Al’s column: Lessons learned from baseball

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May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Torrey Jaeckle

 

I love watching baseball. Unfortunately, I rarely watch it the “right” way. What do I mean by that? Well, let me start by describing how I usually watch a game.

First, I record the game. Then I sit down, after the kids are in bed—usually around nine or 10 o’clock—and begin watching. To save time, I fast forward between pitches. Once you get the hang of it, you can do this almost flawlessly (until you come across the odd pitcher who has non-standard cadence to his timing). But in general, I do see the entire game—all three hours—in about a 50-minute span.

So if I’m seeing all the action, one might reasonably ask what I’m really missing due to my viewing habit. Nothing—and yet everything. Let me explain: The other night I faced a rare occasion in that, after a late evening trip to the grocery store, I came home to a quiet house—everyone was asleep early. As much as I love my family dearly, I cannot describe the giddiness such a situation arises inside of me. A whole night ahead of me, to do whatever I want, uninterrupted. So I chose to watch the game.

With no time constraints, I took advantage and decided to watch the ballgame in its entirety, including the announcers’ discussion and banter between pitches. It’s incredible how the fabric of the game changes when you actually sit down and pay attention. My usual viewing behavior typically gives me nothing more than a sped-up box score. You see what happens, but you don’t truly experience the game on a deeper level. You find out, for example, why your first baseman is playing third that night. You hear of the opposing pitcher’s past struggles and what your team needs to do to capitalize on it. In short, you actually see the game for what it is—an array of strategy, decisions, athleticism and execution, rather than as a series of pitches to get through. Your enjoyment comes from the experience of watching, rather than from the end result. And you learn a lot in the process.

So what does all this have to do with the flooring business? Well, the day after that game, I was thinking about the past 10 months at work. I’ve been very busy—overwhelmed, actually—due to a variety of factors. And this has caused me to effectively “fast forward” through my days. Just as the fast-view method of watching a baseball game makes you treat it like a series of pitches to get through, I’ve been viewing my work days as a series of tasks to accomplish. I don’t have much time to devote to the period between those tasks, so I effectively eliminate them.

The downside is I’ve lost that “big-picture feel” for what is going on in my business and in my industry. A strict focus on activities and tasks robs one of the critical experiences of learning and growing. Sure, tasks have to get done, but when your sole focus is on the “pitches” of your daily routine, you miss the valuable commentary. And it’s only in the commentary where you get the details that really give you the story that allows you to view your business at a higher level.

I vowed to make some changes that day, and I’m in the process of implementing them. I know I need to stop viewing my day as a checklist of things to cross off and more as an opportunity to build knowledge, develop strategy and grow relationships. And you simply can’t do that when you insist on fast forwarding between the pitches.

Torrey Jaeckle is vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, a Madison, Wis.-based wholesaler specializing in flooring and countertop surfacing products. In his current capacity, Jaeckle oversees pricing and e-commerce initiatives, and he also manages the data portions and business reporting aspects of the company’s ERP system.

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