Striking Out: Work, Women & Baseball

My wife has stopped reading the Saturday paper. She got this idea from Dr. Andrew Weil, who suggests taking a regular break from the drumbeat of bad news.

It’s good, sometimes, to avoid thinking about things you can’t control. My wife is very capable, but she can’t do a thing about the stock market, the housing market, the banking industry, the automotive industry, or consumer confidence.

Well, maybe consumer confidence. If I take something out of the fridge that appears to be food, and my wife comments, “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you,” my confidence sinks.

But there’s another kind of avoidance that’s not so smart. That’s when you need to act, but don’t.

Suppose you need to make 20 cold calls to potential clients, or potential employers. “What’s the use?” you tell yourself. “This economy’s so bad, it’s futile.”

Let’s face it: That’s just an excuse for doing nothing. Short-term, you’ve avoided the anxiety that comes with new or difficult tasks. You may even feel better. But long-term, it’s a different story.

Renowned psychologist Albert Ellis was shy around women as a young adult. So he gave himself an assignment: for 30 days, he went to a park bench and struck up a conversation with as many women as possible. Eventually, he talked with over 100 women.

He got one date – but also something else: the confidence that comes from action.

Tip #1: What are you avoiding? “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” said Babe Ruth. He struck out 1,330 times.

Tip #2: On the other hand, “Do let the fear of keeling over and dying get in your way,” as my wife might warn about leftover food that's more than, oh, 30-40 days old, and that would require a crackerjack team of microbiologists to identify.

Sometimes, avoidance makes sense.


Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (, Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

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