Adopt a Creative Strategy from Baseball: “Make the adjustment before the pitcher does.”

Yesterday I was thinking about a line I read in the book Chipper Jones, BallPlayer: “Make the adjustment before the pitcher does.” It’s powerful advice that applies far beyond baseball. Making an adjustment to respond to what is going to come your way before it arrives.

It’s a lesson I’ve applied to my creative practice frequently. You don’t need to be a baseball fan or know anything about the game to understand how a mindset that can make a significant difference for batters can aid you in your own practice when you step up to your own proverbial home plate to deliver.

Batters have milliseconds to decide if they are going to swing at a ball or not once it leaves the pitcher’s hand. Imagine the difference getting a mental jump on the next pitch can make. You, like the batter, can tabulate what has already been thrown, and what is likely to come next.

If the count is 3 balls and no strikes, the batter expects a strike; the pitcher’s not going to give a free ride to first base with the next one. Have you had three opportunities come at you that just weren’t in your strike zone? Make the adjustment to unload on the next one, as its probably going to be coming right down the center of the plate. In my own experience, its not only celebrity deaths that come in threes, but unattractive opportunities as well.

If you’ve swung and missed on a couple chances, then you are where at batter is with a count of no balls and two strikes. You can prepare for the next pitch to be something to lure you into taking a swing. It might be a changeup or slider to lure your swing. Or a fastball as the pitcher bets his speed against the batter’s ability to swing the bat.

My advice when something comes at your with great speed and temptation is to take it. Some of the most rewarding engagements I’ve had were when things moved fast and the gig was right in the sweet spot to hit. If you feel the momentum of the work coming at you is too fast, take another lesson from baseball: the velocity of the ball coming at you may reduce the time you have to take a swing, but if you connect, the speed of its arrival amplifies the distance it will travel after contact.

It’s Monday morning as I write this, and I’m looking at the week ahead with the same mindset at batter has at the plate. Make the adjustment before the pitcher does.

So what’s going to be coming your way that you can adjust for?