Ninth Inning – Business and Baseball: Slumps Happen

Losing AthleteYou watch enough baseball games and other sports, and pretty soon you realize that even well paid – sometimes exceptionally well paid – baseball players and athletes have slumps. Even fabled winning teams have slumps. (As I write this, the New York Yankees have just gone through a 2 wins and 5 losses streak – but still lead the American League East by 8 games and have the best record in Major League Baseball). And in the classic baseball movie “Major League,” one of the players has taken to sacrificing chickens and rubbing mysterious voodoo tchotchkes on his bat in order to get a hit. Some of the other players belittle his efforts – until it appears to work. Superstitions aren’t just the stuff of Hollywood; Hall-of-Famer Kiki Cuyler refused to move to a different spot in the batting order; Dolf Camilli used to rub the batboy’s head before entering the batter’s box; and possibly one of the most famous that players of all levels have adopted: Tapping your bat on home plate before each at-bat.

The problem with superstitions like these is that they work… until they don’t. Eventually the slump happens, no matter how many chickens sacrificed or batboys rubbed. Sometimes, baseball slumps just happen. You’re on fire the entire season until one day you wake up, do everything you did the day before, and suddenly you can’t get a hit to save your life. You’re in a slump, and it hangs around until it breaks – or you do.

Businesspeople experience their share of seemingly inexplicable slumps, too. And just as in baseball, you have a choice: Through or out.

Top-notch marketing blogger and best-selling author Seth Godin based his book, “The Dip,” on this very principle. He says that dips – “slumps” in baseball speak – will happen; it’s not a question of if, but when. And when it does happen, you have a choice to make. Are you going to give up, or are you going to slug through?

If your reasons are strong enough, you will continue to get in that batter’s box, says Godin. You’ll put out products, talk with customers, market your wares. And you’ll also work behind the scenes to improve your chances of getting a hit. You’ll review your statistics, you’ll work with a coach and you’ll keep refining your process. And then you’ll keep on swinging. And eventually, the slump will end and you’ll get that hit.

Of course, giving up is always an option. More than one baseball player or athlete has let the slump get the best of them and quit without ever managing to make it back on base. The choice is yours. In the meantime, your competitors will be facing the same challenges at one time or another. The spoils will go to the one who can stick it out – and put their voodoo to work.

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