Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The 5 Life Lessons I Learned From Playing MLB 2K13

I don't like my job. It's not because I'm not good at it or that the day-to-day scenarios that I'm faced with aren't intellectually stimulating. In all honesty, it's not what I really want to be doing with my life. A lot of very successful people say that the key to true success and happiness is throwing yourself head first into what you enjoy.

As a sophomore in college, I stumbled across an opportunity to work for my favorite team in my favorite sport, when I became the bat boy for the Chicago Cubs (that's me in sitting in the background). I made a ton of money and met a lot of people who I had previously only experienced through the television or from the stands. At the tender age of 19, I thought that opportunities like this were a dime a dozen. A decade after quitting my dream job by leaving a voicemail for my boss, I'm still chasing the dream of working in professional baseball again.

Nowadays, I get my baseball fix by rushing home from my 9-5 to turn on my PlayStation 3 and pop in Major League Baseball 2K13. The game is so realistic that, on most nights, I will listen to the Cubs play on WGN radio while I do battle with pixelated opponents powered by artificial intelligence. I realized a long time ago, during my actual playing days in high school, that the game of baseball is a microcosm of the game that we call life. Playing 2K13 recently has made me think of what life lessons I can garner from what is typically just a reprieve from the duties of an average American worker.
  1. Be wary the first pitch. Often times, the first pitch is the one that the computer wants you to swing at to get the result that they want - a quick out with minimal effort. If you sit back and wait for a pitch that you can handle, you can usually do more damage. In life, we are tempted to take the first opportunity that appears to be right in our wheelhouse. It doesn't matter if it's a career, a used sofa on Craig's List, or a love interest. The fact of the matter is that life, like an at-bat in baseball, is a learning experience that takes place over time. First jobs and first loves rarely, if ever, work out. It's about studying patterns, making adjustments, and learning to accentuate your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.
  2. A walk is just as good as a hit. Yeah, getting a hit is sexy (especially a home run), but the basic object of the game is to get on base. Once you're there, anything is possible. Being laid off from my first job out of college was one of the most difficult experiences I've ever had in my young life. I thought it was the end of the world as I knew it. Turns out, it allowed me to do some temp work at various companies, learn new skills, meet new people and, eventually, land a full-time gig where I could add exactly the value that company needed at that time. I learned the same lesson from many failed relationships. I wanted to hold on to them for as long as I could but, in the end, those failures prepared me for my next meaningful relationship.
  3. Sometimes, the best pitch to make is the one in the dirt. If you throw enough pitches in the strike zone, the computer will figure out your pattern and start launching your offerings like the Explorer space shuttle. The best strategy is to change speeds on pitches and move them around in the strike zone so that you change the batter's vantage point. The same is true in life. You want to constantly reinvent yourself. If people know what they're getting from you, one of two things will happen (if not both) - they'll ignore you because you're boring or they'll take advantage of you because you're predictable.I do and say some things that I'm sure make me look like a prime candidate for psychotropics, but this is by design. People like interesting people - people who they can't quite put a finger on. In terms of my career, the best job I ever had (other than working for the Cubs) was the summer I spent selling t-shirts outside of Wrigley Field. The money was crap, but I learned what it took to run a business (creativity, production, marketing, logistics) and, most importantly, I got to talk to a lot of people. Some people aspire to have a job in Corporate America because our society holds that concept up as the peak of middle class success, but I learned more about the worth of a dollar from that experience than from any company I've ever worked for.
  4. Catching a fly ball begins with a good jump. College is overrated and grad school is the biggest ponzi scheme in recorded history (no offense Tulip Mania). If you know what you enjoy doing and what you're good at, start doing it right away, no matter how young or old you are. Build your base of knowledge early and, then, get out there and start doing it. Gain some experience because, and his is for you recent college graduates, what you can do is more important than what you know. Make some mistakes. Don't get me wrong. If you want to be a nuclear physicist, you should definitely get as much schooling as possible but, for the rest of us office mopes, get off the hamster wheel as fast as possible and start experiencing. If you LOVE beer, quit your nice, comfortable desk job and go work at a brewery or Binny's. 10 years from now, you'll happily beat yourself over the head because, if you had grown a pair sooner, you could've had 20 years of experience instead of just 10.
  5. Know when to go to the bullpen. It's not a sign of weakness to admit that a situation is to big for you and that you need help. It's actually a sign of tremendous intelligence and strength. I know that Western society adores the individual - the self made woman or man that can stand on their own two feet but there is not one person made of flesh and blood that didn't get somewhere on the back or shoulders of someone else. I read an article this morning that talked about the importance of individuals having their own personal Board of Advisors - friends, family, colleagues, or just individuals that you trust who you can bounce ideas off of and get honest, direct feedback. Knowing your limits is an essential step in expanding your capabilities. I had a girlfriend that broke up with me last year after months of dealing with my quixotic personality. I was angry with her for a long time before I woke up one day and realized that it took a tremendous amount of maturity on her part to realize that, for the sake of both of our life's journeys, it was time to make a change. I don't how the change affected her, but it allowed me to watch the "game" from the bench for a while and, eventually, unlock an inner strength that would've otherwise remained dormant - the power of Knowing Thyself.
Video game playing is, in the grand scheme of things, an innane, time wasting, cornea corroding exercise in procrastination that is slowly transforming the youth of our world into walking, talking cases of diabetes waiting to overwhelm the healthcare system.

However, life is about gaining experience and insight into ourselves and, as a result, the world. We can find meaning in every experience that we have, every second of everyday. There is no event too big or too small that we can't extract insight from. Now, if I could only figure out how to beat the lowly Miami Marlins!


  1. Nice to read your work again. I applaud your quest to learn something useful in every experience. Keep it up D. Jones. You're on your way.

  2. Thanks Becks! I took a little break to find some inspiration. When I grow up, I want to be a prolific writer like you.