Friday, March 30, 2012

Keep your eye on the ball

Though the wording is frequently different this is a key piece of advice given to nearly every American.  I heard it over and over again, in baseball, tennis, football, rugby, and, later, in business strategy sessions where it often appeared as: stay focused and close the deal, and so on.
It’s amazing how difficult over many years it has been for me to apply this advice.  Yesterday while writing checks for monthly household bills I came to a bill I especially hate.  When writing the first check I made a couple of mistakes, on the second try I made some more.  Also, my handwriting in both efforts had become in nearly unreadable slash and scribble.  I paused for a moment, realizing how much my anger had thrown me off my checking writing game.  It reminded me of trying to hit a golf on a day was one thing or another had me anxious or pissed off. Inevitably the result was a day of infuriating chunks, slices, hooks and topping that had bright red with rage, sullen, short with old friend playing partners and just plain miserable and miserable to be around.
I don’t know if I’m unusually sensitive or if most of us are so easily distracted and that the main difference between the ordinary and the star performer has a lot to do with ability to concentrate; focus; and the ability to keep an on the ball.
It seems simple enough and we all should be able to do it                                                            
 When playing little league baseball one season, on opening day, I hit back to back over the fence home runs. I was startled realizing how easy it was. I was hardly trying, it seemed to me.  Next game I tried, harder and harder to do the same and was afraid I would not be able to live up to teammates expectations.  I doubled my efforts and kept trying to do what was expected of me.  I didn’t hit another homer the entire year.  I had similar, self conscious related year long melt downs in wrestling and football.  My success in rugby was likely related to being usually drunk and ripped on one or other drugs during the matches.
It gets complicated when I recognize not keeping my eye on the ball is the problem.  Then I try hard to keep my eye on the ball and judge as I’m doing it whether or not I am actually focused.  That of course wrecks the process.
It gets simpler when you accept how hard it is. Read Zen in the Art of Archery, for example. Or try to apply (without thinking about it) the advice I read from Suzuki:  “Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it.”
Fact is, I can write accurate, readable checks if I get calm as I can and plan for a tranquil moment and detach myself from the results, the impact on my bank account, how much money is going out the door, and realize how much easier it is if I use a favorite pen and enjoy the process as calligraphy. 
Fact is, also, that rarely happens and I have accepted the truth that for us ordinaries learning to keep our eye on the ball is a lifelong practice offering momentary  rewards, passing awareness that in the last moment we actually did it and it was easy.

No comments: