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May 30, 2015

For better or for worse, I am a competitive person. Odds are, I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. Whether it’s Ping-Pong, darts, Madden, or on the mound, I want to win – and I will do almost anything to succeed. But constantly chasing success means inevitably coming face to face with failure….and that is what this blog is about: how to deal with failure.

All people have experienced failure. I have let up many earned runs; my straight-A sister has gotten Bs and Cs; my siblings and I made a huge error of judgment when we randomly came home with a second puppy one day without asking our parents if it was okay. (True story…) People lead different lives, so “failure” will look different to each individual person, and it can show up in many different forms. But it’s how we rebound from failure that matters most.

As one of the younger guys on the team, I have a ton of teammates and coaching staff to look up to. Having such open and supportive teammates and coaches means I am presented with many opportunities to learn from those who have “been there, done that.” I try to take advantage of this by asking lots of questions – I love to pick their brains and form my own opinions on all topics. So I approached some of the guys on the team and some of the coaching staff and asked them for advice on how to handle failure. How can I face failure and move forward? How can I learn from it and grow?

As professional ballplayers, we are given such unbelievable opportunities to showcase our abilities and to get paid for what we love to do. Speaking on behalf of minor leaguers (at least the ones I spoke to about this topic), we never want to fail at our own game. Our job is to produce results day in and day out. But it is a long, 140-game season, and we have bad days – sometimes bad weeks. Sometimes we get in our own heads and it all just catapults into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. There are bumps in the road, there are stressors, there are frustrations along the way. We quickly learn that we need to find ways to live with these feelings, or else we would crumble.

There is a distinct difference between dwelling on failure, and staring failure in the face and refusing to let it own you. Failure is one of the best ways to learn. Learning what not to do allows you to learn what to do.

The other day, I had a rough outing. I got hit and did not put my team in a position to win. I failed at my profession. I found myself cursing under my breath, and after the game, I lost my cool in the clubhouse. We are human: we fail, we get angry, we lose our cool. It happens, and it’s okay. But if we keep things in perspective, it makes it easier on us and helps us grow.

The day of my poor outing, I found myself cursing, upset, not answering my friends’ and my family’s calls/texts – all because I had a bad day at work. Think about that. I let up runs and didn’t execute pitches, and I found myself ignoring the people that do not judge me based off a stat line. Upon reflection, I recognize that what I should have done was taken a step back and disect what went wrong, how to fix it, do everything in my power to not let it happen again, and ultimately, most importantly, move on. Was letting up a few runs really a reason to be so down and upset? Maybe for a little while. But I now realize that ignoring my family and friends and trapping myself in my own thoughts was not a productive way to handle the failure. In fact, it was counterproductive.

Baseball is a game of failure. If a hitter succeeds three times out of ten (30%), he is an all-star caliber player. In contrast, if a quarterback completes 30% of his passes, or a basketball player makes 30% of his shots, they are each looking for new jobs. Baseball is a game within a game. You literally have to learn how to accept being beat a majority of the time. Imagine that. Some of the most competitive athletes on earth have to be OKAY with being beat! Not possible, right? Wrong. Ask any big league hitter if they would sign up for failing 7 out of 10 times for the rest of their career… My guess is they’d sign on the dotted line without thinking twice.

The point of this post is to share my opinion on failure and how to handle and cope with failure. Most of the time, it is not life or death and should not be treated as such. I am not saying I am okay with failing. I often fall victim to overthinking and losing perspective… everyone does. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory of, “Remember, don’t be upset because it could be worse.” (Does that mean I shouldn’t be happy because it could be better?) But then again, perspective is key. When something goes wrong in your life, look in the mirror, dissect what happened, what went wrong, what went right, take away a few positives, and then move on.

Why dwell on the past? If you let it pervade your thoughts and dreams, if you let it eat you alive… nothing positive will come of it. Learning, moving on, and growing from failure is much more productive than being miserable because of a mishap. Adapt and overcome the adversity and failure that occurs in your life. Do not fall victim to people feeling bad for you or you feeling bad for yourself. Get up, face failure head on, and refuse to let it pass without learning something from it. Win the battle within your own head, and you’ll be right back on the road towards your next success.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the most succesful athletes in history.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

What Is Success?

May 13, 2015
Daytona Florida

​The other day, my buddy Austin was telling me about an essay he was writing for one of his college classes. The essay prompt was:
“What is success? What does it mean to you?” Austin, who knows I enjoy reading about success, successful people’s stories, and the common threads in such stories,
sent me his essay and asked what I thought.

His essay was great – many good points were brought up: success is never final, and hard work will lead to success, are two that stood out. But overall, my opinion differed from his – and since we are always honest with each other, I shared with him my thoughts. In doing so, I thought it would be an interesting blog post to get people talking. So as you read, please think about what success means to you – what it means, what it looks like, how you obtain it – and comment at the end.

So here are my thoughts. (And remember, this is my opinion)

​The word “success” is small, but its meaning carries substantial weight. The word is thrown around by people from all different corners of the world, as the desire to “do well” or “to achieve success” does not discriminate. Most people, when they think of success, probably think of positive end results: the student’s A+’s, the CEO’s seven-figure paycheck, the athlete’s awards. This is logical, because those grades and that money and that fame are all observable things – they are all goals achieved, boxes checked off. But what people don’t see – and what they sometimes refuse to see – is the work that produced those results.

To me, success is more than just an end result. Results are not coincidences; they do not materialize by happenstance or “luck”. I do not believe in ” luck”. The athlete who just got a multi-year deal? He didn’t wake up one day, roll out of bed, and land on a golden contract. The teacher whose class got the best results on the state tests? Not many people comprehend or appreciate the hard work and late hours he or she spent on helping those kids prepare. The end result is what people see and deem a “success”, but the person who strived for that result – who shed blood, sweat, and tears on the road towards that end goal – knows that a medal or a high GPA wasn’t an overnight victory. He or shes hard work, itself, is just as a great success as the end result is. Success is never final. Money and fame can run out but what was learned on the road to the achievement, can last a lifetime.

​As athletes, my teammates and I have been given an unbelievable opportunity. After all, we get paid to play a game – and a game we love. But then again, not many people see the 6:00AM lifts, the late night games, the ten-hour bus rides, the being away from family for six months straight, and the rest of “the grind” we all endure in order to attain what we, as athletes, want. We don’t want to be minor league players; we want to be major leaguers and to help our respective organizations win a World Series.

That being said, we are in no position to complain. We play our favorite sport and we get paid to do so – and we owe it to our organizations to work as hard as possible to reach the Big Leagues. That is our duty, and we owe it to many people – most importantly ourselves. The last thing any athlete wants is to look back in thirty years and have any regrets. That is what will make you lose sleep at night.

​In my opinion, success is a highly complex concept. The road to success is never-ending, and yet success can be fleeting. Not one single person can tell you what success is because success comes in so many different flavors. Success is in the eye of the beholder, and yet it’s too often measured in the eyes of the onlookers. What one person sees as success, another can see as failure, and vice-versa. That is the craziest part of this… Success is so complex, yet you – and only you – choose the meaning of it.

​What do you think success is? Would love to hear from whoever would like to respond. Appreciate your time.

First Post

Personally, I am not a big talker. I don’t feel the need to be talking 24/7. I grew up hearing the phrase “talk is cheap,” and that is what is instilled in the back of my mind. But while talk may be cheap, writing isn’t necessarily so. Putting pen to paper enables you to literally see your ideas in front of you, to reflect upon them, and to develop them further. I’m a huge believer in writing down goals and doing everything possible to achieve them. Speaking of writing things down, I always liked the idea of starting a blog – and I contemplated the idea various times over the past few years.  But truth be told, I’ve always been hesitant to start a blog because a part of me never wanted to risk having other people think I was trying to impose my beliefs on them; I didn’t want people to think that in publicizing my thoughts, I was basically saying, “My way or the highway.” But then I realized that if I were to start a blog, it wouldn’t have to be that way at all – it could simply be a place where I share my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs and invite others to do the same. It could be a platform for the exchange of interesting conversation as well as a place to learn from one another. And so this post marks the inception of my blog, “22sTwoCents.” In writing this blog, I intend to be honest, to share some of my own thoughts and ideas, elaborate on topics that are brought up, and ask thought provoking questions, while I’m on the road playing within the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and to provide some information into minor league baseball in general. One of my goals is to reach at least one person and have that person open his or her eyes to the fact that anything that he or she dreams up can be brought to life. I hope to share with people a little bit of my own story and –  though it’s not necessarily my intention – if people get motivated to go after their own dreams then that’s great. Thanks for following