In baseball, the vast majority of damage a hitter does is by smashing a bad pitch.
The pitcher is trying to throw a ball past the batter. The batter is trying to hit it.
The worst pitch for a pitcher to make is sometimes called a "fat pitch" -- that's a very straight, relatively slow pitch in the middle of the plate and the middle of the hitter's power zone.
In Major League Baseball, almost every full-time player is going to hit the fat pitch hard. The majority of those hard-struck balls with turn into doubles and home runs.
But the majority of people in the world aren't able to hit the fat pitch in baseball, they'd probably have a hard time hitting a baseball at all.
Opportunities in life are something like that. The majority of even really-big opportunities will be missed and you'll face setbacks.
A few people through the ages seem to seize most of their opportunities -- Napoleon Bonaparte hit almost all of his fat pitches, which respectively made him Captain, General, First Consul, and Emperor.
John D. Rockefeller hit almost of all his fat pitches, going into oil in The Flats in in 1863, recruiting Samuel Andrews as chemist, buying out his partners the Clark Brothers for $72.5k at auction when they wanted out, starting Standard Oil and then buying 22 out of 26 Cleveland oil refineries in 1872, and even profiting from the breakup of Standard Oil in anti-trust litigation: many people don't realize his net worth rose 500% after the breakup of Standard Oil, with greater competition among his former companies leading to innovation and with him owning a piece of all of it.
You see this rare pattern in a few sorts of characters: Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian, Genghis Khan and Subutai, Charlemagne .
But despite the utter rarity of this type of situation, something sets into the consciousness of people who read their stories. While this sort of leader often has reverses, he seems to seize and make the most of big opportunities.
Yet... it seems like the vast majority of people simply cannot do that for whatever reason, and moreover -- it's probably less necessary these days, because there's a greater proportion of pitches to hit.
In olden times, both time and geography worked against the majority of those who would do much in the world. Communications were bad, erratic, and unreliable -- and that was only within a hundred or two miles nearest you, past that there was nothing! Things developed slowly, but events came to a head just as quickly. In olden times, people had less experience needing to make rapid world-changing decisions, were less prepared for them, and the moment when a grand opportunity could be seized came once a decade -- at best.
Nowadays, if you're exposing yourself to lots of good information and interesting circles to run in, you might get a fat pitch to hit twice a year, or more. It's both aggravating and agonizing to miss one, but it's non-fatal. It's a signal that you need to build greater preparation, get your house in order more, and emphasize rapid effective decision-making.
There's no sense crying over spilt milk. If you keep immersing and exposing yourself to the winds of change, you'll find them blowing faster and harder than ever. Doing immense things might have once required catching the once-a-decade fair wind that gusted. Now, when you miss one, it's a reminder to get your house in order because the next will come at you shortly after.
How does a person increase the number of fat pitches thrown at him, starting from a position of relatively few pitches?
I imagine that building useful skills would be a good place to start. But I'd love to hear how others have done it.
For me it's been being more social and reaching out to people I otherwise wouldn't have. I try to come up with a question for every author of every book I've read and send them an email. I actively reach out to past clients to ask how their business is coming along. I make socialization a point, because in the end a lot of those opportunities will come from other people.
Building skills would certainly be useful, but I imagine the most important thing is simply to push the boundaries of what you're comfortable with. Put yourself out there, and the skills will likely follow.
Even if you a whiz at something, you're never gonna get a "fat pitch" if you don't go looking for them.
There's an abundance of talented people in this world; it's a willingness to do that separates the successful from the also rans.
That makes sense! But if I had an example from experience, it would be a lot more concrete.
Any chance someone can supply one?
Speaking from experience, many 'Fat Pitches' that came in my way began with simply saying 'yes' to many different opportunities. This was something I had to learn.
I've missed a few before (e.g offers for very good work positions) simply because I was too slow to respond, hesitant, or doubtful.
As soon as I made a conscious decision to say 'yes' to opportunities, no matter how small, I began to see more fat pitches being thrown my way. Simple things like taking the effort to reach out to your role models via email, accepting and arranging for coffee meetings with people you've never met, and being more aware of the type of information you are consuming and how much productive time you're spending in a day.
Initially, this will be daunting. Doing things like meeting total strangers in person pushes us out of our comfort zones, and we have to rapidly adapt when meeting people from different backgrounds, for example. It's a constantly evolving experience; i'm getting better at it every day, and there still is definitely much to learn, but the opportunity to learn begins with you being willing to in the first place.
This pretty much sums up what Sebastian meant by being able to hit these pitches - receiving fat pitches are useless unless you know how to hit em'. And in life, the more you learn how to hit them, the more fat pitches will come your way.
So if you're ever in a position of low fat pitches, begin by saying 'yes' to any kind of pitch. Build yourself up, and constantly be on your feet for when a fat pitch does come your way. It's a self-reinforcing mechanism, so being proactive is definitely the way to go.
If you're a designer, or any creative professional, this might be the most important thing you read this year. My sensationalist headline aside, it's not about money or being a primadonna. It's about defining how you work, working how you define, having an environment of trust and respect and creativity, and otherwise getting the life you want.
Sadly, many creatives just trust that that'll happen… and it doesn't. They get taken advantage of. This needs to stop.
Some things in here are scary. You don't need to do what's unnatural to you, you don't need to do anything in particular in here, and you don't need to rush yourself. Any given suggestion in here might increase your income by 20% and cut your "client stress" in half.
I'll tell you my story in a moment, so you can assess my credibility and see if this is workable advice. (It is.) I'll give you recommendations on where you can learn more. In exchange, I ask just one thing - if at any point while reading this, you think, "This is one of the most important things I've read this year" - then you immediately share it with as many people as you can that you think it would help.
I think that's fair, do you?
I attended last year's FounderConference, which was at MSFT's Mountain View campus, and captured the content of the event. I also took a panoramic shot that Alain used for the 2011 conference, and in exchange he comp'd a ticket for me to attend this year.
As part of my goal to help entrepreneurs worldwide be more successful (i.e., my fundraising manifesto), I've captured the content of this year's Founders Conference below. This year's event was much larger than 2010, at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, with about 500 people attending.