Sunday, April 13, 2003

Don't be afraid of changing

Baseball as life

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

Few things are as hopeful as opening day of the baseball season. Readers of this column may recall that I'm an avid baseball fan. Since this is a business column, not a sports column, I try to limit myself to no more than one column a year with a baseball-business analogy, usually saving it until late in the season when my team (the San Francisco Giants) is in a tight race.

But a new baseball season has just started, and I'm surprised at how happy it has made me. This year, perhaps more than ever, I welcome this symbol of getting a fresh start, a clean slate. It's a reminder of the promises and possibilities of change.

I've been self-employed for 17 years. I've owned three businesses; that's at least three new starts. But I actually have had to reinvent myself and my business many more times than that. I'm hardly alone. The company upstairs from me has been in business 25 years, but recently, they've had to look for new markets, offer new services. They're reinventing themselves, too.

When we need to change, we often berate ourselves, believing it a sign of failure. Yet, it is not a sign of weakness, but of health, when you regenerate yourself.

Opening day of the baseball season is a new year that's truly new. The box score reads 0-0. All things are possible. It doesn't matter how you did before, or what other people think of you. Remember the Anaheim Angels? On opening day 2002, Sports Illustrated rated them 18th out of 30 teams; Sporting News and Baseball Digest predicted they'd come in dead last in their division.

They won the World Series.

Actually, I don't like many of the sports metaphors for business. Business isn't all about beating the other guy. Sure, big corporations tend to be obsessed with eliminating their competition, but even for big businesses that's not a very successful strategy.

But if any sport is analogous to business, it's baseball. That's because you make errors, you've got many chances to try again (160 games), there's no set time limit, strategy is more important than sheer size or strength, the rich guys aren't necessarily the best (in spite of what New York Yankee fans think), and while a lot of it seems boring, if you learn to appreciate it, it gives you a great deal of satisfaction. Most importantly, if you bat .400, you're in the Hall of Fame!

So, in honor of the new season, this fresh start, I'm sharing a few of my favorite baseball quotations, along with my interpretation of their meaning for business:

• "Good pitching always beats good hitting and vice versa." - Yogi Berra. (It really doesn't matter which approach you take, as long as you do it well.)

• "It took me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course." - Hank Aaron. (You're not going to be good at everything.)

• "I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it." - Sandy Koufax. (You succeed best when you know the right place to aim.)

Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies." Register for Rhonda's newsletter at

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