Who You Choose as Your Peers Matters More Than Your Score

When I was a little girl, I was intent on being a high performer ... teacher’s pet ... the best in the class. I worked hard and, in comparison to my peers, I was superior. Never just good, but excellent. I was exceptionally good at it. They would raise the bar and I’d soar over it.

Until I didn’t.

One day, I failed. Really failed. A 68% score on a math test. I thought that I understood the concepts, then was flabbergasted by my grade. My dad found me crying in my room. He asked why and I explained that I had failed.

An avid Yankees baseball fan, my father explained that Babe Ruth struck out more times than he hit home runs - that swinging for the fences with full power meant you might misjudge your swing. And oftentimes, if you tried to be the very best, it meant you would fail.

I wasn’t soothed by his comparison.

He went on and doubled down. He explained that Babe Ruth wasn’t a particularly good person. He drank and wasn’t kind to women. His wife had died and without a great love of his life, he was a notorious womanizer. He had no friends who were women, few friends at all and was obsessed with playing baseball as his only pastime. Daddy said I was a good person and that mattered more.

I was still distraught.

He said that the Babe could have hit every single pitch that a mediocre pitcher threw. But that Babe Ruth loved to go up against the best pitchers to see how great he could be. Playing against tougher competitors, rather than easy ones, made him even better at the game. Babe Ruth’s lifetime batting average was .342. For every three times he went to bat, he was going to strike out. If my failing grade had been my lifetime batting average, I would have been twice as good as the GOAT.

I was reminded of that story at the last Yankees baseball game I went to with my dad in 2017. We were in right field on the second row watching the giant Aaron Judge and miniature Jose Altuve crush the ball. He explained for the umpteenth time that baseball is a beautiful sport because regardless of  height or weight, you could be a great player. What matters is your determination, practice, work ethic and ability to hit one out of three in the Majors playing against the best.

Now, I don’t mind so much now when I fail as long as I’m swinging for the fences.

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