Minimizing Mistakes

Tony Gwynn once said, “We know we are better than this, but we can’t prove it.” As a coach, I have had similar thoughts almost every season.  As a professional in the workplace, similar thoughts come to mind too.

Gwyn played 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres and accomplished some amazing things – including 8 batting titles, 15 All-Star nominations and 5 gold gloves.  He finished his career with a .338 batting average.  To top it all off, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.  He was one of the most consistent and decorated performers in baseball history, and he knew that perfection was out of his reach.

He also knew his teams were good, but they had a hard time showing it.  Throughout his career, which spanned from 1982 to 2001, his teams won games (1,561) at almost the same rate as they lost games (1,544).  So I guess it’s easier to understand his quote, if you put it into context.  For me it’s is as simple as understanding that we are all going to make mistakes, we just have to find ways to minimize them.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of a “mistake” is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong”.

There are many things in baseball that you could consider a mistake, such as a base-running error or throwing to the wrong base.  But there are three things, as a fan, you see right away as a mistake.  As a pitcher, you need to minimize walks and no hand out “free passes”.  As a batter, you need to minimize your strikeouts and try to make contact.  As a fielder, you need to minimize errors, so you don’t squander easy outs.  Let’s look at those three mistakes just a bit closer….

In 2018, the Chicago White Sox led the league with 653 walks from their pitching staff.  They didn’t have a bad pitching staff, they just didn’t put the ball over the plate at the rate they should have, and it cost them in the long run.  They finished the season with a poor record (62-100).

The 2013 Houston Astros were a good hitting team – they had power and they had speed.  They also missed the ball a lot and finished the season with the most strikeouts in baseball.  They finished with 1,535 strikeout’s which averaged out to 9.47 K’s a game over the course of the season.  They finished the season with more losses than wins (51-111).

The 1963 Mets had the most errors of all time (208).  Those errors helped the pitching staff give up combined 774 runs that season.  Sure, they scored 501 runs, but they couldn’t off-set the mistakes and had a pretty bad record (51-111).

The three teams I just mentioned had a lot of mistakes in their season.  All of those mistakes led to poor record and they could not compete at a high level.  They had a final record of 164 wins and 322 losses.  They made a bunch of mistakes and lost 67% of the time.

A study was conducted recently by Deloitte in which 1,300 organizations in 120 countries were surveyed and their focus was on “stress at work”.  Over 23,000 people were surveyed and the 82% of the respondents said their top cause of stress at work was “realizing they made a mistake”.  Are you feeling similar things at the office?  Do you dwell on those mistakes?

I think there are three important things to take with you into the office this morning to help you minimize mistakes.  If you consider them on your way to work, they might help you be more productive and will help you get the most out of your day.

Prepare Yourself – Most people have to prepare themselves for greatness.  There are brilliant minds that can just walk into any situation and make the most out of it, but many of us need to do our homework.  Take that next project or work assignment and over-prepare, and don’t give anything but your best.

Have Confidence – The Company hired you for a reason- and you deserve to be in that chair.  They saw something in you, and you need to find that same thing in yourself.  If you approach your day scared, you won’t be as successful.  Be the type of person that wants the tough assignments and wants the deadline looming over their head.  Babe Ruth once said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.”

Take Your Time – Before you officially submit that report or hit the “SUBMIT” button, make sure you have taken your time to review everything one more time.  Personally, I have a phrase I share with my elite athletes after they accomplish some good things, and I think it is applicable here – don’t settle for good, work to attain greatness.  So, don’t just turn in the assignment, create a masterpiece that you are proud of.  That type of epic work production takes a lot of time and a detailed approach; don’t rush it.

I want to offer one final thought – everyone makes mistakes.  You have to be okay with failure.  During that journey towards excellence we will fall down along the way.  It’s about getting up.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.


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