Losers, Baseball, and Mindsets

This morning I had the privilege of sharing a morning devotion with 100 or so Regional Speech and Debate competitors from the NCFCA. I thought I'd post the "transcript" of that message here for those who may have missed the devotion as well as for those who simply need a word of encouragement. The message I had for them was tailored to the speech and debate competitor, but I think you'll find the overall theme can be applied to each of us in one way or another.


Take a good long look at the people around you--left, right, front, behind. You ALL have something in common and I bet you'll never guess what that is.

Go ahead. Take a guess.

Ready for the answer?

You are all losers.

That wasn’t very nice, was it?

Before you get too offended, let me clarify. I don't mean "Loser” as in the infamous L-shaped-hand-gesture-to-the-forehead, I mean that you've all lost. Repeatedly. Even the so-called "winners" in the room have lost far more often than they've won.

You've lost arguments. You've lost debate rounds. You've lost speech competitions. You've lost athletic events. You've lost. And losing can be tough.

Any baseball fans in the room today? I truly love baseball because Baseball players have to learn to cope with defeat more constantly than any other athlete.

If you know anything about baseball, you know that even the greatest players in history only have batting averages in the .300s. Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .366. Ted Williams was .344. Babe Ruth: .342. Lou Gehrig: .340. Hank Aaron: .305. Mickey Mantle: .298.

That means that for every ten times these Hall-of-Famers got up to bat, they either struck out or batted out seven times. Seven out of ten times they failed. 70% fail rate. Wow.

Sports columnists Thomas Boswell once said:

“A losing streak can mount up on you so much quicker than a winning streak that it's a kind of terror that grips a team. It's like the spooky music that runs under baseball.”

So how do baseball players learn to deal with SO MUCH constant “failure” and loss?

It could be their superstitious nature. Or maybe they are just mentally deranged? Can they not see that getting out 7 out of 10 times is a horrible track record?

I think Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has the answer.

Dweck has spent decades of research on achievement and success, which she wrote about in her book called Mindsets.

According to Dweck, mindsets are just beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities.
  • your intelligence,
  • your talents,
  • your personality.
QUESTION: Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone? ~OR~ are they things you can cultivate throughout your life? According to Dweck, your answer indicates whether or not you have a FIXED or GROWTH mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities—intelligence, talent, etc.—are simply fixed traits. They spend their time PROVING those qualities over and over. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? And they have no strategy to deal with failure. They give up and move on to something easier.

By contrast, in a growth mindset, your qualities—the hand you’re dealt in life—is just the starting point for development. Someone with a growth mindset isn’t focused on PROVING but on IMPROVING. They believe everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

This growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. People with a growth mindset understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Tchaikovsky or Ty Cobb—without years of passionate practice and learning.

Dweck argues—quite convincingly—that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life and what you will be able to accomplish.

Why waste time PROVING over and over how great you are, when you could be IMPROVING instead? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives—those times when the losses seem to be mounting up.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Phillipians (3:2-15, NET):

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!
For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials – though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more:
I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.
I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.
In my zeal for God I persecuted the church.
According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.
But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ.
More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung!– that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness– a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways.

The Apostle Paul did not have a fixed mindset. He did NOT believe that who he was and what he was capable of was fixed, written in stone. He believed in a God who makes change and growth possible—and so he determined to continue learning, continue growing, and continue IMPROVING!

I challenge you: when you walk into a room today and prepare to debate or give a speech, check your mindset. Are you going in there to PROVE yourself to be a winner (fixed mindset)

~OR~

Are you stepping in that room and looking at those judges, that moment, as one more chance to IMPROVE yourself—to become a better speaker, a better debater?

If you choose the latter, you have already won, regardless of how you score on the judges ballots.

Medals, awards, certificates … these are all great. But let’s be honest: They have no value in and of themselves. You can’t resell them—even on Craigs List—for more than a buck a piece. But IMPROVING yourself, LEARNING to be a better speaker than you were, a better debater than you were, that knowledge is a priceless treasure that will profoundly impact your life—far more than any trophy or award ever will!

Say this with me:
  • Always learning!
  • Always growing!
  • Always Improving!
Now go learn. Grow. Improve. Always.

More Bible Passages

For those who would like to explore this topic from a biblical perspective, I encourage you to meditate on the following passages of Scripture:
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About Unknown

Brand strategist. Wordsmith. Change architect. Training specialist. DiSC Certified. Family guy (hot wife and 4 cool kids). Love my Bible, guitars, baseball, and MMA.

1 Comments:

  1. Love this, Eric! Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete