The dream of playing professional baseball was once a very possible reality for me. Now, a case of performance anxiety known as the “yips” had brought those plans to a screeching, embarrassing, and devastating halt. Once a closer-style pitcher who thrived in pressure, now I couldn’t even play a simple game of catch. I was lost.
Sometimes I drank. Sometimes I prayed. I desperately needed to find passion, purpose and peace. I had always found those in baseball. So, I kept trying.
That same Fall in 2001, I watched two airplanes kill 3,000 people on live television in my dorm room. My heart started undeniably burning with a new passion. Through much prayer and reflection, I felt God spoke to me. I pivoted. For the first time in my entire life, I accepted that playing baseball would not be my future. I began a new adventure to become a Navy SEAL.
When you near college graduation, people naturally ask, “What are your plans?” My answer had always been to be a professional baseball player. Friends encouraged me to attempt a comeback and offered to set up tryouts. When you tell people your plans are to become a SEAL, many think you’ve lost your mind. I’m sure some wondered how I planned on graduating what is often referred to as the most mentally demanding military training in the world…especially with my failure in baseball having been more mental than physical.
Rather than allow a heartbreaking failure in baseball define my future, I decided to learn, grow, and get better. I understood the risk. I understood that often 75% or more of the students entering training do not graduate. I understood I couldn’t control circumstances such as getting hurt. I also understood the dire consequences of failure.
When you set out to do something hard, critics will give you 1,000 reasons why you can’t do it. Critics come in various forms, sometimes they can even be the people who love you most, worried about the risk you are assuming. Other times, critics are people who want you to fail. Your failure justifies their decision to play it safe and never dare to dream. This type of person may not ever get burned, but they’re also impotent. You can’t win if you don’t play.
Winners find one reason why they can. They find an excuse to win.
Rather than focus on the noise of critics or the uncertainty of the future- ‘If’ I would make it- I instead focused on what I had certainty about: Why I was doing it.
- I watched 3,000 people die and wanted to help provide their justice.
- I wanted to shed the labels of being mentally weak.
- I wanted to work with men who were passionate about what they do.
I didn’t have an answer for exactly How I was going to graduate. Focusing on Why created many How’s through some very difficult circumstances both in training and my career.
Every day you show up to the yard, take a moment to remind yourself Why you’re here today. Worrying about If you’ll get drafted and other uncertainties provide no value.
Focusing on Why we play makes the game more enjoyable. When we’re enjoying the game we are loose, relaxed and in the moment.
Like me, you may have to pivot along the way through the uncertainty of future events, but you can be certain that every experience has its purpose. Graduating BUD/S proved purpose to the yips and other hard experiences in my life. Without them, I may not have been standing there at the end of hell week.
Your path may loop and turn, but if you have the courage to follow your intrinsic passions, you’ll get where you’re going. And when you do, believe me, It Pays To Be A Winner.