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August 28, 2017

Many summers ago I was playing baseball for my high school team and had a double header at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. As the visiting team, we batted first and I was taking my place in the on deck circle as the second hitter in the lineup. Prairie had finished their infield and the pitcher was finishing up his warm-up pitches. It was at this time I realized I needed to use the restroom and it was happening RIGHT NOW; there was going to be no waiting! I spotted a porta potty about 10 feet behind our dugout and rushed to take care of this issue. 

 

I will spare you the details of what took place, as you can connect the dots. As I was doing my thing, I heard some chatter from the dugout, but really couldn't make out what was being said. My high school coach was a very polite and proper man and if he said "darn it," that was pretty serious. All of sudden I heard coach shout, "WHERE THE HELL IS DAN BUTLER?!" which was my cue to get moving. I immediately sprinted to the field because I was holding up the game. My teammates literally threw me a helmet and bat as I approached the field. I stepped into the batter's box and hit the first pitch I saw over the fence for a solo home run. I have played more than 1,000 baseball games in my life and I have hit FIVE home runs. One of which was in little league and involved about three overthrows, but it still counts! As the double header went on, I proceeded to have the two best games I have ever had by hitting three home runs and compiling seven hits in eight at bats. It seemed like everything I touched turned to gold in those games.

 

After the game I visited with my dad who said, "Dan, you were on fire, that had to feel awesome!" It was awesome and I cannot remember playing any better. Later on in the day, I was visiting with my brother who talked to me about the game as well. His comments were a little different as he asked, "What the hell is wrong with you?" "You struck out looking with runners on second and third and got caught stealing." What my brother shared was most definitely true; I did strike out and was caught trying to steal a base. However, he failed to notice the remarkable things that happened in the two games, his mind went right to the mistakes.

 

I share this story because as parents, educators, and colleagues, our minds often go right to the mistakes rather than the areas of success. When a child brings home a report card full of A's and contains one C, what gets discussed? When a teacher receives feedback from a classroom walk through visit and receives a rating of 4 on a 5 point scale in one of twelve areas on the form, what is on their mind? Our brains are wired to see the negative or threats within our surroundings. If we are not intentional about opening our eyes to the greatness surrounding us, we can easily see only the negative and get caught in what Shawn Achor refers to as a negative Tetris effect. There are so many times when our focus is on fixing issues, rather than capitalizing on strengths.

 

Greatness lies in each of us and it is our responsibility to discover this within ourselves and the people we serve. Get to know your people while understanding the skills they bring to the table. A strength-based approach will allow leaders to maximize results within their organizations. As you approach your work, will you choose to see the strikeout or the three home runs?

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