I’m going to take you back just over 25 years ago when I was still in high school. I was playing Senior baseball for my high school team even though I was only 15 years old and most of my teammates were 17 or 18. I was a left-handed pitcher who could get a fastball up into the low to mid 80’s and I had a pretty enticing curveball. My real talent though was batting, I had great hands, didn’t strike out and could drive the ball to all fields.
One day in mid-May we were playing against another local high school and I was getting ready to bat in the first inning. While I was standing in the on-deck circle, I noticed the other team’s starting pitcher had a lazy slider that he was hanging high in the strike zone. When the batter in front of me smacked a high slider into the gap for a double, it was my turn to hit.
I stepped up to the plate knowing I was just going to wait on that slider. His first three pitches were fastballs and he missed on two, so the count was two balls and a strike. I knew the next pitch would be that slider, so I took a deep breath and mentally reminded myself to hold my weight and hands back an extra quarter of a second.
The pitch came – a fat, high, lazy slider.
I took a massive rip at it and immediately knew it was gone. The ball flew off my aluminum bat with that little sound and feeling that golfers and batters know so well – I got all of it.
I didn’t even bother to run, I just watched the ball and trotted down the first base line as it sailed over the fence in left field about 360′ away. As I rounded first, it was just silent despite there being a couple hundred people from our school at the game. I’m sure they were cheering, but I didn’t hear anything. I have no recollection of rounding third and heading home.
That was my first home run where I cleared a regulation professional dimension field and that moment of impact, bat on ball, the sound it made are still things I remember to this day.
What doesn’t get talked about much though is all the effort that went in prior to that one moment. Literally hundreds of thousands of swings. Countless hours hitting baseballs to the point where I developed a callous on my hand at the ripe old age of 11 from the handle of a baseball bat.
So while I vividly remember that one home run, I do also remember the effort that went in for years prior to make that moment possible.
What brought that memory back to me today was reading about Scott Adams the illustrator and creator of Dilbert. I love Dilbert, I think Adams is a genius. This article I was reading told about how “shocking” it was for an office worker to become the world’s most popular cartoonist and the journalist slanted the story to make it seem “flukey” that Adams succeeded.
A few years back I’d read someone else say that Adams’ success came from the fact that he’d always wanted to be successful.
These things strike me as ridiculous and undervalue what Adams has achieved. The idea that he always wanted to be successful is absurd because what’s the alternative, “Adams is disappointed with his success, he strove for a life of total mediocrity at best, with the possibility of abject failure.” I mean, come on.
The guy has a Mensa-level IQ and spent a decade working in cube farms – he’s smart and experienced. He practised and worked hard on Dilbert for years before “getting his big break”. He’s a classic case of an overnight success that took ten years.
Dilbert is his home run. He knew he had a good idea, he knew it would resonate with people and he took his swings. From being first published in 1989 in a single newspaper to 2000 when Dilbert was published in 2000 newspapers in 19 languages across 57 countries, Adams kept swinging for the fences.
In business, I come across people all the time who have talent and good ideas. The problem is, many of these people aren’t committed enough to work at developing their idea and fine-tuning their talent. They aren’t willing to send their cartoon ideas to publishers for fear of rejection and they aren’t prepared to hit so many baseballs they get a callous in the palm of their hand.
But the really successful people are willing to put that effort in. Sure, you’re always going to get the people who luck out and win the lottery of life, but they’re the exception rather than the rule – most people need to work hard to turn their talent and ideas into something significant. If you want to build your online business around winning the lottery, then I suggest you make sure your lottery ticket has the number 27 on it because that’s my lucky number – there’s really no more skill required than that.
The truth is, if you’re reading these emails and you’re buying into the whole idea of being a “Casual Marketer” then realistically you know that talent and a good idea aren’t enough – don’t get me wrong, those are great starting points, but they aren’t going to get you to where you want to be.
You need to become a student of the game, you need to hone your skill, perfect your craft and put yourself out there. It takes tons of practice and yes, you’re going to develop the occasional callous, but that’s the price of admission you’re required to pay to get to the place you want to to be.
You’re going to need to spend the time practising your swing and hit thousands of balls before you can walk up to plate, sit on a lazy slider and crush it over the fence for your home run.