What does it mean to be successful, to move in a positive direction or at least feel good about a day’s work, and time spent? These questions have been on Eric Herman’s mind lately, and he’s turned to a baseball term to try to figure out the answers.
By Eric Herman
Earlier this year I was asked to write a piece for AQUA Magazine about what it means to be successful as a swimming pool builder. I really enjoy freelancing for my friends at that venerable publication and I dutifully got to work on a piece about watershaping success.
My discussion touched on the different versions or elements of success: financial, reputational, creative accomplishment, organizational achievement, business or technical innovation and legacy. It was one of those topics that stuck with me after I finished the article. Since then, I’ve continued to consider not only the nature of success but how do we achieve it.
I’m a big baseball fan and it wasn’t long before the concept of the “Mendoza Line” popped into my head. If you’re not familiar, the term refers to having a .200 batting average, considered the line between competence and, well, not cuttin’ it. It occurred to me that that there’s profound meaning to be found when thinking about the Mendoza line in a more metaphorical sense.
It’s all centered on the question, what do we need to achieve on a daily basis to be successful? Not to be too overly philosophical, but our lives are a day-by-day, bit-by-bit campaign to succeed in small and big tasks. No one is perfect all the time and many of us come up short more than we’d care to admit. We each define success and failure differently and we’re all calibrated toward self-assessment in vastly different ways. I personally value happiness, feelings of gratitude, usefulness, compassion and not behaving as a selfish idiot – meaning being a version of myself that as measures of daily success. That and things like being a good dad, husband, friend and colleague.
Now, a .200 batting average might work in baseball, where getting a hit every five at bats is considered passable. In life, I’m shooting for a much higher average; but, the idea is serviceable in that you can apply it to almost everything — from finishing the laundry to closing a major business deal, or finishing an engaging article for WaterShapes. It’s sort of a thumbs-up/thumbs-down ongoing self-assessment.
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when you’ve struck out. I fell asleep in a Zoom meeting recently, with my camera on, and received a phone call from a concerned co-worker, who happens to be my son, Brett. Upon reflecting on that embarrassing doze, it was easy to acknowledge that average took a hit. Other times when I contribute a useful, creative or encouraging point in a group setting, I’ll admit to giving myself an internal attaboy.
We all have our challenges, our ambitions and our successes, as well as failures. Oftentimes, it’s a mixture of both. In my case, it’s more of a subjective determination than mathematical, but I do strive to get comfortably past my own Mendoza line in my daily life. I find it a useful way to go about my day, always looking to make something positive happen, in all sorts of big and little ways. To advance the cause in the game of life.
Success is incremental, marginal and always incomplete; but, if we move in a positive direction and say, design and build great bodies of water, leave customers smiling, or readers thinking, or made someone else happy in some way, then those days are good days and frankly, it useful to recognize it.