There’s a scene in the movie, Moneyball, where two scouts are sitting at the kitchen table with Billy Beane and his parents. One of the scouts says the following:
“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game. We just don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at 18; some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.”
This is a very powerful statement that took me a while to fully understand. Here’s how I interpret it:
Being told at 18:
When you possess exceptional talent and it’s identified early in life, opportunities arise quickly that require you to grow up fast as you pursue a successful career. Some would call this life’s calling.
Being told at 40:
On the other end, when you think you have talent but in reality your production is mediocre, one can push at this for years even decades trying to make it work but at some point, you must accept failure and do something else. At that point, let it go and get a real job.
It’s okay to work at something for a long period of time but at some point, if pieces aren’t falling into place and that outcome appears to have little potential on the horizon, it’s wise to give yourself a time frame. If goals aren’t met within that span of time, try something else. Move on.
Failure can be difficult to accept but wasting years of your life on low ROI is a hundred times worse. You’re better off cutting your losses and trying something else that brings a more gainful outcome, and that’s okay.
Failure helps us realize what doesn’t work, which in turn helps us identify what does or will. This is a good move and a productive change in direction. Be as honest with yourself as you are realistic with your goals. There’s no sense in pushing something that wasn’t meant to work. It’s a smarter use of resources to identify a path that will work for you and be rigorous with your pursuit of success in that field.
Let me give you an example:
I don’t play drums. I’ll never play drums. Not because I don’t like drums; I love them. I’m just not a drummer and I have no interest in learning.
That said, it would be a horrible use of my time to buy a drum set and start tinkering around with drums because quite frankly, no matter how much time I devote to it, I’ll never be that good.
I am, however, a guitar player. I love playing and it comes natural to me. That said, picking up a guitar and playing requires little to no effort and I learn things fast so it’s no surprise that I’ve had success playing live music and have received many compliments on my skills and abilities as a guitar player.
Here’s a quote from my book, Student to Founder:
“Focus on going from good to great at least, instead of going from bad to mediocre at most.”
Greenough, P. D. (2016). Student to Founder, 143.
The point I’m emphasizing here is to focus on developing your strengths as that’s where you’ll find the most robust use of your time. It’s much easier to find success with skills you already have than it is to tinker with things you don’t do well by default. Farm out your weaknesses; let someone else who’s naturally gifted with that skill manage the associated tasks.
I play guitar but I don’t play drums so I’ll find a drummer.
Don’t waste your time with things that don’t fit your skill set. Identify your natural abilities as quickly as possible. Once you know your natural abilities, you can apply them. When you apply them, you’re in a better position to see results. When you see results, it’ll produce confidence. When you’re producing results with confidence, that’s when you’ve really got something.
To watch Moneyball, click here.
See, I read the quote the other way. “Being told at 18” means that you never make it to the pros at all; you’re not good enough, and once you’re done with high school you’re done with baseball. “Being told at 40” means you were good enough, but at that age you just can’t do it anymore.
Not that this really changes your points about the utility of failure and about finding what you’re good at. No arguments there.
Thanks for the comment. Interesting take. I interpreted it the way I did because the scouts were sitting at the kitchen table with a sizable check ready to essentially buy Billy because they believed in his talent.