Going Down Swinging

When I was a kid, probably around 7 or 8 years old, I played baseball in “minor league,” or whatever was before Little League. I don’t remember anything about it, except for this one at bat that was near the end of one of the games. As I recall, the game was in the balance, and I think the opposing pitcher was walking a lot of batters. Possibly he had walked the bases loaded, which wouldn’t have been uncommon in that league (which is why T-Ball is a good idea – but I digress)

Anyway, I must have made up my mind that this pitcher was going to walk me as well, because after the count went to 3 and 2, I took a pitch right down the middle for strike three. Now why, you may be asking, do I still remember this, over fifty years later? Because it bothered me. A lot. Enough for my brain to store it in a priority area and still remember it years later.

It bothered me because I didn’t even swing. I took the easy way out. I didn’t even try to hit it. And I think on some level that day, I decided that I’d rather go down swinging than ever feel like that again.

There have been several times in my life that I’ve had opportunities to venture out in some area. To try something I’ve never tried. To back a friend in business. To venture out into side businesses myself. To sing at church. To umpire softball games. I could go on and on. I really could.

At the times these opportunities presented themselves, I would typically get all excited about the prospects. Sometimes, there would be some obstacle that seemed prohibitive, and I’d move on. But other times it would get to the point where I would say to myself, “If you DON’T do this, you’re always going to wonder what it would have been like.” And once it got to THAT question, I don’t recall ever having said “No.”

Now it might make for a better motivational story to talk about some of the successes here. There have been some of those, but let me tell you, there have also been some SPECTACULAR failures. The “backing the friend in business” opportunity actually occurred twice (in the 1980s) and BOTH were spectacular failures, costing us our life savings and everything we had worked for up to that point, almost including our home.

But one of the successes was my decision to go into partnership in a stock brokerage firm with a guy I had met as a registered rep in the 1970s. That one decision has put food on the table for years, and financed some of my other foolishnesses, including the tough times of the 1980s.

And other decisions which were less financial (the umpiring, the singing (actually leading worship) and several other church opportunities) provided me with some great life experiences and very fond memories. But either way, good or bad, I had determined in my life, and even verbalized it from time to time, that “if I’m going down, I’m going down swinging.” No more “called strike threes” for this kid.

So for years, I had a saying over my desk (and this was even before I got back into sailing) that said:

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships were built for.”

(since I started writing this, I now realize this is probably going to become a chapter in Platinum Living, so I will continue it in installments – stay tuned)


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