For the past 2 years, I have shown this graphic to our high school age baseball players:
At the time, I had no idea that this concept would be the target of a global movement.
I tried to convey that “to be exceptional, you need TO DO exceptional things”. Sure, talent helps. But, in my experience, the most exceptional people are not the most talented. There are always more talented people around. What makes people exceptional is that they combine strong talent with hard work, enthusiasm, commitment, and a strong mental make-up. That combination makes people exceptional — in any chosen field.
Most of these elements that lead to “exceptionalism” are CHOICES that individuals have the FREEDOM, CONTROL and RESPONSIBILITY to make. Being exceptional is a CHOICE. To me, that is an inspiring, positive and very American outlook on life.
And, it is a fundamental personal belief of mine. A core principle. It is the very foundation of the Gamers program. If we can use baseball as a platform to teach this to 180 Gamers per year, we will be very happy with the result.
That is what I believe.
Now, I read the paper and watch the news and see most of the media and pop culture promoting a different movement, which is apparently based on a different set of beliefs, where being exceptional is “unfair”, “greedy” and “selfish” (at least, those are the messages I hear).
Teenage boys are bombarded with this perspective on the internet, Facebook and Twitter. And, who knows what they are learning in school. Everywhere they turn in in pop culture, young men are told that being exceptional is bad.
So, what is a teenage student-athlete with high goals supposed to do?
The baseball analogy is this …. it is unfair to throw exceptionally hard, because too many hitters cannot hit the ball. It is greedy to hit .600, because too many players hit .200. It is selfish to be a positive leader and compete like a champion, because too many players find that difficult.
The tall need to get shorter, the strong need to get weaker and the fast need to get slower. It is “cool” to be average and to hold contempt for the exceptional.
Face it, there are a lot more average people than exceptional people. So, the odds are in their favor… This perspective makes no sense to me and it is scary.
I cannot imagine how confusing it is to today’s teenagers. I hope they are not listening and/or are mature enough to understand the mixed message. But, that is probably a naive hope. They have to be very confused and looking for direction.
Along those lines, it want to state my goals as clearly as possible. I want to help young men learn to be exceptional — whether it is in baseball, academics or professionally. This is a core part of the Gamers baseball program. We are proud of it, even if it is a counter-cultural and radical concept.
In the Gamers program, it is OK to be ambitious, to have goals, to work hard and try to become the best you can be. No apologies required.