BABE RUTH. Home Run King. And Strike Out King.

We all know that Babe Ruth has long been recognized as one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball.  His career home run record stood for 39 years, dodging the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays and many, many other great hitters.  It wasn’t until April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run.

While many people will remember the Babe for his powerful home runs, many people don’t realize that his lifetime batting average was .342.  That average would be good enough to win the batting average title more than half of the last 40 years.  The Sultan of Swat even had a candy bar named after him which I do not think can be said of any other professional athlete … ever.

Have you ever wondered how the Babe got so good at slamming the baseball?  Or how he honed his skills in a way that was unparalleled during his time? What was his secret?  Was he just more talented and gifted than all the other players?

I am sure there are many reasons why he did so well.  Training, practice, God-given talent, a good eye, etc., etc.   And here is one other reason:

In his career he struck out at the plate 1,330 times.

Yes, he hit 714 home runs but he struck out almost twice as much.  Not only was he the home run king of his day and for 39 more years, he was the strike- out king of his day as well.  And you can bet his strike outs were the keys to his success.  Just like yours and mine are.

I’m not talking about baseball, I’m talking about business and life.  Babe learned how to hit a fastball because he probably struck out on a fastball. Babe learned how to hit a curve ball over the fence because some pitcher probably struck him out with a fastball.  Babe learned how to hit a slider because a slider probably embarrassed him and cost him a chance to win a game-winning home run.

In business today, we shy away from mistakes.  And worse?  We deny them.  We spin our mistakes in a manner to which the press and the customer pass the blame along to a fellow employee.  We follow the lead of the modern-day politician and deny the dumb stuff we do and try to give it a different reason. And in doing so, we look ridiculous.

Mistakes (strikeouts) are the key to success.  In business, life, and baseball. 

Early in my mortgage career, I made some stupid mistakes that almost cost me my job.  Once I wrote a loan for a man making over $1 million a year . . . in the 70’s!  I told everybody that would listen how much money this guy made, and it took about a week before word got back to him. And, rightfully so, he put me through a grueling scolding that taught me a lesson.

From that strikeout, I learned the importance of confidentiality in that industry.  I could have gone the way of a modern day United States Senator and denied that I told people about his income but I didn’t.  I learned my lesson and moved on AFTER he bit my head off and my bosses.  From that experience, I crafted a commitment about confidentiality that I shared with my customers for 28 years.

A terrible mistake.  And a terrific lesson.  I learned from the experience just like Babe did when some pitcher for the White Sox tricked him with a knuckle ball.

Mistakes = Experience

Experience = Knowledge

Knowledge = Wisdom

Therefore, Mistakes = Wisdom

Don’t deny or shy away from mistakes.  They will teach more than they will damage.

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