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How The Curveball Won Three NBA Championships

August 26, 2015

He certainly had the body of an athlete. He was 6’6″ 205 lbs and in great shape. The problem was he wasn’t a particularly skilled baseball player. And he was old. Thirty one in a league where the average age was nearly 10 years younger. In the AA league he was in, the leaders might have a batting average in the mid to high .300 range, he was barely batting .200. In fact, he was batting slightly below his weight and dangerously close to the Mendoza line (players batting below .200.) 
His biggest problem was the curveball. He couldn’t hit it. Ironically, he was the most popular player on the Birmingham Barons, the White Sox AA affiliate. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say he was the most popular player in the entire league. 
But, he just couldn’t catch up to the deceptive curveball. 
The meme writers will tell you

“If you head can conceive it, and your heart can believe it, you can achieve it.”

Internet memes are not a great source of career advice. They certainly didn’t help that poor guy struggling through the AA Southern League. They are probably not a great source for you or me, either. 
I once had a job that I liked, but I wasn’t particular great at it. In fact, I was downright poor. It was a program manager job at Microsoft. I had kind of fallen into the PM role without any real training. I was working hard. I was working my tail off, but it wasn’t bringing the results I wanted. 
I wasn’t experienced enough to even be able to build a plan for success. I kept showing up everyday, spinning my wheels and going home frustrated. Looking back, I can think of a lot of things I would have done differently. I’m actually qualified to be a PM. But, if I weren’t, my plan would have been to go find a different job. I wasn’t very good at that one. At the time, I wasn’t that mature. I ended up having the decision made for me. It was much worse to be asked to leave than it would have been to make the call on my own. 
I once had a system administrator who worked for me who wasn’t great at his job. We needed him to install software, and backup our server. He could do the first, he never managed to accomplish the second. I tried working with him. I tried giving him access to resources that would help him backup the server. I tried everything I could think of. He was always working on it, and he was working hard, but it was simply beyond his abilities. It was his curveball. We had to let him go. 
Not everyone is cut out to be a professional baseball player. Not everyone makes a great PM. Not everyone can be a system administrator. The nirvana of employement is to find a job that you enjoy and that you are good at. But, don’t assume that every person can do every job. We each have strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of those with your teams. If you have a valuable team member, but they are in the wrong role, change them, or let them go.
That’s eventually what happened with the inept baseball player. It became obvious to everyone, including him, that he was never going to be able to play baseball at the highest levels. He hung up his cleats and went back to his day job. He was pretty good at that job. In fact, he was better than pretty good. He was the best in the world at what he did. He may have been the best of all time. 

The failed baseball player who couldn’t hit above his weight was Michael Jordan. He went back to the Chicago Bulls where he let his team to three additional championships, brining his total to six. Despite being a world class athlete. Despite having won multiple championships. Despite having the heart and mind of a fierce competitor, Jordan simply wasn’t good enough to play baseball. There are guys you’ve never heard of where better than he was. 

If you find you can’t hit the curveball you may want to look for another line of work. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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