Are you soft? This is a blog directed at the athletes themselves. The reasons for that is because my generation and the one coming up behind me, have been awarded an extraordinary opportunity in life to live in comfort, peace, and tranquility. But it has made the majority of us soft. Soft is a mentality, not a physical condition. What do I mean by soft? I mean that some of those are not doing what is necessary to achieve their goals. Some things we hear frequently here at CBC is how bad one wants to play baseball. Yet, when given the opportunity to get better, some of those that claim to want to play baseball for a living, are nowhere to be found. That is soft. When you say something, you need to either follow through with it or not at all. There should be no in between.
In one of the greatest societies that has ever been created, our abundance of wealth is a strength and a blessing. However, it has made us complacent as well. Complacency, by definition, is “showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.” This might also be considered “resting on one’s laurels.” You might be part of the problem if everything you talk about is yourself. Every discussion and every example is about yourself and has to involve you. You believe that your “experiences” are better than someone else’s and need to make it about yourself in some way. If you have accomplished a lot in life, this may be acceptable in some circles. The problem is you are resting on your parent’s hard work and fortune, not your own. You show up to a baseball field and act as if the world owes you something because you got out of bed in the morning and made it to the game on time. Now consciously I understand that you are not actually thinking this. However, if you think you are good enough, then you are subconsciously thinking this. The best way to know if an athlete is a gamer, is if he thinks he is not good enough and needs to keep getting better and better over time. You can see this in their work ethic, their practice time, their mentality. If you walk into our facility, you will see some guys with an attitude as if they know they need to be better. Even if they are the best damn kid in here, they don’t think of themselves like this. They stay humble and hungry.
In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, he has an interesting theory about mastery of a subject. Mastery, is an asymptote. An asymptote is more studied in calculus and the upper levels of Algebra. It is a line that gets closer to the x or y axis, but never actually touches it. It infinitely gets closer to this line but will never actualize touching this line. That is true about mastery in any subject. No matter how hard you work, you will never become a master. However, the moment you let up in your learning or skill development, you move farther away from mastery. You need to always be working hard to move closer to mastery, but you will never actually master the skill or subject. That is tough to swallow for some of you reading this. But ask anyone in the top of their field, and they will tell you that they still have a lot to learn. This is why you need to stay humble and have humility. Because if you are not humble and think you are good enough, you get complacent, and you start to move away from mastery.
Baseball is a game of failure, just as life is a journey of many failures. But we are increasingly becoming a sport that doesn’t accept failure and instead runs away from it. This, first off, teaches you nothing of Grit (which I will discuss later) and instead teaches you that you can have whatever you want, when that is not the case. Take for example the sheer amount of travel ball teams in the county. Some teams have 3 teams at the same age group! What are we doing? It used to be that if you were not good enough to make a team, you didn’t play. You either had to work harder or you quit. Those that worked harder and eventually made it, were rewarded with success and a valuable life lesson. Those that quit, also learned that quitting does not solve a lot of problems and you need to work harder. We have many kids today growing up that have never been cut for a team or never had to work hard to be on a team. They just showed up and viola, they are playing baseball. No lessons learned that you had to be good or work hard to be good. You just had to wake up and be on time, and even that sometimes doesn’t matter from some of the stories I hear at CBC.
The last factor I will discuss is Grit. Grit is a skill that is becoming ever so rare in our society. Grit, as described by Angela Duckworth is “constant and sustained effort over a period of time, sometimes even lasting decades.” The last part is key because many kids in today’s culture are not prepared to give effort over decades of time. They want something and they want it now. If they can’t have it now, it becomes something that seems unattainable to them. Part of that is the rise of tech billionaires who have more money than they know what to do with before they turn 25. Kids see this, because of the access to information, and want to be like them; rich and famous early. However, they fail to realize that most of these tech billionaires started on tech when they were 10-13 years old, and spent a decade honing their skills before they were 25. Youtube and Instagram famous stars also help the allure of instant gratification. One year they were broke, and the next they are famous with 10 million followers jet setting the world. These people are more of an anomaly and are more likely degenerates anyways, not worthy of idolization and praise. You see this on the baseball field too. If they can’t have success now, it becomes a complete self-loathing fest where everything sucks and they can’t seem to shake it. That is pathetic. You need to be stronger than that and if you don’t have your best stuff that day, you grind it out until it’s over. That’s how you win a baseball game. Once the game is over, you get to work figuring out what went wrong and how you could improve. And the cycle goes on for years and years.
Now that I have lambasted you for being soft, let’s figure out how we can fix it. Let’s start with your mindset as a person. Your mindset is usually one of not creating any rifts, no drama, and no fighting. I say to hell with that. Sports themselves are a substitute for war. Let’s call this the warrior mindset. Back in the early days of civilization, you didn’t play sports. You went hunting or went to war, and that was it. As our society has become more civilized, we still have primal instincts that are locked away in our DNA, and sometimes come out when sports are played. This is why athletes get angry and sometimes do things that make observers say, “he is not a nice person, I don’t like him.” If you are a true athlete, you understand that it’s just the nature of the game and that the specific person is probably not a bad person, but let his innate instinct take over for a brief moment in time. I have found that the best athletes are those that are a bit angry inside and don’t care what other people think. They hate losing more than they like winning. However, they don’t sulk and pout, they go out and work harder when they lose; they get angry, not soft.
To get this mindset, you need to have discipline which is our next topic. Discipline is an important skill to have. I don’t mean discipline as in punishment, but in having discipline to do things that you don’t feel like doing. In the book Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink, and ex-Navy SEAL describes how discipline equals freedom (and just wrote a book about that recently too). He says it starts by getting out of bed in the morning. That means not hitting snooze or going back to bed. It means when the alarm goes off, you have the discipline to stay up and get your day going. Now Jocko does this at 4:30am every day, no matter what time he goes to bed. I say just start by doing your normal wake up time then if you want to get to his level you can. By getting out of bed on time and when you have to, you have now created an environment of discipline where you will do things and do them productively. This involves baseball and training. It takes more discipline to go out, every day and work on your skills to be a better baseball player, and to be honest, that will still not be enough. You can be the hardest worker in the world and have it still not go your way, but that is life so get used to it.
Finally, I would say the last thing you need to stop doing, is complaining. I have never in my life heard more complaints than from Orange County baseball players. There is an excuse for everything. The coach sucks, my teammates are bad, the umpire blew a call, you are giving him bad pitching/hitting advice, my arm hurts, I don’t feel good, etc. You name it, I’ve heard it. I cannot state in words how pathetic this is. The reason they didn’t perform is because of something else, not because they didn’t work hard enough. Ownership is the key word, and you as an athlete should try it. In our first blog at CBC, Ryan talked about ownership HERE. I won’t attempt to completely rehash it, but to make it simple, it’s taking complete ownership of your destiny. You are in control of it and therefore only you can affect the outcome. If somebody screwed you on something, welcome to life. Accept it, get mad, and work harder. Somebody will screw you again, don’t let it affect you at all. The more you complain, the less likely you are to find a solution to the problem.
I will conclude this by giving you a few examples of people I know and how they react to certain situations. I had a roommate in college whose bone on his elbow was splitting every time he pitched because he had muscular dystrophy which was making his bones weak. He said every time he threw it felt like his arm was flying off. He led the team in innings pitched for two seasons with 100+ innings pitched both years. A kid I know from Pennsylvania had torn his hip labrum which is a terrible ligament to tear. It’s one of the ligaments that keeps your hip in place while walking and running. Very painful to have and you run the risk of dislocation if you don’t have surgery. He played a whole season before getting surgery to fix it. Finally, I know a kid I went to college and high school with who entered high school at 4’11’’ and 95 lbs. That is tiny by all accounts. He spent the next 7 years, grinding away at the weight room and practicing his hitting. He didn’t care, he gutted it out. By the time he was 21, he was 5’11 (thanks puberty) and was 200 lbs. and earning a position on the Oregon baseball team. Most of you think you have your life figured out when your 13. I say screw that. Instill some grit then let the chips fall where they may. These are a few examples of how not to be soft. As athletes, I hope that you guys understand that the odds to attain the highest level in baseball are not in your favor, but that is fine. Leave the complacency and the complaining in the past. Get disciplined and gritty and don’t leave anything on the table. At the end of the day, you may not make it. I didn’t. But I can go to bed every single night and think, “there is nothing else I could have done; I worked as hard as I could.” That is good enough for me.