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To Be First, You Have to Swing the Bat!!!

leadership risk Jun 07, 2020

Thirty-two years ago today, June 7, 1988, I was the first!

The first player in Newtown’s Little League’s history to hit a home run and the newly built Chandler Field off Trevor Tuminsky. I was twelve years old. It landed way out in the trees over the left field fence. I am grateful to my coach, Tom Davis, for tracking it down and giving it to me in this case. I am not sure if it is the actual ball, but it is mine.

Many other players hit multiple home runs that season after mine. Some probably much further. Many I am sure hundreds of players have since put one over the fence in thirty two years. But to me, the only one that matters, was the first one. The one that paved the way for the rest. 

Being first is a leadership model I have utilized my entire career, especially after I heard Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. In it, Pausch describes an award he gave, “The First Penguin”, to his graduate students for stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something first. 

When huddled on an ice floe, dozens of penguins will inch toward the edge, gently nudging each other to hop into the dark waters. Unsure of what awaits them. The first penguin that courageously jumps into the ocean in search of food, despite the possibility of encountering dangerous predators, paves the way for the rest of the penguins to jump for safety. This “First Penguin” is either stupid or courageous, maybe both. 

I am not sure whether anyone thanks that penguin or they actually get any credit. But without that penguin jumping, the rest would be stuck on that floe forever.

It made me wonder about other groups or individuals that paved the way. 

  • Without Atari, there might not have been Nintendo. 
  • Without Friendster or MySpace, there probably isn’t Facebook.
  • Without NetScape, there might not be Internet Explorer. 
  • Without WebCrawler, there might not be Google. 
  • Without Tivo, we might not have digital streaming networks like Netflix. 

Just like my home run, they only people who truly remember the good were the first to try.

But without the good, there is no better. And without better, there is no best!

As a leader of any organization, team or family, we should encourage risk, especially when it may lead to better results. Stronger ideas and opportunity for all. It’s not easy to go out on a limb, to try something different and new. But, if enough of us try these high-risk, high-reward ideas, some of them will be successful. And in the end, we will succeed. Together.

What is it that you need to be first to do tomorrow? 

First to bring a new idea to the team?

First to ask a critical question during a meeting? 

The first to share a problem you do not know how to solve alone? 

The first to say I love you to your partner?

The first to say I am sorry in a broken relationship?

The first to lean in for a crucial conversation that is long overdue?

Whatever you aim to be first at, you do not have to be great or know exactly what to say or ask to get started, but to hit that home run, you do need to swing that bat.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

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