With spring upon us and the 2013 baseball season under way, baseball fans every where are giddy with excitement. And if that is not exciting enough (for baseball fans), my hometown Toronto Blue Jays are favoured to win the whole thing. This blog is not about baseball but is about how baseball taught me a life lesson that I have never forgotten and I will always be grateful for.

I was twelve years old when I started to play Little League Baseball. I was the only one on my team that never played organized baseball. I was a true rookie. It was our third game and we were losing 6-3 in the last inning. However, the energy started to shift in our favour, there was excitement on our bench and with our fans (the four parents that stayed to watch the game). We had the bases loaded with two outs. We are one big hit away from winning the game. Oh the excitement! Who was up next? Who was going to keep the rally going? Who was going to give us a chance to win? Oh no, it was the rookie. Yep me. You could hear the collective sigh of disappointment.

I got to the plate and before I knew it I already had two strikes. With the third pitch on the way I closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could. CRACK! I hit it! And I hit it far. One run scored, the second run scored, and then the third run scored. We were tied! I rounded third base just as the ball made it to the catcher at the plate. Call it excitement, call it inexperience, call it stupidity, but what I did next still baffles me. I looked right at the catcher and with my two arms stretched out towards him, I motioned with my hands and I dared him to throw the ball. To my surprise he did…with pinpoint accuracy too. I was out! I made a mistake. I failed. The game ended in a tie, I took away a chance for our team win.

As I walked back to the bench across the diamond, my Coach, Mr. Hays ran with purpose onto the field and met me at the pitchers mound. I was scared! Mr. Hays put his arm around my shoulder and escorted me back to the bench. Here was our conversation:

Mr. Hays: “Sean, do you remember at the beginning of the season I said you were going to make mistakes?”

Me: “Yes sir”

Mr. Hays: “This is one of those times. Don’t do that again.”

Me: “Ok Mr. Hays”

Mr. Hays taught me a very valuable lesson that day about learning from our failed attempts. It is a lesson I brought with me into the corporate world. A lesson I shared with my teams. But to my surprise, not everyone believes as Mr. Hays.

I do not know when this happened, but at some point during my lifetime the word FAIL became synonymous with FAILURE.

According to Dictionary.com the definitions are:

  • FAIL: to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved
  • FAILURE: an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success

In other words, if you fail, you are a failure!

Seriously? Are you kidding me? Is that the message we want to send to our children, our students, our employees, our peers and our leaders? How do we ever expect to KEEP IT!, to move forward and to get better with such self-limiting and judging language?

Think about it, if we all lived and believed the notion that to fail = you are a failure; the world we know would be very different. Here is a small glimpse.

  • No Legs: lets start with us. None of us knew how to walk when we were born. And each of us tried to walk unsuccessfully thousands of times. We fell forward, backward and sideways. We banged our heads, knees, elbows but we kept trying. If we gave up after the first attempt because we were a failure, well some Darwinian thing would have happened to us and say good-bye to our legs, because we wouldn’t need them.
  • Darkness: the only light we would have is daylight, maybe candles but definitely no light bulb. Imagine if Edison believed he was a failure after his first attempt.
  • Dirt and a Stick: we could forget about any technology devices that keep us entertained and connected. We would all be outside with a stick playing in dirt.

But that is not what happened. We have legs, light bulbs and magnificent technology. Why? One simple thing, after each failed attempt an adjustment was made. Learning was applied. A new approach was taken. IT was Kept. And guess what, success was not that far behind.

How is this for irony, Dictionary.com defines success as: the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals. In other words, learn from your mistakes! KEEP IT!

From All I Learn

Albert Einstein said insanity was: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I would offer this is also the definition of failure. Failure is not learning, not adjusting and not trying it differently. Look around the room right now, I guarantee nothing in there was created on the first attempt. Because after all, FAIL represents:





Let’s recognize, celebrate and support failing – because failing is a path to success. I challenge all of you to embrace Mr. Hays’ philosophy of failing, and allow yourself, your family and your teams to flourish, grow, learn and move forward. To KEEP IT!

What did yesterday’s mistake teach you about moving forward today? Join the conversation on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/IDECLAREIT

PS: I was never picked off at third base again. Thanks Mr. Hays!