Long Term Process vs Short Term Gains

This weekend, I spent 14 hours at baseball fields and spent the rest of my waking hours going through old hitting videos. It made me reflect on my past as a player and now coach and on my daily interaction with family, friends, parents, and student-athletes. I find myself regularly discussing a variety of topics – sports, politics, economics, education, etc. Based on these conversations and my own athletic experiences, it is apparent that we are consumed with the short term. Admittedly, there is definitive value in the short term, but many times short term focus paralyzes long term success. When we focus on the short term, we are seeking instant answers, instant gratification, instant improvements. Unfortunately, success in sports is not instant, it is a process. I have to continually remind myself of this because I fall prey to this illogic.

Although Tiger Woods was driving his way to fame when he was two years old, he was nowhere close to being “elite,” let alone becoming a PGA legend.

If he maintained that same golf swing – because he achieved short term”success” by being on a TV show – Tiger Woods would not have won 14 Major Championships… or more importantly have an addicting game named after him. Tiger Woods became Tiger Woods because of years of deliberate practice. Years of failure, adjustments, short term successes, adjustments, failure, adjustments. This is a process. If you cannot respect the process, you will fall into the 99% that focuses on one swing, one AB, one performance.

Short term thinking also promotes an emphasis on past performances. When we don’t achieve the instant gratification that short term success provides, we need to anchor to a past event in which we were successful. This is why the most common things heard right before long term failure:

“He made all the All-Star teams in Little League.”
“He was the best pitcher on his last travel team.”
“He used to hit so well… but he’s been struggling lately.”
“I signed/committed to (insert D1 school).”

The aforementioned comments are not inherently negative. In fact, it’s great that a student-athlete found success in prior years. The problem, however, is the fact that this past success is now the main focus. And the foundation to future success is blurred because we were fooled by past performances.

I will end this post with this:
Player “A” was drafted in the 1st round. In his first year in Rookie ball, he hit .335 with 9 HRs. In his 2nd year at Low A, he hit .217 with 6 HRs and a .625 OPS. If player “A” was focused on the short term, he would have struggled to find long term success. He would have hung his hat on his awesome college stats, his money as a 1st round bonus baby, and his impressive numbers in Rookie ball. He would have taken front toss in the cage focusing on the same swing that made him successful in college. Instead, Player “A” kept competing day after day to be the best. He competed to understand his swing better, to research physics to understand biomechanics, to completely overhaul his skillset, to be the best future player he could possibly be. To this day, he continues to make changes and continues to adjust despite his past performance. He understands that long term success is a process. And to achieve success, you have to learn from past performances – not use them as a crutch – trust in the process and continually compete to improve yourself.

That is the defining message that the Compete Academy hopes to impart. Admittedly, I fall prey to shortsighted focus, because of that, I need to continually remind myself that this is a process. It’s physically and psychologically exhaustive, and definitely not for everyone. But hopefully, if you are reading this, you can trust the process and direct your focus on long term success.

Player A

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