Our mental clutter
As we settled into the house we’d rented for the 4th of July weekend, we decided to check out the ‘games closet’. I noticed the familiar blue square box with neat cursive writing and knew it to be Trivial Pursuit without even being close enough to read it. Just seeing it reminded me of all of the useless trivia I had sitting in my head. Case in point – I can still tell you the name of each of the Brady Bunch actors (yes, even Alice B. Smith). How I’d love to purge the clutter in my head so I can remember my daughters’ friends’ names more easily. Surely, that will serve me in better stead over time.
Visualizing my mental clutter reminded me of a leadership – focused session I attended some time ago. It was a 1 ½ day event that included something that seems anathema when you’re asking people to pay to attend: 2 hours of unstructured quiet time to yourself. This wasn’t an exceedingly long bio break or lunch break, this was actually part of the class. The point of this was to ‘hold space’ in an effort to let the clutter of everyday commitments and deadlines settle so that we could spend time focusing on the present and give the mental dots a chance to connect. To be able to focus on the thoughts, questions, ideas that often flash by us in our busy day to day lives. Even this weekend’s Wall Street Journal got into the mix addressing the value of meditation with a similar purpose.
A Lesson from Baseball
It was this experience, remembering the value of time spent quietly instead of powering through emails or industry reports, that intrigued me when learning about Chris Sale. Baseball fans will recognize the name as a great Red Sox pitcher. He started the season as the 6th best pitcher in the MLB. Halfway through, he’s now the 3rd best. If you’re a fan of the game (or went to see Moneyball just to watch Brad Pitt) you’ll know all too well how much data is integral to the game. So you’d assume that Chris consumes these mounds of data to prepare for the hitters he’s facing. You’d be wrong.
This great read speaks to his unusual approach. “He doesn’t look at scouting reports on the hitters he will face and virtually never uses video, a staple for players across the sport. .. In this age of information, where pitchers have access to mountains of data on every hitter at their fingertips, Sale goes out of his way to avoid it all.” And he pairs that with a fair bit of (clearly well placed) confidence in his own abilities. According to his coach, “His basic thought is, ‘Whatever I throw, you’re not going to hit it.’”
Chris’ results speaks to the power of keeping a clear mind. As leaders, it also speaks to valuing the input of those closest to a topic when making decisions. Like anything, an approach like this could be taken too far. The key is to find the right balance between informing oneself and information overload. But I for one am giving this mind de-cluttering a try. I’m looking forward to the day I can no longer recall Marcia McCormick and Eve Plumb as the Brady’s Marcia & Jan.