Playing college baseball was a high point for me after leaving high school. A local junior college, somehow in their great wisdom, gave me an opportunity to play and I was grateful. I was not short on confidence or desire, but I was, sadly, short on skill. But I learned many lessons over the next four years of college baseball that helped me later in life.
Lesson No. 1: To improve, you must be able to self-evaluate.
My freshman year in college as a baseball player was an eye-opener. I became aware the first day of practice that the competition was stiff and that my skills as a baseball player were way behind those of my teammates.
To improve as an athlete, in the workforce or as a person, you must be able to take an honest appraisal of your skills and set about improving those skills.
I always thought of myself as a pretty good second baseman. However, one week into practice and it was clear to me that there were several fellow competitors who were a lot better and had more skills and talent as a middle infielder. This ability to realize this about myself was useful when the coach approached me about taking a different position, which leads me to a second lesson.
Lesson No. 2: Adapt.
During batting practice, I would shag fly balls in the outfield and realized I had a knack for chasing down a batted ball. The coach noticed and moved me into the outfield, and I was on my way. Being a good teammate or employee may mean moving to a different position at your place of employment that will benefit both you and your employer.
Lesson No. 3: Learn from your peers.
Upon moving to the outfield, I realized that there was a whole new group of skills to be learned. Using the same old skills and techniques in the outfield that I used in the infield was not going to help me carve out a starting position. I remember that our right fielder was a sturdy-looking fellow who could really run and had a great arm. He could throw the baseball and make it actually rise—a skill I did not possess—so I approached him and asked him to show me the technique that he used to get the baseball to do such a thing.
Do not be afraid to approach your peers for help; most people are willing to help others be successful. Use the power of observation, watch how successful people get things done and put those skills to work for yourself.
Lesson No. 4: Success does not come overnight.
My first couple of years were a learning experience with many ups and downs—probably more downs. It took me two years to get my skills to the level where I was a good college outfielder.
There will be many successes and setbacks as you move forward in your career. Keep in mind that we learn far more from our failures than our successes.
Whether you are a college athlete or just starting a new job, consider the four lessons outlined above, and keep improving and adding new skills.
John Pierce was born and raised in Chattanooga. He was a teacher, coach and principal in the Hamilton County school system for 30 years. He can be seen running the bridges downtown, kayaking or paddleboarding on the river, or playing golf on one of Chattanooga’s municipal golf courses. His blog can be viewed at EdStalker.net, and he welcomes a Twitter follow @stalker_ed.