What do Baseball Batting Averages and Glass Art have in common? As it turns out, quite a bit. Some of the secrets to being a winner that I learned this week.
Every year in September we have a family trip to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. This year was our fourth or possibly fifth year. My husband always packs a picnic lunch in his backpack, we always take GO transit to get to Toronto, and we always take the TTC train from Union Station to Museum station. It also almost always rains, and we always visit the L’espresso Bar Mercurio cafe where I always get a cappuchino and a gluten-free biscotti, the kids get a cream puff and a hot chocolate, and my husband gets a sweet dessert and an espresso. We usually sit at the same table, table 45.
This year at the Museum we saw the Chihuly exhibit, which was breathtaking. The installation which affected me the most was called the Persian trellis. It was like a big wooden greenhouse (minus the windows), adorned with huge beautiful, internally lit glass flowers. Walking through it I felt like I had a sudden influx of oxygen after being in a stuffy room, and tears came to my eyes from an undetermined mix of joy and sadness. I didn’t even take a picture, even though pictures were allowed. There was no point trying. As my youngest son noted the other day: “Pictures can’t capture feelings”. Even the picture on the Chihuly website doesn’t do it justice.
It was a relief to feel my emotions flowing again because it has been a really, really, challenging week.
Earlier this week my kids got into a major battle about playing a video game and it got so ugly I had to separate them and take the oldest to his room to cool off. Once I managed to get him up to his room and he had calmed down enough to talk we had a cuddle and I listened to his description of the problem.
He had the idea that when he loses, it is because he is a loser and that makes him feel so awful he either lashes out at others or quits, or both. Self-talk can be a powerful destroyer of motivation, creativity, and joy; and it is a problem many adults still struggle with, myself included.
There is a Toronto Blue Jays poster on his bedroom wall and it reminded me of something I recently learned about baseball. Apparently it is actually really hard to hit a baseball. Even really great hitters in the major leagues only hit the ball about 300 times out of a thousand. That means they miss way more often than they hit, like 75% of the time. So technically, by my sons definition, they are all total losers. And yet, as a team, they can win Major League Championships.
I tried to help him using the Socratic method and this recently acquired baseball knowledge.
(Yeah, he is eight; but I have a philosophy degree, so what do you expect?)
Me: “What does it mean to you to be a loser?”
Him: “A person who always loses”.
Me: “So a winner is the opposite?”
Me: “Can winners ever lose?”
Me: “So can losers sometimes win too?”
Me: “So, if winners can lose, and losers can win; what is the difference between winners and losers?”
At that point he couldn’t really answer me. It is a difficult question. What is the difference between losers and winners?
Me: “I have an idea about that. Can I share it with you?”
I told him about what I learned about baseball batting averages and then I posited my theory.
Me: “I think maybe winners are people who don’t give up, and who don’t worry too much about losing sometimes. And maybe the losers are the ones who give up. Maybe winners are just people who find something they love to do and they keep doing it every day until they get good at it.”
Him: “So then I should just play video games every day?”
Me: (laughing) “Um, that’s not quite what I was trying to get at.”
After we had a bit of a snuggle we sat down to dinner. We chatted a bit about baseball at the table with my husband and my other son, and then after dinner, the boys asked their Dad to take them to the park to hit some baseballs. He was thrilled to take them.
And believe it or not, no word of a lie, the next day his journal came home with a note from the teacher saying that he had “had a GREAT day today!” (Yay!! :D)
But I want to get back to the Chihuly exhibit here for just a second because there is something important here that I don’t want to forget. There was a film which accompanied the exhibit, and in it, Dale Chihuly, who is now the leader of a team of artists who build the large compositions together, was being interviewed. He talked about how he had an impulse in the 1960’s to blow glass and he just kept following it. He surrounded himself with people who loved to do what he loved to do and he shared his skills and knowledge as openly with others as they shared with him. He talked about doing things over and over and over and that the form would become beautiful later, after much practice. He talked about failures and making mistakes like they are good things – things that lead us forward, things that help us find our way. This touched my heart very deeply.
So being a winner isn’t just finding something you love to do and doing it every day, it is also learning from your mistakes, and finding others who love to do that thing too; and doing it together, sharing your mistakes and your learning. Teamwork and practice.