The rule in writing is to “write what you know.” Consequently, I don’t write about sports. In fact, it’s rare that I even discuss sports without making a major faux pas.
For example, many years ago I was talking to my sister just before one of her son’s soccer games. I’d recently picked up some jargon—I thought—so I asked her to put my nephew on the phone.
Then there was the time a student was visiting us after she accepted admission to University of Alabama. She and my husband, Jay, were discussing how she would get tickets to football games and which ones she would attend. “Oh,” I said, “Does Alabama have a good football team?”
But the best Aileen-does-not-get-sports comment was when Jay and I were first dating back in the 1980s We were in college and were visiting his parents. As often is the case in the Spring of the year in the Lawrimore house, a baseball game was on TV. Either Jay or his dad, a former minor league player who played catcher for the University of South Carolina back in the day, said something about the shortstop.
“Who is the shortstop,” I asked, mainly to be polite. Jay answered without pause, “He’s the shortest guy on the team. That’s why he’s called the shortstop.” Whereupon I launched into an argument about the inequity of it. “What about the tall player who always wanted to play that position but couldn’t just because of his height! He might be the best shortstop ever, but you’ll never know because of that stupid rule. That’s completely unfair!”
Breaking the Writing Rule
So obviously: sports? Not my specialty. However, Jay told me about the Buffalo Bills and their winning season, so I’m breaking the rule, just this once.
As I understand it, the Bills have had their share of setbacks. Back in the 90s, they lost four Super Bowls in a row. Subsequently, they spent years—a decade and a half–without making it to the playoffs (which is bad). Then, things started turning around and now the Bills are back in the playoffs. They just won their first game against their archrival the New England Patriots by a 30-point margin (which is good).
The Bills story pairs nicely with the content of a book I’m reading called Atomic Habits by James Clear. In it, Clear says that we underestimate the value of hidden effort—like all those years the Bills missed the playoffs. Clear says that in fact, it takes years to become an overnight success. By that, he means little by little, often imperceptibly, we make progress, if we have good systems in place. You know: Go to practice. Don’t give up. Stay in shape. Eat foods that fuel your body. Then, when the mastery appears, it looks like magic; in reality, it’s just the result of a well-designed routine. All those years the Bills remained in the shadow of the limelight, they were making invisible progress bit by bit. And because they stayed the course, they are now making another run for the Super Bowl.
Bit by Bit
Many of us are well into breaking our New Years’ Resolutions by now. What if we chose to set those intentions aside and focus instead on doing just one right thing, trusting the process of repetition. James Clear says to consider this: if you set the goal, but don’t form habits to support it, will you achieve your objective? Conversely, if you do not set a goal, but you do follow a system designed for success, what will the end result be?
Bottom line? There’s no such thing as an (effective) “Get rich/healthy/thin/strong/smart/independent/you-name-it Quick” scheme. That’s a lie. The only way to achieve permanent change? Tiny adjustments–hardly even noticeable–done repeatedly over time. And eventually, we too, can score that basket. Make the homerun? Beat the touchdown? You get the point. (Point. Get it? And here I thought I couldn’t write about sports!)