I picked up some good advice in an unexpected place the other evening.
“Make a plan for what you are going to do before it happens,” was the advice from my friend, Roy The Umpire.
Roy is a very wise man who shares the same middle name as several significant historical figures. I can only assume that he has a family connection to Alexander The Great, Attila The Hun and Dog The Bounty Hunter.
Anyway, I was pitching in my adult coed rec softball league when the batter hit a ground ball back at me. Most people would have run away from a sharp hit like that, but I acted on instinct as I moved quickly toward the ball, got my glove down and then shut my eyes.
It was at that moment that I decided I would scoop up the ball, whirl around and fire the ball to second base so that we could get out the lead runner, and maybe even turn a double play if the shortstop could get the ball to first place quickly enough. It was going to be a beautiful play.
What actually happened, though, was that I fumbled around with the ball while I picked it up, took a moment standing back up straight, turned slowly to second base, noticed that my throw would not beat the runner, turned slowly again toward first base (my head turned quickly, but my body was slow to follow) to see if I could beat that runner with the throw, and then dropped the ball in front of me.
It was not my finest moment, but I was happy that at least I hadn’t hurt myself.
When I went up to bat the next inning, Roy said to me, “Nick, I see what you were doing there, but you have to make a plan for what you are going to do before it happens.”
After I hit a homerun (in my mind), I told Roy that he was right, and that it was good advice.
It’s certainly good advice for sports, and if I had thought about the play before it happened, I would have decided that the smart play for me was to get the sure out at first base.
It’s good advice for other parts of life, too, and I have been trying to use that advice this week.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I go through life not knowing where I am going or what I am doing. I do all right with the small plans, but I have never been very good at making the larger plans needed for items such as advancing in my career, managing my finances or eating an ice cream cone without making a mess, and I believe I need to make some changes.
Here are a few example of where I could make more plans for things before they occur:
Driving – I actually do plan ahead with driving, at least to a point. I plan for where I am going and then I constantly make plans in my head for what to do if a car comes into my lane or if a meteor suddenly falls from the sky (you can never be too safe!). If I am on a long trip, I am also meticulous about planning and preparing for bathroom breaks. My problem comes when I actually arrive at my destination. Now what am I going to do? I am great at planning how to get somewhere, but often fail miserably about knowing what to do when I arrive at a vacation destination or other location.
Getting in shape and losing weight – I am good at planning how to get into shape and lose weight, but my problem always happens when I actually reach my goal. Now what do I do? Why am I exercising so much? I already weigh what I want to weigh now, so why not eat that doughnut? And why just one doughnut? In the future, I need to plan for what to do when I actually reach my goal.
Playing soccer – When I am playing soccer, I know how to get open and get in position to score. However, I have no idea what to do once someone passes me the ball, so I usually end up kicking it out of bounds. I need to plan better for that, and also learn some foot skills
Advancing in my career – I know how to get jobs and how to do (what I hope is good work), but I’ve never had much of a plan for what to do next. I need to think more about Roy’s advice and figure out where I want to go.
Having a good line go over well – I often plan for what I want to say in order to try to sound clever or funny, but then have no idea what to do once someone laughs or comments on my line. I often just sit there awkwardly or try to think up the next line, and I need to come up with a plan for what to do once things go well.
Trying to catch a snake – I remember several times when I was younger and I set out to try to track down and catch a snake. I had no idea what I would do if I actually found one, so it’s lucky I was terrible at tracking snakes.
Fixing the dryer – The other night, I had the idea that if one of the kids and I just picked up the dryer and tipped it over, we could get items out of the lint trap that had fallen in. So, we tipped over the dryer and picked it up and it wasn’t too bad. Nothing immediately fell out, though, and I hadn’t properly planned for what to do next. I had no way to reach into the lint trap while holding the dryer upside down, and no idea what to try next. I quickly regretted my poor planning. We ended up shaking the dryer for a while, got another of the kids to try to reach into the lint trap area and we finally did solve the problem.
Any car chase in a movie –I am ever in a movie, I will plan better than most characters. In most movies, there is usually a bad guy with a gun or knives or super kicking skills or something, and he does something bad and then gets into a car and drives away. Our hero usually chases after the bad guy in another car, but there rarely seems to be a plan for what to do if the hero actually catches up. Won’t the bad guy just shoot or super kick the hero? That bad guy just beat up a whole building full of people! Usually the car explodes for some unknown reason, which may be due to poor planning from the bad guy.
My dog chasing after a deer – He’s just a little dog. What is he going to do if the deer doesn’t run away?
Writing – I enjoy writing different columns and posts, but I really don’t know what the overall plan is. I need to come up with a plan for writing (and for how to end this column) soon, but for now I am just enjoying the work and seeing where it takes me. I guess the smartest thing for me to do would be to sit down, think about what I really want to do, set some firm goals and then ask Roy The Umpire what I should do next. He always has good advice.