In his book, Playing Life to Win, Dr. Taylor Hartman uses the metaphor of baseball to represent the game of life, shares dozens of personal and professional vignettes, mixed with quotes, stories and examples from the lives of politicians, celebrities, sports stars, business leaders and family members. One needn’t be a fan of baseball in order to “get” Hartman’s many references to the sport or to “get” the book’s message. Most know that baseball’s objective is to hit the ball that’s pitched to you—or otherwise get safely on base—and, in turn, go from first base to second to third, and touch home plate, thus scoring a “run” for your team in hopes of winning the game. In effect, Hartman’s book is a game plan for success in life.
FIRST BASE: GET YOURSELF
To succeed in life, you start by getting to first base. And to get to first base you must first “get yourself.” If you can’t see yourself honestly and value who you are, you will never get on first base, let alone cross home plate and score.
Self-awareness starts when you discover and refine your “signature swing,” your unique, often hidden, personal values, needs, strengths and limitations. Your signature swing includes your innermost reasons for why you think and act as you do, reflected in your needs and wants—your motives.
Unearthing your signature swing sometimes takes seeing yourself from another’s point of view. Earnestly inviting candid feedback can be most insightful. Hartman tells of a time when his 12-year-old son TJ came to him for a bit of coaching. TJ had always struggled with shyness. Recognizing this blemish in himself and wanting to overcome it, he asked that he be permitted to answer the front door when adults stopped by. By forcing himself to look them in the eye and say “hello,” TJ gradually developed a remarkable degree of self-awareness and social confidence. In essence, he was able to transform his weakness into a strength—and become even more confident and self-aware in the process.
When was the last time you received honest feedback from someone? What kinds of personality flaws did it expose? Though at times painful, acting on constructive criticism from teammates or coaches (co-workers, close friends, family…) can make a huge difference in getting over your pride, fears and insecurities; in a word, it can be enlightening.
Another key component to understanding who we really are is stepping up to the plate—a powerful baseball phrase that entails taking responsibility and living up to our expectations. Perhaps one of the most basic (and most often ignored) principles in life is to take full responsibility for who you are. We can’t expect to hit the pitches life sends our way until we do.
Taking full responsibility for ourselves and our actions involves checking our culture from time to time, both at home and at work, to see where the disconnects are. “We must face ourselves honestly if we ever hope to have the mature muscle necessary to be members of the 100% Responsibility Club,” says Hartman. The club’s whose motto, in part, reads: I am 100% responsible for every relationship in my life…no excuse is legitimate, sought, or accepted. I am 100% responsible for creating what I get. And I get exactly what I deserve.”
Other principles key to getting on first base include:
• Keep your eye on the ball in life. Ignore distractions and pay attention to the way you want to live your life.
• Be a hitter. Swing only at the pitches you know you can hit.
• Embrace your style; come to know and like yourself for simply being you.
• Understand and accept your natural strengths and limitations. Studies show that “Emotional Intelligence” (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills) is “four times more critical to life success than IQ and technical
Once you master “getting yourself,” you will step up to the plate with confidence and meet the game with enthusiasm.
SECOND BASE: GET TRUTH
Moving on to second base, just 90 feet away from where you are, now requires that you face yourself, or “get truth.” Your ability to face yourself requires seeing your strengths and limitations in light of how they impact your life and the lives of those around you. Facing truth creates tremendous hope and momentum in your life.
What are you going to do? Are you leading off first at every pitch, looking for your opportunity to sprint to your next goal, or are you too afraid that you’ll get thrown out? You must let go of your insecurities. Getting to first was all about you, but from here on out, you need to forget yourself.
We all have our insecurities, embarrassing facts about us that we would like to keep hidden. Facing truth and honestly embracing our limitations are critical steps toward bettering ourselves and becoming more self-assured.
Hartman shares a lesson he learned one day while eating at an outdoor restaurant. Seated at the table next to him was a woman smoking a cigarette. In his mind, Hartman began to criticize her: How could she be so reckless with her health? Meanwhile, he realized, there he sat drinking another caffeine-packed diet soda, and not having exercised for weeks. “While I was judging this woman and her choice to smoke, there was little difference between her and me—I had simply picked a different substance.”
Forced to confront a rather uncomfortable truth, Hartman made a lasting personal commitment to improve his fitness level. The point behind his epiphany? Truth has a way of revealing itself; it always emerges. The decision is ours whether or not to accept it. We can welcome it now, face the brutal truths we are ignoring, and reap the benefits, or we can wait until it’s too late.
The book teaches that there are three absolute truths we all must face:
1. All life is about relationships—a commitment to value others that involves finding common ground and building rapport. Relationships have been and will forever be with us…how you make people feel will always last longer than you do.
2. We are NOT born equal. Diversity truly is the spice of life.
3. You get what you deserve (and you continue to get what You Allow). We are not victims, nor can we blame others for our mistakes or misfortunes.
Other vital points to consider while on second base:
• You likely will face between three and seven totally devastating experiences in the course of your life. To cope with such traumatic events, place your focus on how you respond rather than on the experience itself.
• Borne of insecurity, many people separate their personal attitudes, behaviors and relationships from their professional attitudes, behaviors and relationships—a tendency Hartman terms a “Personal and Professional Divide.” Cultivating a more consistent approach in both personal and professional arenas frees you to accept and relate to others more comfortably.
• Self-esteem comes simply because, as part of the human race, you breathe; while self-confidence is a result of your successes, your abilities, and the mark you leave daily on life.
Standing on second base, your focus having shifted from “self” to “truth,” you are in scoring position. Now your game plan must shift further away from you to others. Third base is all about enhancing others’ lives and scoring as a team.
THIRD BASE: GET OVER YOURSELF
Hartman insists that, if we’re not careful, this base is where our fears and petty insecurities can trip us up. Selfishness is the number one reason that relationships fail both at work and home. Thus, third base requires self-discipline and emotional muscle, which allow us to “lift ourselves and others to higher ground.”
Third base is a journey away from selfishness, toward selflessness. Consider the tremendous change that comes over a couple’s life with the birth of their first child. In an instant, their priorities are turned utterly upside down as they abandon their selfish, self-serving motives and focus all their time and energy on the needs of their little one. At the same time, in choosing their child’s happiness over their own, they find meaning, connection and peace.
Life is all about change: growing up and evolving beyond the demanding, needy child you once were; taking responsibility; envisioning the life you want; proactively replacing negative attitudes and actions with value-added, positive ones; and finding meaning in close, caring relationships.
So how can you promote greater selflessness in your relationships? One way is by creating a list of the most destructive, self-serving attitudes and behaviors that may prevent you from focusing on others. Hartman offers his readers an equation to help point out where change may be needed and how it can be actualized: D + V + P > C = CHANGE, where you combine your dissatisfaction with an aspect of your life (D) with a clear vision for how your life could improve (V) and add positive practical solutions for change (P). Tallied up, you will change when the cost of living life as you currently are (C) is greater than (>) the cost of remaining in a state of dysfunction.
When people die, they are missed only by those whose lives they touched…ultimately, your life is a composite of what you did, with whom you did it, why you did it, and how it made people feel.
HOME PLATE: GET OTHERS
Who would miss you most right now if you were gone? Reflecting on this question, you will recognize that crossing home plate and building a full, rich life requires empathy and self-sacrifice—a genuine caring and connection with others. Having gotten over yourself, you now wish to use your newfound emotional strength, your time, energy and considerable gifts to lift others.
Being “home” means something different to each of us. But, in general, home is a place of safety, peace, acceptance, trust, forgiveness and delight; at home, we are free to be our best selves and to connect fully with those around us.
“Home” is also how we can face the world at large; we can be and act our best beyond the walls of our homes. Leo Tolstoy once remarked, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change himself.” Yet, ironically, the only person you actually can change is yourself, whether in your marriage, your role as parent, your business associations or your connections with your neighbors. You have to “get them” in order to succeed in getting along with them. You hold the key to every relationship in your life.
In summing up Playing Life to Win, Hartman writes: We need to wake up and pay attention to those whom we value. The ultimate goal for an abundant life is to help others be successful. To live this life you must become vulnerable and allow yourself to risk looking foolish. Becoming real is never easy and doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time and doesn’t happen when people are insecure and spend all their energy protecting themselves from the possibility of being hurt.
Shortly before his death, renowned American psychiatrist Karl Menninger was asked what he believed was the best therapy for mental illness. His reply: “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them.” Getting to third base is “locking up your house and crossing the railroad tracks.” Coming home is “finding someone in need and doing something for them.” Crossing home plate is all about proactively seeking opportunities to improve the living conditions of others.
We need to be willing to commit and ready to sacrifice our own personal agendas if we ever hope to cross home plate. At the end of the day, it’s not about you. The well-lived life is about serving others, serving their wants and needs, understanding their fears and hopes, making them successful in life.
In some strange way, lifting others frees you to drive your own life abundantly. <
Dr. Taylor Hartman has been helping individuals improve their lives through his business consulting, personal coaching, and public speaking for over 30 years. He is the best-selling author of The Color Code and Color Your Future. For more information visit www.taylorhartman.com or www.playinglifetowin.com.
True to his minimalist editing approach, the long and short of Stevens Anderson’s existence is: he has a loving wife and eight delightful children, likes books, words and word games, and earns his keep by playing with words all day and marketing on the side. His philosophy for life: “Be kind. Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”