Baseball. It’s an easy game.
You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You hit the ball. So says the skipper in Bull Durham. Good advice; authoritative, no embellishment.
He wasn’t talking inside baseball, of course. That’s a whole ‘nother thing. Inside baseball is complicated. You run into statistics right away. Statistics are hard. Inside baseball can be mystifying, to an outsider.
Maybe tennis is a better example. Tennis is an easy game. A tennis instructor once said this: “Serving is easy. Toss the ball up, and hit it.” Easy for him to say. He demonstrated. He made it look easy.
Ground strokes in tennis — now that’s easy. Only two kinds: forehand and backhand. When there’s only two kinds, it has to be easy!
A tennis instructor explained ground strokes thus: “Fast feet, slow swing.” She made it look easy, of course. We’re not talking rocket science here.
If you missed the lesson, her words, “Fast feet, slow swing,” probably won’t make much sense. You had to be there.
A lot of life is like that. No substitute for being there. Here’s a secret about baseball and tennis. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Practice until you can do it without thinking. Thinking messes up your swing if you’re a hitter, and your windup if you’re a pitcher. The coach starts lecturing about mechanics, and it gets worse from there.
Counterintuitively, thinking can make simple things more complicated. If you think about it too much, you can’t do it at all.
Conversely, complicated things often require a lot of thinking. Or more to the point, a lot of attention. You want your surgeon to be paying attention. Driving a car is about the same. Pay attention.
“Attention is power.” So says Marsha Sinetar, who writes books and advises major corporations.
And there’s something else. Talent.
Marsha Sinetar would say that if you have talent, you probably want to practice, you almost have to practice. With talent, if you’re willing to make a little effort, you can become devoted to your practice and devoted to your work.
If you’re talented and devoted, work can feel like play. You don’t want to stop.
Talent and devotion make it possible, even easy, to give full attention to practice and work. I think that’s what Marsha Sinetar might say. Talent and devotion and attention, that’s a powerful combination.
Whew! I’ve summed up several Marsha Sinetar books — especially “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow” — in about five paragraphs. I hope I haven’t made a complete hash of her insights. Other authors also have interesting things to say about talent, which I might get to in another post.
One thing more to add, and it’s a paradox.
Despite what the manager in Bull Durham says, excellence in baseball is not easy. Excellent baseball most likely involves talent and practice and devotion and attention. For some, it might come easier than others, but most great baseball players approach the game as a job. Cal Ripken comes to mind.
This long, windy post started because I was wondering: When does life become easy? How long does that take?
Is writing easy? Is blogging easy?
Marsha Sinetar would probably just laugh and say that I’m always looking for the easy way, and even the easiest part of the easy way.
— John Hayden
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