I always hated curve balls. I think this was primarily because I didn’t want to break out of the comfort zone of my particular habits, stance and swing, which worked wonders on fast balls, sliders, split fingers, and the rest.
You’re forced to focus and adapt quickly to respond to the precise movements of the ball as it hisses towards you. There is this dizzy sensation the moment you realize the ball is moving in an unexpected and deceptive direction; it’s almost hypnotizing.
It was because of my dislike for the curve ball that I stopped developing my skill as a baseball player. I struggled through the end of my sixth year playing and then quit. Now I can be a little more understanding of my younger self. I was 13 and short for my age, forced to advance to the 16+ league, so I definitely had the odds stacked against me.
Even so, that unfortunate lesson stuck with me. I couldn’t be proud of shrinking back from a daunting challenge.
No matter how many times you’ve seen them, curve balls look a little unique every time. An unexpected budget cut, a project for which you lack essential skills, an aggressive up-and-coming competitor, or a seemingly unattainable goal imposed by senior management. With each curve ball, there’s the terrible feeling of the unfamiliar, the unknown.
But after a while you gain a paradoxical confidence that is able to exist alongside the feeling of unpreparedness and anxiety. Thanks to the great example of many leaders, friends and family in my life, I’ve gradually changed my perspective. I can now welcome curve balls because they break my mental habits of maintaining the status quo, contradict my inflated sense of expertise, and challenge me to take risks.
When you approach the plate eager for a new challenge, I think there comes a really healthy sense of pride. This attitude is good for career development, but really, it’s also practice for life, for virtue and for conquering the deeper personal challenges we all face, both externally and internally. That’s something to take pride in.
So next time you see an over-eager, slightly hubris-driven achiever leaping at a chance to be thrown in the middle of a project for which they are obviously under-qualified, don’t simply write him or her off as mere opportunists looking to advance their career. Chances are, they’d love it if you jumped in with them. You’ll be glad you did.