Baseball: The Road to Success is Paved with Failure

Baseball: The Road to Success is Paved with Failure

May 23rd 2015

The Road to Success is Paved with Failure

Baseball is a sport in which even the best fail regularly. A star hitter—someone with a .300 average—fails seven out of ten times. And when you fail, you are center stage, either at the plate with everyone watching you or, perhaps, misplaying a fly ball, where the scorekeeper literally labels you with an error.

Former baseballplayer and Minnesota Twin, Corey Koskie recently wrote a blog post about parents express anger at their kids for isolated “failures”in youth baseball. He criticized these parents, calling what they say “Ridiculous,” and that it borders on abuse. He then explained:

“This is why baseball is losing kids. There is nowhere [sic] to hide on the baseball field. You can't hide from failure. You can't hide and fall into obscurity. Couple this with parents and coaches yelling/shaming. Why bother.......... play lacrosse, soccer, basketball. At least they can become obscure in these sports. MOM..... DAD..... COACH....If you get mad at a youth baseball player for missing a ball. YOU ARE WRONG!”

He makes a great point about baseball—it is a series of individual battles and acts where failure is magnified. The pitcher faces the hitter while everyone else just stands there and once the bat hits the ball, all eyes are on the fielder that tries to catch it or throw it.

To his credit, he then quantifies the number of “failures” he made in the Major Leagues—795 strike-outs and 81 errors. His last statement is important: “If I had to deal with these coaches and parents [,] I would [] never [have] made it and had the opportunity to fail in front of 40,000 people.”

Let’s delve into this.

In our society, people like to talk about their successes more than their failures. For example, most people don’t post their screw-ups on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin. They post information or pictures that make them look good. Interviews with famous successful people focus (mostly) on their successes. (By contrast, biographies, documentaries, and in-depth interviewers like Tim Ferriss go beyond the surface level success, which is in part why they are so valuable).

The result is an impression that the path to success is, well, just a history of success. So, as individuals, it is easy to think that we can’t reach those levels of success because we have our own failures or are afraid to act because we don’t want to fail.

The reality, of course, is usually quite different. Most successful entrepreneurs start out as unsuccessful entrepreneurs. Their path to success is really through failure. The key is that they engage this failure to create future successes. They don’t run from it or hide it away never to be discussed or remembered; they embrace it and use it to their advantage—and that experience is an advantage.

The problem that Corey Koskie hits on here certainly applies to baseball, but it applies much more broadly. Parents and coaches are scaring kids about failure; that is precisely the opposite approach they should take. Kids (and adults as well) need to understand that the greatest success comes when you take risks. Whenever you try something worthwhile, you might fail. But if you don’t try you can’t succeed.

This fear of failure permeates our society, creating complacency and unhappiness as people fear following their dreams because they might fail with their first, or second, or third attempt. Failure is okay. Use it to your advantage.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our blog post about Dilbert creator Scott Adams' book "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life." Scott Adams' book is funny and enlightening. Most likely, he has failed more times than you have. And he is doing quite well.

One note on Corey Koskie: I am and have always been a  Minnesota Twins fan and recall his career fondly. When he first started playing third base for the Twins, his defense was criticized. But he worked and worked on it; I recall reading articles about his work ethic on defense. Eventually,he became a great defensive third baseman. He didn’t seem to have any trouble learning from his failures; he instead kept working and ultimately succeeded.

A good lesson.

photo credit: Error via photopin (license)