The LSU Tigers won a national baseball championship this weekend by beating the Florida Gators 18-4 on Monday in game three of the College World Series. And while that’s not in itself as big a deal as it might be had another team won – LSU has won six previous championships – this seventh title offers a business lesson we simply cannot ignore.
And the lesson is that much like LSU’s baseball team, you can get crushed one day and win the championship the next. Of course, such a reversal of fortune doesn’t happen by chance or luck. You have to be in the right place in your mind to make this kind of magic happen. Above all, you cannot allow yesterday’s loss, no matter how dramatic or humiliating, bleed into today’s game.
Just consider this year’s College World Series. Game one of the best-of-three series was just what you’d expect from two top teams. In a game that lasted 11 innings, the Tigers starter Ty Floyd made history by throwing 17 strikeouts to tie the all-time CWS strikeout record. Despite this historic performance, LSU trailed 3-2 until two homers, one in the eighth inning and the other in the eleventh, secured the win. A preseason favorite to win it all, LSU needed just one more win to bring home the trophy to baseball-crazy Baton Rouge.
However, in game two, the Tigers fell apart as spectacularly as any team possibly could and it was they who wound up on the wrong side of college baseball history as the Florida Gators proceeded to score more runs than have ever been scored in a series game – that’s 24 runs to be exact – en route to beating LSU 24-4. This was an epic team-wide collapse in which the Tigers stranded 13 runners, committed five errors and allowed eight unearned runs.
It appeared for all the world that every ounce of momentum had been sucked from LSU and injected into Florida. But that, as the saying goes, is why you actually play the game. Momentum can be a fickle ally: one day your friend, the next your foe. In the championship deciding game three, LSU came out and behaved as though the series were just getting started. If LSU starter Thatcher Hurd experienced any nerves after allowing a lead-off hit and two-run homer early, he quickly settled down and set the tone for the game by throwing six hitless innings and striking out or inducing 10 fly-ball outs before being relieved with a 10-2 lead.
The Tigers’ bats were on fire, and no fewer than six Tigers drove in runs, while defensively, the Tigers’ gloves, so porous and mistake prone only hours earlier in game two, seemed to have grown to be the size of trawling nets beneath all those flyouts.
Tigers star, Dylan Crews, offered one answer. “We got punched in the mouth yesterday,” he said after the game. “That’s the beauty of baseball. You wake up in the morning and do it all over again. We woke up today and you could see on everybody’s faces that we were ready to go. Nobody in the country was going to beat us today.”
Yes, and the beauty of baseball is also the beauty of business because, like baseball, it involves a healthy dose of grinding. Professional baseball players play 162 games during the regular season. College baseball is shorter, with 56 games in the regular season, but that’s 44 more than college football and roughly 24 games more than basketball. But even 56 games plus a postseason adds up to far fewer days than most of us have to be ready to show up and put in our best effort at work, right?
The moral of this little numbers game is that you can’t allow yesterday’s performance to prevent you from being successful today. When we’re in the grind, we have to avoid the all too human tendency to go on autopilot, which will lead either to complacency while experiencing success or, when things go sideways to prematurely throw in the towel.
Whether you have just lost an important client, prospect or promotion or let your opponent score 24 runs and turn you into an historical footnote, resiliency is the real name of the game. Great individual competitors and great teams practice resiliency. They practice resiliency by learning to turn the page after every training session, every at bat, every game, every presentation, and every project.
Go for the win, but embrace the privilege of being able to play the game, win or lose, to the fullest of your potential. And let the runs fall where they may.
And congratulations, you resilient LSU Tigers!
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