Baseball, Persistence, and How I Became a ‘Natural’ Writer

by Marcus Sheridan

First of all, let me say Happy Easter everyone. It’s a great time of the year and one that hopefully you’re spending with close family and friends.  But before I jump into today’s article, I need make two quick announcements:

The first has to do with my recent tagline article, which some of you have been asking about and I’m proud to say that this coming Tuesday, at 9:30am, I will be posting an article about the tagline that was chosen from the massive amounts of suggestions I received from my amazing community. In other words, the social experiment completely worked and YOU chose this blog’s tagline. I hope everyone checks out this post, because it’s going to be dang good, I promise.

The second point of business is that I was recently interviewed by BlogCastFM. If you haven’t heard of BlogcastFM, they are known throughout the blogosphere for interviewing some of the top bloggers in the world, and because the guys that run it were desperate to fill a slot, for some reason they asked me for an interview ;-). So if you’d like to hear me animatedly discuss the beauties of blogging, business, and branding with the incredibly talented interviewer Srinivas Rao (also of Skool of Life), please click here and give it a listen. I promise you won’t be bored to tears and you might even gain a few butt-kicking ideas to implement in your blog or business.

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Let’s Play Ball

Jt's team

Coach Tina in the back with my son, JT, far left

To start off today’s article I need to tell a story (I know, you’re surprised, as I never tell personal experiences on here, right Jens ;-) ). My son Joseph (aka JT) is in ‘coaches pitch’ baseball this year. Basically, coaches pitch works like this: Kids, ages 6-9, are pitched a baseball from a machine. This machine tosses the ball at about 40 mph and consistently throws strikes down the plate. So as to keep the inning moving quickly, each child on the team gets a total of 6 swings to hit the ball. If they haven’t hit the ball within 6 swings, they’ve struck out. Once every player has had 3 at bats, (3 total innings), the game is over.

As you might imagine, kids this age trying to hit a little ball going 40 mph and only having 6 swings to do so often times doesn’t work out too well. Heck, it’s not unusual to see coaches tossing the ball ( very slowly mind you) under-handed to the kids because they simply can’t seem to hit the machine.

But as luck would have it this year, my son was drafted (that always makes me laugh) by a lady named Tina Moss. Along with her husband Bill, Tina takes coaching these youth very, very seriously. This was evident in the first practice of the season, where she laid out 2 simple, yet profound rules to kids and parents:

1. The team would practice twice a week, no matter what, and attendance was expected.

2. Everyone would learn to hit off the machine, and there would be no underhanded pitches during the game. (In other words, they were going to work very hard.)

Personally, when I heard Coach Tina say this, a big smile came to my face. Yep, she was going to push these kids, and she wasn’t going to allow an apparent lack of ‘talent’ or ‘ability’ get in the way.

Of course, once I watched the results of the first practice, I was a little concerned for Tina’s wishes, as there was one big problem—a lot of our players (keep in mind these are very young boys and girls, many of which have never played ball) simply had no clue. Unfortunately, talent was not going to carry this group. Wondering how Tina would react, I just sat back and allowed time to tell.

Over the next 5 weeks, my son’s team practiced a total of 10 times. Rain or Shine, somehow the coaches managed to work with the players. Even more amazing, they would have ‘special’ practices for the kids that couldn’t hit well. Unlike the kids in Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, none would fall victim to a lack of attention from coaches. Simply put, Tina’s will to help them succeed would overcome any deficiencies their apparent ‘lack of talent’ might induce.

Game Day

Finally, just last week, after hours and hours of practice, my son played his first game. Watching our kids warm up, I was amazed at their smiles and confidence. It was obvious they were ready to play some ball.

The game started with the other team batting. Within no time, I realized their kids weren’t well prepared. In fact, I talked to one of the parents and was told they had only had 2 practices over the previous weeks. That’s right, they had 2, and we had 10.

After a quick first half of the inning which saw their kids miss ball after ball from the machine, it was our turn to hit.

jt and dad

Me and my boy, future Hall of Famer ;-)

With coach Tina standing on 3rd clapping and cheering her future stars on, the hours of hard work were ready to shine….and boy did they ever.

To make a long story short, these were the actual results of our players:

24 at bats, 24 hits

And the other team? 3 hits….total.

That’s right, in a 3 inning game, all 8 players(2 were missing in the photo above) on our team hit the ball every time. But not only that, every hit was made by the 3rd pitch. Not a single child needed 6, much less 4, pitches. 3 was it. As a father and huge sports fan, I was literally blown away by what I witnessed. Kids, who just weeks before didn’t know where to stand at the plate or even how to hold the bat were now ripping balls into the outfield.

Let’s Quit with the Lame ‘Talent’ Excuses

So what’s my point with all of this? Well, to be completely frank, my days are filled with businesses owners explaining to me why they don’t have talent with the web, technology,  and content marketing. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone tell me, “I’m just not a good writer”, I’d be a rich man. The reality is that we all stink at writing in the beginning. In fact, and I will bet my life on this, none of us came out the womb knowing how to slap words and sentences together. Somewhere along the line, each and every one of us, little by little, had to learn it.

When I was a kid in 4th grade, I was labeled a ‘below average reader’. They put me in a group of other ‘below average kids’ at a separate table from the rest of the class and I was happily made fun of for being in the ‘remedial group’.

Fact is, I couldn’t read (and certainly not write) worth a lick for a long time. When my brother was 9 he could devour a comic book in 5 minutes. As for me at the same age, I just remember looking at the pictures, because the reading part of it was too tough.

Later on in life I got poor grades in English. Then in college my professor told me I couldn’t write very well. Personally, I wanted to punch the guy.

So did I roll over and play dumb? Heck No. I got mad and wasn’t afraid to stink at writing. I had stuff to say, and I knew eventually I was going to figure out how to say it on paper without sounding like an idiot.

The Making of a Writer

So two years ago I started blogging. Looking back at those articles, I can only shake my head at how poorly written so many were. Here, have a laugh like Ingrid from NittyGriddy did this week and check out this one, my second post on TSL. But since that time I’ve written over 400 articles on my different blogs, which accounts to be somewhere around 400,000 words worth of info along with 500+ hours of sweat equity. To give you a better feel for this, most of Seth Godin’s books are between 30,000-50,000 words, which is like saying I’ve written over 10 books during the past 2 years.

The humorous part to all of this is the fact that these days people tell me all the time I’m a ‘natural’ writer.  But much like the kids that struggled to even swing a bat their first day of practice, the road to writing has not been an easy one for me. Has it been arduous? Heck yes. Have there been ups and downs? Yes again. But has it been worth it? Well, just like the kids on my son’s ball team would tell you, yes, it surely has.

Your Turn:

Are you a natural writer? If not, how much time and work did it take for you to feel better about your writing? Furthermore, what are some examples of activities or skills(beyond writing) that you previously struggled with but now have become a strength? As always, don’t be shy, your comments are what make this world go round. :-)

Happy Holidays Everyone!! :-)

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