Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Get that bat off your shoulder!

You hear it a million times, the admonition not to quit.  
“If you quit, you’ll have gone as far as you can go, but if you don’t quit, you never know what might happen.”
Doc Falwell used to always tell us: “A man is not measured by what it takes to knock him down, but by what it takes to keep him down.”
I’ve never been a quitter, this much is for certain. I refused to quit on my daughter even though it meant living in my car for several years. I refused to quit on finishing my degree even though I completed it during those homeless years and studying was infinitely more difficult because of my situation.
I refused to quit on my dreams of being a writer, and I have written five books now with three more in various stages of completion. My daughter is a college freshman and that is an expensive undertaking, even with her tuition paid as part of my job. There are still books to buy and fees and clothes and shoes and next fall she’ll move on campus and there will be room and board that I have to pay. So I push myself and have a side business doing carpentry in just about every available free moment
I’m not complaining. In fact…I’m enormously thankful for the skill I have that lets me earn a lot more than if I was delivering pizza or stocking shelves. I am thankful for the huge tuition check that I don’t have to write each year.
Quitting has never really been in my DNA.
I only ever really quit on myself once. One summer, when I was 13, I was cut by the baseball team I had tried out for. I grew up a pretty good ball player and that was the only year in my life that I was ever cut.
I sat out that long, miserable summer and missed the game terribly. I missed my team mates. I missed the uniforms and the way the glove felt. I missed crouching behind the plate and calling the game.
For the first time in my entire life, I wasn’t good enough and it broke my heart. It also shattered my confidence.
The following summer I was drafted by a different team and I made the cut. I was the same guy on the outside but inside I was broken and frightened. I lived in the horrible shadow of that one baseball -free summer and the thought of ever being cut again haunted me so badly that I did the unthinkable…I lost confidence and froze.
I had been a feared hitter, capable of hitting for average as well as power. I hit prodigious home runs only two years before, but that one summer off after getting cut, tore my brimming confidence from my soul. I spent two seasons, playing for “Lafayette Radio” and Coach Russ Staats, and never swung my bat even once.
Somewhere in my mind I had reasoned that if I didn’t fail I wouldn’t get cut and if I  never struck out, then I would never fail.
So I never tried.
In the middle of that second season of standing like a statue at home plate, game after game, Coach Staats must have figured out what was going on. Before one particular at-bat, he grabbed me, put a hand on each shoulder, looked me in the eye and said in exasperation: “Swing the damned bat!”
But I couldn’t.
I finished my “Senior League” eligibility without even having garnered a batting average. I went 0-for-two-summers. I was afraid of failing, and I quit.
The next year, I didn’t play any baseball except for pickup games at school. And a funny thing happened. I got my groove back.
Without anyone depending on my talent, or keeping score, I discovered my ability to hit a baseball again. The next year, in twelfth grade, my small private school started a baseball team. We drew from all over the area and so we had a ton of talent. I was the starting catcher and a devastating hitter. I batted .280 with multiple HR’s, lead the team in RBI’s and hits with runners in scoring position. I found my power too, hitting several tape-measure bombs. Once I realized that I still could hit the ball, I lost the fear of failure. Once I lost the fear of failure, I could not possibly quit. I enjoyed the best final season of all the baseball I played in my youth.
I drew a lot of lessons from that part of my life. I’ve seen a lot of good friends walk through life with that bat stuck to their shoulder because they were afraid to strike out. Nobody told them it was okay to fail, but it was never okay to fail to try.  
It is never, ever okay to quit.
I know it was hard studying by flashlight in my car. But I feel an attachment to, and a sense of accomplishment from my education that maybe I would not have otherwise.
I know sleeping in my car and feeling shame and embarrassment was painful. But my daughter saw how much her daddy loved her and how devoted he was to simply being her dad.
I know working 80-90 hours a week sometimes is tough, but it makes every small financial victory that much sweeter. If I had quit on any of these things, who knows if I would ever have recovered my confidence?
I was driving in the middle of a fourteen hour road trip, about five years ago. I had just started listening to Zig Zigler’s wonderful “Qualities of Success” seminar, and Zig made a statement for which he had become quite famous. He said “Failure is an event…not a person.”
I had to steer my truck onto the shoulder of the road, because the tears were making it hard to see.
I was homeless. I was broken. I had lost my home, my career, most of the time I could spend with my precious little girl, even our two dogs were gone. I was doubting God and losing hope. I felt like a failure. I was ready to quit. Zig’s kind, encouraging, fatherly declaration that I was not what I thought I was, literally saved my life. I began the long road back.
I have won many hard-fought victories, these last seven years. Had I quit, I never would have won any of them. I’d be stuck someplace, with that bat still riveted to my shoulder, afraid of the pain of being cut, and fearing failure so bad that I stopped trying.
Wherever you are in life right now, this does not have to be the final stop. If you are doing well…think of how much better tomorrow is going to be! If you have failed, remember…you are not a failure. You merely failed at something.
Your best is just around the bend. You haven’t peaked yet.
The one and only way to become a quitter is to quit. So never quit.
When people speak of you, let it be with a hint of awe for all the things you chose to endure in order to be the winner you were put here to be. Live lessons of endurance, integrity, and determination for your kids and grand kids and coworkers and friends to learn from. Be a walking example of never giving up. Encourage someone else, and in that, you will find the encouragement that you need to complete the day’s tasks.
Get that bat off your shoulder, and swing for those fences.
And never ever quit!

                                                             High Hopes!



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