The 1998 baseball season was the most exciting season that I can remember. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire went head-to-head in a home run race that ended with them both breaking Roger Maris’ 37-year old single-season record of 61 homers. Sosa hit 64 home runs and McGuire bested that with 70.
Most of us are familiar with the scandals of performance-enhancing drugs by both of them, a corked bat by Sosa and stonewalling in congressional hearings by McGuire that have tainted both of their 1998 achievements. It was a big disappointment for baseball fans like me.
Despite the cheating and fall from grace of these would-be heroes, there is one moment from that season that sticks in my mind. Late in the season, Mark McGuire came up to bat with the bases loaded. He had that focused look on his face that he always had at the plate. He swung his trademark swing and knocked the ball out of the park for a grand slam. He trotted the base paths, “touched ‘em all”, went back to the dugout and sat down.
One of his teammates described this scene and said that after he sat on the bench and stared into space for a minute or so, McGuire turned to him and asked, “Was there anyone on base?”
I thought, dude, you just hit a grand salami and didn’t even know if there was anyone on base?
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Now, I don’t mean to belittle the fact that McGuire and Sosa were cheaters. As a coach for my son’s baseball team, it goes against everything I stand for and want the boys to learn. But I also can’t ignore the focus that McGuire held at the plate that day. The illegal drugs gave him an unfair advantage in strength, but he provided the focus.
Focus as a consulting skill
When I serve my clients on consulting projects, I use that type of focus as my inspiration. Maybe not to the point that I don’t know anything else that’s going on; but at least to the point that I can block out all the noise and distractions and be able to concentrate on their issues.
It’s a great day for me when I look at the clock in disbelief that it’s already 5:00 PM. It’s a sign that I was focused enough to be absorbed in my work and oblivious to time.
This can be carried too far. If one goes to the degree that McGuire did, they could look at the clock and realize it’s midnight. They missed dinner with the kids, maybe a daughter’s soccer game.
There has to be a balance or you may end up with nothing else to focus on.
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As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.