Friday, September 16, 2011

Hitting For Average

As October approaches, life gets exciting for baseball fans. Of course, it's much more exciting if your team actually plays in the playoffs, but if you're just a baseball fan in general, it's always good to see teams come together and step it up for October. You begin to see what players are made of when the playoff crunch comes. You see all stars look like little leaguers and rookies demand the spotlight. It's hard to predict what might happen, and that's the beauty of it.

I grew up with two parents who never really got into sports. I wouldn't sit in front of a TV as a kid and watch football on Sunday afternoons. That just wasn't my dad's thing. Never went to a baseball game, nor a hockey, football, or basketball game. In fact, the first time I went to a hockey game with my dad, it was after college and I had been refereeing ice hockey for years. So, I spent a considerable amount of time during the game explaining the rules to him. Back to baseball though.

It's kind of interesting to think about the art of hitting in baseball. One of the most important statistics for a baseball hitter is the batting average. The batting average is calculated by dividing the number of hits by the number of at bats. According to Wikipedia, "In modern times, a season batting average higher than .300 is considered to be excellent, and an average higher than .400 a nearly unachievable goal." The last player to have successfully hit over .400 for the season was Ted Williams, all the way back in 1941.

As I think through this idea, it's fascinating for me. If I am a baseball player, I am considered successful if I step up to the plate and hit the ball 3 or 4 times out of 10 plate appearances. There are other statistics to factor in, like average with men in scoring position and slugging percentage, but generally, the batting average is a pretty good indicator of a player's success or failure at the plate. Success for hitters means an average of between 30 to 40 percent.

I laugh to myself as I read this. How interesting that player's who make more money with one swing than I will in my entire lifetime are judged on whether they succeed 30 to 40 percent of the time. Can you imagine what the world would look like if those "lesser" professions were judged with the same percentage? Imagine if doctors were successful if only 30 to 40 percent of their patients survived. How about if firemen were able to put out 30 to 40 percent of the fires that they encountered? What kind of a school system would be content with a 30 to 40 percent graduation rate? Talk about lowering the bar.

People might say, "That's not fair, you're comparing apples to oranges." In some ways, they're right, but I still think it's interesting to think about. We love to rationalize or condemn based upon statistics. We can show our support or opposition when we can "prove" something with statistics. We feel somewhat justified when we can do so.

Last year, I had the privilege of going through something called Core Clarity. The basic concept behind it was something that I was familiar with. I took the Clifton StrengthsFinder test years ago. The gist of it is that everyone has a set of strengths that make up who they are, there are 34 basic themes and everyone has all of them, with the emphasis being on the top 5. Core Clarity takes the top 5 strengths and expounds upon how those 5 themes work together in each individual person.

One of the things that the presenter talked about was that often in our society, we rate people on a skill set that doesn't fit them. In other words, we may be rating someone based upon strengths of the supervisor or advisor rather than the individual being rated. At the most basic level, we can ask the question, is it fair to judge someone on the skillset that they have or that they don't have? Can we expect someone to perform at a high level when they are not gifted or equipped with the skills necessary to perform the tasks that they are being judged on?

All of us in our lives have to perform tasks that we are not always comfortable with. Some have to perform tasks that they don't list, those are among the responsibilities of a job. But what would it look like if job descriptions began to morph and evolve based upon the skillset held by those occupying those jobs? What if people began to operate in the places where their gifting lies rather than to constantly feel like they were operating in the place of their weakness?

If we spend any time at all being introspective and performing self-evaluations, we probably have a pretty good handle on the things that we are good at and where our skills lie. If we begin to find places where we can put those skills to work a large percentage of our time, I would guess that our productivity would rise and we would probably find more satisfaction in what we are doing. We will always have to do certain things that are somewhat taxing on us, the things that are required, but how fulfilled would we feel if we were operating in that area a smaller percentage of the time?

The smell of Fall is in the air in some parts of the country. The hunt for October is on and the baseball players will show what they're made of. Some of them will see their batting averages rise while others will see them fall. If you analyze the hitting of every baseball player, you will find that their batting average goes up when they are given certain pitches in a certain part of the strike zone. Those zones would probably be best called their "hot zones." I would gather that their success rate within those zones rises to about 70 or 80 percent, at least. What would happen if they got pitches in that area every single time they stepped to the plate?

Most of us won't ever be professional baseball players. We won't be judged on whether we are successful 30 to 40 percent of the time. But, we can look for our "hot zone," the place where we feel like we're going to operate and function at a higher rate, and do our best to operate in that place the majority of the time. We'll always be responsible to "git r done" in certain places, but if we find that high functioning place in our lives, I can bet that we will find more fulfillment and less stress in the things that we do.

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