What Kind of Pitcher Are You?
I’ve spent the past week thinking about a comment Steve made in an interview and a comment my son’s baseball coach made during a practice.
At the 20 minute mark in the interview, August Cole asked Steve what happens when he doesn’t do the work. Steve replied:
“I get symptoms . . . I’ll start to get in trouble . . . When you don’t do your work, vices start to creep into your life—and they get worse and worse and worse. They start out with potato chips and wind up with crack smoking or something like that.”
During the baseball practice, Coach asked my son if he knew why so many errors occurred after a pitcher threw consecutive balls. The answer? The players in the field are left “flat-footed”—so used to the slow pace of having the opposing players at bat walk to first base because the pitcher threw them four balls, rather than the faster pace of the opposing players hitting the balls into the infield or outfield because the pitcher was throwing strikes, which the other team either 1) missed or 2) hit. The slow pace causes the players in the field to relax, to lose their form, their awareness, so they aren’t ready when an opposing player at bat fires a ball in their direction.
The baseball example followed the interview example, and got me thinking about quality of work, rather than degrees of work—it sent me into the place between no and yes, black and white, dark and light.
We spend a lot of time on this site talking about doing the work. You’re either doing the work or you’re not doing the work, right?
If doing the work is defined as doing the things that will help you reach your goals, how is not doing the work defined? What is the opposite of doing the work? Is it so black and white, dark and light? Is the animated version of not doing the work an image of a sloth eating potato chips, on his way to smoking crack, or is it the woman toiling over her work, but not at the level needed to break out, never supercharging her engine.
In baseball, the pitcher throwing balls vs strikes is doing his work, right? His job is to pitch—and whether he’s throwing balls or strikes, he’s pitching, which means he’s doing his work. But, does that mean he’s doing his job? His job is to pitch, but his job also is to pitch strikes, to be the best pitcher so the other team doesn’t advance.
How do you do that?
You could remove external distractions, learn from those who are where you want to be, practice all the time…. Do all those things that will make you better, but… It really comes down to the engine. Are you doing work, but not the work? Are you doing what looks like work and smells like work, but isn’t really the work?
I’ve had so many days when I’ve felt like I was going non-stop, but got nothing done. I’m on the mound, but throwing balls. The other team is scoring and my team is stuck in the same inning, because I’m not throwing strikes and am surrounded by errors that are the reactions to my inadequate actions. If you asked me, I’d say I had a lot going on, but got nothing done on those days — even though the work was related to the direction in which I wanted to head.
So there is a grey between that black and white of doing the work and not doing the work. On those days, I’m not the potato chip-eating sloth, but I’m not the All Star at the top of the game, either. I’m the woman toiling away, operating off an adequate engine that doesn’t fail, but doesn’t win races either. I’m the turtle who will one day cross the finish line — but the only one I’ll beat is the hare who was too busy eating potato chips and smoking crack with the sloth.
So back to that interview with Steve and the comments from Coach… Doing the work isn’t enough. It’s doing THE work that matters. It’s the difference between throwing balls and throwing strikes. I want to throw strikes every day. It’s a matter of supercharging and making that happen.
At the end of the day, we know when we’ve merely “kept busy” or sat down to do THE work. Thanks for this important reminder Callie – it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. Hope you, Steve, Shawn and Jeff have a great July 4th!
Great Post, Callie: At the end of any given day when maybe I did not accomplish what I had set myself up to do in the morning…or in a way I wanted to DO THE WORK and get the job done – I REMEMBER to ask myself the question that Steve has suggested – DID I ACCOMPLISH RESISTANCE TODAY…..and if I can HONESTLY answer with a YES – then I KNOW within my self I did my BEST and will forget the rest.
“Are you doing what looks like work and smells like work, but isn’t really *the* work?”
Like it. Thx, Callie.
Some days you just gotta chop wood and carry water. If you are doing your core work, then like any other spiritual discipline, course adjustments must be made. But not every woman has the engine of a major league pitcher. Super charging an engine may never be an option for her, and yet she may persist.
Thank you for your delightful assortment of metaphors this morning!
Callie……I got to tell you, some days I read words that are like salt to my open and bleeding wounds. But, more than causing pain, they cleanse and shock me back to doing the work.
I will run to the mound today rather than walk, and I will do my damnedest to throw more strikes than balls.
Thanx for the metaphors of resistance with a cutting curve ball. STRIKE!
Busy-ness vs. business. I’m great at the former.
I even get a lot done.
I could just be doing so much more.
I cruised through school, straight As. Thing is, I was cruising and I knew it. I could have accomplished so much more in much less time, but since I could be top of the class without even trying, why try?
Because it sets the right expectations for the rest of your life, goofball.
Twelve years into my second life I’m learning to recognize the difference between doing work and Doing THE Work.
I like the analogies. And you’ve made an important point. Thanks.
I think a very part of doing the work is defining what the work is. So easy to fall into the email trap.
I’m in resistance mode these days, running around working hard, but not working at THE work. Thanks for this post, Callie.
The baseball analogy is very helpful, because it illustrates the effect of the pitcher’s work on the teammates. I may feel that doing my work is selfish. But it’s not selfish, because it is THE work, not MY work. The work, done well, helps those around me work their best too.
Great analogy. Additionally, I might suggest that it’s the collective effort that really counts. The hundreds of bad practice-pitches he through each day over the years likely seemed useless at dinner time when he iced his sore shoulder. The superstar knows that day also counts as part of THE work. A writer’s minimally productive, even unproductive, days contribute positively to the longer slog.
Oh wow! You must have been living in my head! I really needed to read this today–you have no idea.
I think working moms sometimes fall into this trap. We’re racing around taking care of errands, kids activities to keep the family wheel spinning and in the process shortcut our real passions/career. It’s a constant pull ‘n tug. Magazines, blogs and older parents tell you to value these precious childhood moments with but my passions also take A LOT of my time. It’s a daily battle. I sacrifice for my art then my kids desperately need me–back and forth we go. I’m constantly recalibrating and making adjustments. Just don’t use the word “balance.” In my opinion, it doesn’t exist. 🙂
Thank you so much for this! Hugs.
Dear Sonja, I have tried to achieve balance, but realized that the balance that is achievable for me is to teeter one way then the next, but the average works out to balance; i.e., negative five plus positive five equals zero. Being always “balanced” at a neutral zero is likely unrealistic.
Note that if you are getting to negative or positive twenty, then it is harder to swing back the other way.
Sometimes, it’s the internals that count. If you pitch balls because you don’t feel like pitching strikes, that’s one thing. But when you pitch balls because you are learning to pitch strikes, that’s another. When you are learning to pitch, resistance is giving in to the humiliation and frustration by handing the ball to someone who can pitch strikes.
A message I really NEEDED to hear. Thank you for the reminder.
This is a good one. If I spend all my writing time cleaning up the office space and rearranging all my files and prioritizing the stories I want to work on in the order I want to work on them, then I have worked. But have I done WORK? Have I started looking at each and every poem I’ve written with an eye to self-publishing them? Have I written the ending of Privateer so I know where the end of the story is so I can find the path to get there?
If the office is messy and the novel is growing then I am doing the work I am supposed to be doing and not the work that Resistance presents to my eyes to keep me from my WORK.
PS – I AM Resistance and Resistance is me. I have looked deep into its eye and am become it.
By extension, if the kids are happy (deep in their souls, not just because they are playing Wii) and the house is a DISASTER, then I have done THE work? YES.
The nerve this touched made me think of how sometimes I’ll be in the middle of doing the work and I’ll start to doubt my competence/knowledge/ability–whatever–and I’ll just want to quit or back out, except it’s too late. I’ve made the commitment; I’m on the mound and it’s the middle innings. So in order to save face, I just throw the ball instead of pitching it so I look like I’m trying. Later I can say stupid shit like, “at least I showed up,” and “I guess I didn’t have my best stuff out there today.” Thanks for helping me by calling bullshit on that.
Well said. Exactly what I ALWAYS need to hear. Thank you Mr. Pressfield.
Your insight sometimes freaks me out. I may never know what specific task or role is my destiny or path or mission…I am 60 days from a whole lot of uncertainty leaving the Army, got a great job with a tech company in my wheelhouse…but I’ve been in a funk because I’ve fallen for this trap/idea that I even know my core mission. It has changed over the past 20 years, and will likely change again.
Your post means to me that doesn’t matter what the work is–leave it all out there. Like Steven frequently quotes the Gita…we have rights to the labor, not the fruit of the labor.
That is really what it all comes down to really, “what kind of work?” Am I really working towards my goals? Good one Callie! This one really spoke to me.
This is fantastic, thanks for sharing this insight. It has hit home today.
Here’s to doing THE work, today.
Another way to say it is: the quality of practice is more important than quantity of practice. Is that what you mean?
I think all our twelve+ years of school teaches us to just do quantity practice. Teachers are easy on us, and as long as we get it done, then we get an A. So we get used to getting stuff done, rather than doing that stuff well. That’s what REAL work is.