Success. That word carries a lot of weight, especially in modern American society. We are obsessed with success. It is so much a part of the air we breathe that we don’t even stop to think about it. Movies, social media and the news are filled with stories that either celebrate the accomplishments of individuals or point a finger at their failures and subsequent demise.
If we aren’t careful, we can subtly fall prey to thinking that we are only worthwhile if everything we touch turns to gold. The problem is nobody has the secret “Midas touch”. Even if they did, that old fable reminds us that the results wouldn’t be as glorious as we envision.
We desperately need reminders of the true meaning of “success”. In my life, one of the places I have learned the most is through baseball.
I was reading an article about statistics in baseball on ESPN.com last week. I’ve added the link to it here.
The article talks about a player and manager named Cap Anson. This is a excerpt…
The legend goes that Cap Anson, asked what he’d like his tombstone to say, replied, “ I guess one line will be enough: ‘Here lies a man that batted .300.’“
There are three reasons we care, for our purposes today, about Anson’s response. The first is the throat-clearing opener: “one line will be enough.” Anson had one of the game’s most extraordinary and complicated major league baseball careers. He was baseball’s first superstar, rapped 3,435 hits, won five pennants and almost 1,300 games as a manager, and played a prominent and despicable role in preserving segregation in the sport. A book could probably be written about any one of his 27 seasons. In his estimation, one line would be enough. That’s how powerful “batted .300” has been in baseball.
The article goes on to talk at length about why batting .300 is a significant accomplishment.
With all due respect to the author, I think he may have actually missed Cap’s main point.
It may offend our modern sensibilities but what if Cap wasn’t talking about the game of baseball at all? How about if he was talking about life? That certainly reframes the way I read his quote.
In the batter’s box of life, there are always opportunities to hit a home run or strike out. There are also times that you hit a nice single up the middle or you crush the ball but a fielder makes a nice play. No one succeeds in everything even when you are doing everything “right”.
No hot streak lasts forever and no slump defines what you are able to do at your next at bat. In the end, batting .300 in life is probably a very reasonable “batting percentage”.
I wouldn’t characterize my success in life in home runs, stolen bases or runs scored. I think the best way to judge my success is if I’m willing to get into the batter’s box day after day.
Am I willing to swing away even when I struck out my last time up? Can I stare down each pitch as it comes my way and give it my best shot? Can I take the occasional fastball to my arm or back?
In life, having the courage to step into the batters box is half the battle. After all, nobody bats 1.000.