Baseball, Bouncebacks, and Stealing Joy
A baseball hit me in the face.
The short story:
I was at a baseball game when a player hit a ball, the ball hit a guardrail, and then the ball hit my face.
Every experience in life is spooled on a loop, so as the Camden Yards staff hovered to make sure an ice pack was all I needed, I wondered which loop I was existing in at that moment. Why did this happened? Of all the people at the game, why me? What had I missed? Why was I in that loop? Why not the loop of the happy family enjoying a sunny day and a game? Could I have made an adjustment that would have had me living a different loop when the ball was hit?
The long story:
I was catching a game with my husband and our two kids. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, the kids were behaving, we had good seats. Everyone was happy.
The row in front of us was empty for the first few innings.
A couple arrived late and spread themselves over six seats. The woman sat at the end while the guy plopped down in front of my daughter, with each arm hanging over the seats to his side.
My daughter is nine years old. She will kick your seat. She’s not one of those consistent kickers you want to throttle during a movie or long plane ride, but due to her age, she’s not fully aware of her body’s spacing and a foot will hit something in front of her from time to time.
A few at-bats after his arrival, the guy started glaring over his shoulder. He could have moved seats, but instead he stayed glued in place—and I started getting annoyed.
In the row behind us, we had the drunk toxic motivators. This variety of motivator spends the entire time yelling insults at the other team. With their own team, they combine the insults with their version of motivation:
“You suck. You better not strike out.”
These guys always attend with an audience in tow. If they can’t have their behaviour validated, what’s the use in attending? (See “The Bar, the Blonde, and You“) Throughout the game the ringleader’s trap yaps nonstop, and they all get louder and louder.
At the end of the next inning, the drunks left and my husband and kids went for pretzels and drinks. My son returned first and handed me a pretzel. As I leaned to the right to brush off some salt, a pain shot through my right cheek.
The baseball player hit a ball, the ball hit a guardrail, and then the ball hit my face.
This is known as the bounceback.
I know about this because I’ve seen it hundreds of times and know to watch for it. The ball’s path is stopped by one object. It bounces off that object and then either hits another object or a fan catches it. In this case, it hit my face.
As I sat icing my cheek, the thought occurred to me that maybe I was supposed to be hit in the face. Had the drunk toxic motivators been there, they would have been hit. Had I not leaned over, the ball would have hit the guy in front of me. I believe things like this happen for a reason. So what was the “Why?” behind this one?
By that point in the game, the guy in front and the toxic motivators behind were annoying me—and Annoyance brought Lack of Focus to the game. I saw the batter hit the ball. I saw the ball go foul. I saw the ball sail over my head. Instead of turning around to watch its path, I was annoyed by all the salt on my pretzel. Stupid…
This brought me to all the projects I’ve worked on when things didn’t go as planned, when the bounceback occurred.
If our projects are games, then it should be as easy as hitting the ball. You go in hoping that you can hit a homerun, but knowing you could strike out, that you could hit a foul, that you could hit a pop up, or a line drive straight to Mike Trout’s glove. But you don’t think about the bounceback as much because it is something that people off the field have to deal with, right? Wrong.
If you initiated the bounce back, it’s on you. It wasn’t my husband that ran for the ice pack. The Camden Yards staff had that under control before my husband and daughter were back and even knew what had happened. They made sure I was ok. The outfit responsible for the bounceback stayed responsible for the bounceback all the way through.
So I thought about the bounceback as something you have to prepare for in terms of customer service. If you launch something, the bounceback is a likely response.
As I was writing this piece, my neighbor’s 86 year old mother appeared at my door.
She’s this petite little thing, with a thick Philly accent and attitude. Her name’s Rita and I adore her. She’s the only person in my life who shows up unexpected, dressed to the nines with pink velcro curlers in her hair. She’s a straight shooter. Feisty. She’s also deeply spiritual. When we first met I was uncomfortable with her devotion, and wasn’t sure what to make of her. Now, no matter what I’m doing I stop to open the door. She’s just that kind of person.
That morning she spoke to me about others stealing my joy. I was moaning about my kids’ school when she told me to stop. I was letting them steal my joy. Yes, there were certain things I needed to do, but giving them my joy wasn’t one of them.
As she spoke, I realized she’d provided me the end of this article in addition to some good advice. Yes, I could pull the bounceback and customer service as the lesson from that baseball game, but the other part of that day was about joy.
I got so wrapped up in the toxic people in front and behind us that I gave away my joy.
At work I’ve done this when a client is trolled. I’m bothered by the hate spewed their way by people who don’t even know them—and I feel the pain of friends who have struggled with mixed reviews themselves. But as Rita, the little Philly grandma said, you’re just letting them steal your joy.
All those Facebook crazies who comment from miles away, or those anonymous posters to your site, are vampires trying to suck your joy.
Ignore them. Keep moving with your project.
And once you launch and are feeling good about yourself, be careful about brushing salt from your pretzel. If there’s a bounceback, it’s easier to deal with it if you’re coming from a place of joy instead of a place of anger.