Swing Harder!

Do you “play small” in life because you’re influenced by the small thoughts of others?  Image

Does peer pressure work against you when you try to stand up, and break out of the box?

Are you worried about what other people think?

Is it embarrassing to be a “dreamer?”

When I was a boy, I loved baseball and was fascinated by the home run. Nothing else was important to me. I didn’t care about pitching, playing defense, stealing bases, moving up runners, hitting to the opposite field, or (God forbid) bunting.

I had just witnessed Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. My favorite hitters were Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, George Foster, Dave Kingman . . . all the guys that could mash.

Don Zimmer was manager of the Boston Red Sox that year and I heard a quote that stuck with me forever – be it in sports, business, or my personal life. Zimmer said, “Swing hard in case you hit it.” Priceless.

I was the home run king in every single neighborhood league growing up. We counted. Whether we were playing with a wiffle ball, a tennis ball, or a real baseball, Tommy Wyatt would lead the league in home runs every time. Nothing else mattered.

Right up through sophomore year in high school (my swan song) in San Jose, I was switch-hitting home runs with seemingly relative ease. Then I moved to Connecticut.

Life got in my way for a little while in CT, and I didn’t play baseball anymore.

But at 18, I started playing men’s league softball. I soon realized that I was one of only three or four guys in the whole league that could pop it out of the park regularly (before the era of harder balls and titanium bats made everybody a slugger).

Funny thing, though, no matter how many home runs you hit in life, you still can’t overcome the small thoughts of other people around you. I can still hear the cheers of my teammates as I’d step into the batter’s box. “ALL WE NEED IS A SINGLE, TOMMY!” I’d constantly hear things like, “We don’t need a homer here,” or “Don’t swing for the fence.”

The tough part of being a home run hitter (in slow-pitch softball) is that when you “miss,” you often end up flying out to left field. Some friends would tease me and call me “F7” which in baseball parlance means fly-out to left field. I did that a lot.

Eventually the constant peer pressure even got to me. I tried hitting up the middle more. I tried going with the outside pitch to the opposite field. I mean, it’s slow-pitch softball, it’s not all that difficult.

One fateful day, we were playing at Dickinson Park and I was up in the 9th inning of a close game. I had only one thought in my mind as my teammates clapped and cheered, “All we need is a single, Tommy!” I proceeded to hit a moon shot – over the fence and over all the huge trees behind it. As I jogged the bases, I passed by a young up-and-comer named Chris Dennis who was playing third base for the other team. He put his hand out to low-five me as I passed, and said something profound. He said, “Why don’t you just do that every time?”

I couldn’t stop thinking about what Chris said, and the way he said it. He was so matter-of-fact about it. That little “two-second” moment in time played over and over in my head for the rest of my life. I led the league in home runs almost every year after that until I stopped playing and Chris Dennis himself became the king.

“Why don’t you just do that every time?”

Think about it. If you have the ability to play big in life, why would you ever want to play smaller? Looking back at softball, none of my teammates ever complained when I succeeded. They never got angry with me for winning games. And they never asked out of the championship team photo.

Life is funny that way. It’s like the crab in the bucket story. If a crab starts to crawl out of the bucket, another crab reaches up and pulls it back in.

We only get one chance to play this game of “Life.” When I decided to unlace my cleats, put away the bat, and “play big” in business, I made the conscious choice to start hitting home runs again. I wasn’t interested in small or moderate success. I wanted it all. Once again, I was greeted with the well-meaning advice of my teammates. “All we need is a single, Tommy.”

Well, the story in my mind is that Tommy Wyatt hits home runs. Yes, sometimes I fly out. Sometimes I “settle” for singles, doubles, and triples. But I always come to play big . . . it’s just a choice.

Big thoughts and big goals tend to scare average people. I’ve given up trying to figure out why. Chris Dennis was wise.

How will you be remembered? My advice; “Keep Calm and Swing Hard!”

I’m Glad I Drank the Kool-Aid!

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