There are numerous lessons that surround us each day. In this series we are taking a closer look at the many business and life lessons that America’s great past time offers us. The last lesson taught us the importance of not letting one small thing — a bad pitch, inning, or game– ruin your season. This lesson is an extension of that — staying in the game–the whole game.
Stay in the Game : Comebacks Happen
Nine innings includes 54 outs, hundreds of pitches, and dozens of plays. And much like golf, baseball is more often won in the heads of its players, than on the actual field. Thinking at the bottom of the third that you don’t have a chance to overcome any deficit is a mistake. No matter how big the deficit may seem, it is always possible to dig out.
As an umpire for years, I have seen many teams come from behind to claim a win. One particular game, had most of the parents leave, due to some rain and a 9 run deficit in the 8th inning. It seemed like everybody, but the home team had already chalked this game up to the visitors. Even the visitors were already talking about their next opponent in the tournament.
In the bottom of the eighth with two outs this team rallied to put up some more runs. It wasn’t enough to take the lead, but it was enough to change the momentum of the game. After a three up- three down top of the ninth, the home team had a new focus. Only down by 4 now, the home team loaded the bases several times and moved the runners around perfectly. The winning run crossed the plate on a perfectly executed bunt down the first base line. The home team celebrated as the visitors and their fans (the few that stuck around) watched in astonishment. They couldn’t believe what happened.
Just a few years ago the Colorado Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the 9th to win 12-9 over the St. Louis Cardinals. The point is, you just don’t know until the whole game is played all the way out.
Stories of business comebacks are no less rare or impressive. Target came back from near-obscurity to take on discount retailer Wal-Mart. Apple was almost belly-up when Steve Jobs returned to re-invigorate the company. Vans shoe company was limping along until it became the footwear of choice for a generation of skateboarders. Comebacks happen, even in the ninth inning — and beyond.
Losing is Part of the Game
Of course, the reverse is true. For every comeback team, there is a losing team. The story of the Rockies’ win could be turned upside-down and told as a cautionary tale of the Cardinals LOSING in the ninth inning. IBM, apparently entrenched as the “safe” choice for computers, couldn’t hold its own and is now a shadow of its previous self. Companies getting too comfortable in their role as market leader are a dime a dozen — and their stock might be trading for little more than that.
The lesson for small businesses is obvious: It ain’t over until it’s over. Whether you’re struggling mightily to stay afloat and survive or you think your business is set on auto-pilot, take heed. Anything can happen, and that’s why the game has nine innings. If the outcome was certain, we could all pack up and go home at the bottom of the first.
Don’t become too discouraged by an apparent loss, and don’t become too comfortable with a certain win. A change of pitcher — or a change in the economy or market conditions — can work in your favor or against you. A new customer can change the whole game, as can a new competitor. You never know what the other team has up its sleeve.
Playing all nine innings is synonymous with doing your best, even when defeat — or victory — seems certain. It is the mindset of a winner, who knows that losing an inning, a game, or even a season doesn’t mean much when looking ahead to next year.
So set your focus. Know your long term goals. Learn from each game, each inning, each pitch, and each out. Most importantly: Play all nine innings!