“What are your salary expectations?”. That was the question the interviewer asked me during a job interview held last winter. I admit, I wasn’t all that interested in the job to begin with, so I answered somewhat flippantly, “Well, I’ve made as much as six figures in various years and as little as zero in other years. Somewhere in between is cool.” Little did I know that the interviewer was even less interested in the job than I was, therefore he offered me the gig. Months later, it came as no surprise to anyone that the project was a huge flop and it was abruptly ended. I suppose some people would be in panic mode over losing a fairly good-paying job. I, on the other hand, felt like I had been released from prison.
My career has gone back and forth between corporate-type jobs and, particularly over the last decade, entrepreneurial endeavors. The corporate jobs pay steady every two weeks, which is nice, but damn they can be dull. The entrepreneurial adventures are great fun, but the pay is spotty and you need to work twice as hard. Well it’s taken me a few years to finally realize it, but I think I’d rather take a severe beating than attend another forced-fun corporate sales meeting attended by people who would also prefer to be anywhere else. It has taken me a few years, but I think I’ve found my “Strike Zone”, as it relates to work anyway.
Initiating an entrepreneurial endeavor is risky, offers no security whatsoever and will most likely not produce a great deal of income over the first few years. Still, if an idea is good, there is no reason it can’t generate a few dollars as long as the commitment is there and follow through is made. The follow through is where most people, including me, fall short. Sometimes it takes a kick in the a$$ to ensure that follow through is made. For me, it’s about baseball!
I started playing organized baseball at a time when astronauts were merely circling the moon and we weren’t quite sure if they’d be coming back to earth. I always enjoyed the game and had a reasonable amount of success playing it at an early age. Despite playing on a team that advanced to the Little League World Series (1972), I always felt like I never quite reached my potential playing baseball. I guess I never had that “follow through” I just mentioned. Although I continued to play baseball throughout my life, actually playing organized ball in five different decades, I always felt like I could have perhaps been a good bit better at the game than I was.
Recently, on a local radio talk show, the resident “experts” were discussing my 1972 Little League team and my name was mentioned as being a member of the team. One of the so-called experts commented that he knew me and he didn’t really envision me as “being much of an athlete”. Although the source of the comment won’t be seen in any underwear ads anytime soon either, the comment stung more than just a little. As I sipped my beer, finished my snack and rubbed my belly, however, that “expert” probably wasn’t that far off base.
Coincidentally, the very same day I had come across an advertisement released by the Gary SouthShore Railcats, an unaffiliated minor league baseball team that plays not far from where I live in Hammond, IN. Their most-creative marketing department came up with a promotion to offer anyone who purchased $50 worth of tickets or merchandise the opportunity to enter a drawing featuring a very special prize. The prize was to throw out the first pitch of a game. Now the pitch isn’t of the ceremonial variety, but a real pitch to a real opposing team batter. The winner will sign a one-day contract, dress in full uniform, be announced with the team during the National Anthem and then serve up the first pitch. Yes, I entered the contest. Yes, I won the contest. Yes, I’ll be throwing that first pitch in front of what will most likely be a crowd in excess of 6,000 fans! Yes, I’m a little nervous. Finally, yes…I’m taking this very seriously.
I look at this an opportunity to finally step up, do the necessary pre-work, make the pitch and most importantly, FOLLOW THROUGH. Maybe competing at this level of baseball isn’t realistic at this point in my life. Maybe surviving even an inning on the mound is realistic either. But firing a first-pitch strike with reasonable velocity most certainly is possible.
So, Project: Strike One was initiated! I immediately joined a health club BEFORE the holidays, which is unheard of! Although I haven’t thrown too many baseballs over the past ten years or so, I’m happy to report that I can still throw it and the force and velocity is increasing each day.
There are many people who are supporting me in this effort. Having those support systems in place is invaluable. At the same time, I assume there are some who would like nothing more than to see me trip over my shoelaces during my windup and do a Kramer-like pratfall while making that first pitch of the game. Anything can happen, I suppose.
This experience has caused me to reflect on something more than baseball. In business, as in sports, an assessment is made, a plan of action is developed and initiated and through follow through is needed. In business, as in baseball, we need to find our strike zone. I think I’ve finally found mine.