a backseat along that ditch of the damned located somewhere in the outfield. After practice, we were walking off the field, when I turned to him and said, “Buddy, I know you’re frustrated with how you pitched today. It’s okay. You’ve never done it before. It’s okay if you aren’t the pitcher. Besides, you know how much you love to play 3rd base and you’re really great at it! If you were the pitcher, you wouldn’t get to help your team make outs on the field. There’s only one pitcher on the whole team. If you don’t get to do it this year, maybe you can do it next year.”
He seemed to acknowledge my supportive sentiments. He then loaded himself into my car and we headed off to a late dinner consisting of sub sandwiches.
At the start of the next game, the coach put another boy in as the pitcher; he was great. I was pretty sure it was eating Gavin alive that he wasn’t able to pitch that game, but he didn’t show it. Imagine my surprise when later that night, Gavin advised us the coach said he would be pitching the next game. How would he do? We didn’t know. We were excited for him, but also slightly worried he could have a minor meltdown in front of 50+ people if he couldn’t manage to get it over the plate.
The night of the big game arrived. We got Gavin suited up and headed out for the ballpark. We could sense his eagerness, mixed with a twinge of anxiety. During the ride over, my husband told him “Don’t be nervous. You’ll be great. It’s just you and the target out there. Don’t think about anything else. Take your time. They’ll wait on you. Just do your best. It’s no big deal”
Stepping Up to Life’s Mound
I’m not gonna lie. When Gavin took the mound at the top of the second inning, my heart had to continually remind itself to continue beating. It wasn’t that I cared how he did from my own perspective. It was that I wanted him to feel success. I didn’t want him to drown in frustration or experience a major taste of failure. And I certainly didn’t want him to have a meltdown in front of the 50+ people surrounding the field if he had a lackluster performance. I sat in my blue, pop-up chair, as quiet as a paralegal seated in a packed courtroom. I am usually a “cheerer.” But not on this day, my friends. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t want to make him more nervous. I didn’t want to put any pressure on him. I was just watching. (Remembering to breathe). And waiting. Wondering how it all would go down.
Gavin took his spot at the front of the pitcher’s mound. He did his wind up, and let the first ball go – right over the plate with a thwack into the catcher’s mitt. The next dozen practice pitches traveled an identical path. I heard one of his coaches, standing about 20 feet away exclaim, “Every ball he’s thrown has been a strike.” I was proud. I was happy for him. I was hoping he had it in him to continue on exactly like that. The first batter stepped into the box.
Gavin looked calm. He looked ready. He paused, took a moment to mentally prepare himself, did his wind up, released the ball and over the plate it went. Followed by a few more just like that one. The first batter? Out. The next batter stepped to the plate. Gavin did his wind up and threw the ball right over the plate. He did that a few more times. Second batter? Out. Gavin still looked calm. He looked focused. He looked ready. He looked like he belonged up there. He was owning that spot on the field.
Right about that time, a buzz apparently spread across the ball park; something along the lines of “Who IS this kid pitching?!” This prompted the baseball commissioner to trek across the ball park to pay our diamond a visit, striking up a conversation with his proud parents (the dynamic duo seated quietly in blue pop-up chairs, not breathing). She was intently watching, as were we. Gavin was still at the mound.
The third batter made his way into the batter’s box. This kid was known to be “a hitter.” He wanted to hit that ball. He was ready to hit that ball. He was going to hit that ball. Every swing he took was filled with a fierce, determined intent – all three swings (and misses), in case you’re counting. The spectators, Chris, and I erupted into cheers. We had just watched our son, the one I’d just told he would “do fine in the outfield instead of being pitcher” show me he WAS the pitcher. Yes, he was. He struck out the side twice that day – meaning first three batters up were all struck out…and struck out by Gavin. I was so proud of him. And proud for him.
It wasn’t because he had done well on that day, although I was proud for that, too. It was because I couldn’t stop playing back that conversation we’d had while walking off the practice field just a few nights prior. It haunted me, but in the best of ways.
Lead Me to a Life Lesson.
I reflected back upon that conversation – the one in which I wanted to make him feel better about his performance and himself. The one where I told him it was okay if he wasn’t the pitcher. The one in which I tried to help him accept the fact that maybe he wasn’t cut out to be the pitcher this year. Maybe he could be the pitcher another year. The one where I told him he would be a success on third base or in the outfield, and he would love that just as much.
The thing is; I was wrong. Dead wrong.
It was the right parenting move at the time. But the wrong advice to give to a person who knew deep down in his 8-year-old heart it was something he could, would, and was going to do. What I had said in that moment didn’t matter. I’m so thankful he didn’t substitute my voice on that day for the one echoing in his own mind. The one in his heart that told him he would be the pitcher. He could be the pitcher. All he had to do was everything he could do in order to become it.
That’s the interesting thing about the fire in one’s soul – others can’t always see it. They can’t always feel it, until one chooses to reveal it to the world. It is a revelation often shrouded by resilience, kept alive by a flicker vibrantly blazing in one’s soul, often accompanied by a personal act of courage, and followed by greatness. What is in our soul sometimes remains hidden deep inside, until our own courage, conviction, passion, or determination makes it so others can see it.
There will come a time in your life when you may quite possibly fail at something that is really important to you. You may even be afraid to try. Something you know you are meant to do. Something you feel called to do. Something that feels integral to the person you are meant to become on this earth. And it will be at stake.
Others may doubt you.
Others may overlook you.
People may think you don’t have it in you.
They may count you out.
But NOT you.
You will count yourself back in.
People may approach you to offer words of support, encouragement, condolence or advice, as you work your way onto a path, over an obstacle or around a fold of failure. They may even tell you it can’t be done, you aren’t the one to do it, or perhaps not right now. But know this – if someone is telling you something that doesn’t resonate well with what is deep down in your soul; the possible fruition one of your intended gifts and purposes on this earth – don’t substitute their voice for your own. Listen to the one in your head and believe the one in your heart, instead. Be thankful others want to help you. Be grateful for their well-intentioned words. But don’t let anyone but you tell you that a particular thing isn’t for you, if your soul says otherwise.
Do not doubt yourself.
Do not be overlooked.
Do not be underestimated.
Not a moment longer.
Confirm that you have it in you.
Count yourself in.
If you’re a pitcher, be a pitcher. If you’re not, that’s okay. But if you know deep down in your heart you are a pitcher and someone tries to tell you otherwise, just pretend to listen (while sinking down into the black, leather seats of your mom’s Infiniti), as you begin to plot big plans for showing the world the person you really are deep down inside. Only you know…at least until that defining moment when you take your place on the mound to show ‘em you have a will to win, the heart of a champion, a focused gaze, and plan to be exactly who you thought you were all along. The moment your soul has an opportunity to reveal itself, they’ll all see you for who you REALLY are.
When it’s your turn to take your place on life’s mound – don’t hesitate.
Own that spot on the field. It’s yours to take.
Go get ‘em.
(My 8-year-old taught me that.)
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® All Rights Reserved – Jamie Collins – 2014