One evening as we were strolling home from the park, Mikan got it. We hand’t been talking about anything in particular when he turned to me and started up the conversation about potential again.
“Dad, remember when you asked me if I thought I was as good as I thought I could be? I think I can be better.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’m a lot better than I was last year. So I think I could be better than I am now.”
“What do you think it takes to get better?”
He didn’t have an answer. So I asked him what we did every night together.
“We play catch. You hit me fly balls.”
“What’s that called?”
“I don’t know. Practice?”
“That’s right. If you want to get better at something, you have to practice. You have to work hard for it. But I think the mistake I made in trying to push you is that this has to be fun for you. You have to want to do it.”
“Yeah, baseball wasn’t fun for a while.”
“Because I pushed you too hard?”
He didn’t want to answer, but I finally got a head nod from him. I knew I had pushed him too hard, and I apologized for it. I explained to him why I did it, but that I had realized it was wrong. He had to want it.
“So let me ask you again, are you as good as you think you can be?”
“No, I can be better.”
“How do you get better?”
“Do you want to be better? Do you want to work hard?”
I still remember the hug that he gave me after that. Almost knocked the wind out of me. Here was a kid that at 9-years-old was grasping a concept that took me well into adulthood to comprehend. He realized that we can only measure ourselves by our own potential. I was no longer pushing him – he was pulling me.
This is an excerpt from 40@40: The Only Person You’re in Competition With is Yourself.
In celebration of my 40th birthday, I decided to write 40 blog posts to reflect on 40 of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my life. You can follow the full series here: