critical thinking


The dad was a football man, former college player turned member of a top-rated HS officiating crew, but at an early age his son initially took to the sport of baseball instead.  Not possessing knowledge of the sport near that of football, he sought ways to learn the ins-and-outs as quickly as possible so he could teach his son. Reaching out to colleagues and friends, the dad discovered a renowned 3-day coach’s clinic about an hour from home. The best in game, top college and MLB coaches staffed intimate seminars for groups of ~40 discussing everything from mental preparedness and proper warmups to situational hitting and pitching strategies. For several years the father took time off from his busy corporate schedule and attended the clinic with his son, each year met with the same excitement and anticipation. They achieved their goal of continuing to learn about baseball, and more importantly, strengthened their father-son relationship and expanded the son’s perspective on the world around him.

Lesson 1: Never stop learning (continuous improvement). There’s always more to learn. One is seldom the smartest person in the room and those who think they are often aren’t. Surround oneself with the best possible talent and together everyone will be more successful.

The main ballroom was standing room only, packed wall-to-wall with 200 H.S. coaches from around the country. The father and son duo had skipped an earlier seminar to spend time testing the latest gear from vendors – but primarily so they could score 3rd row seats for the most anticipated presentation of the event. The sound of tobacco and bubble gum chewing men frantically clicking their pens and sharing exaggerated stories of victories and standout players of times past while waiting for the session to start was unforgettable. Then without notice a hush fell across the mildly rambunctious crowd and the discussion on the philosophy of coaching baseball began…

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He strode onto the stage with uncanny charisma, authority and confidence. Simply put, when it came to college baseball he was legitimately THE MAN. Inventor of LSU’s renowned homerun power hitting offense dubbed Gorilla Ball and, more impressively, winner of 5 NCAA championships along with 11 NCAA World Series appearances, the guru himself Skip Bertman stood before the crowd. In the previous season his LSU Tigers were a favorite to take the national title for a second consecutive year but were eliminated early in the post season shocking the baseball world. He spoke of how his staff employed all the usual tactics after a devastating loss: working harder in the offseason, “recommitting oneself” to the game, reducing distractions and so on. Everything good coaches do in any sport.

But then one day during an off-season practice suddenly it all became clear to him. An assistant coach hit a ground ball to their star infielder who scooped it up and threw it over to first base, routine play like always. Skip muttered to his assistant, “That was pretty good.” What was immediately clear was that he had allowed his staff and all-star cast of players to accept “pretty good” as their normal way of working. They’d become complacent and simply figured that “pretty good” from the best players in the country would be good enough to win a championship. The “pretty good” mentality stealthily crept its way into the program, Skip was honestly upset about it and he took full responsibility. The hall of fame coach’s closing remarks left the crowd silent and were the buzz of the remainder of the conference: “If you learn anything during this seminar, it should be that sometimes pretty good is in fact good enough. But, pretty good isn’t great. Everyone else works hard. Everyone else has good players. So to be a champion, it often takes being something great. Don’t let ‘pretty good’ infest you and your teams.”

Lesson 2: Humility. As the crowd exited, the father’s words to his young son were as unforgettable as the coach’s. “You see that man? He’s the best at what he does in the entire country. He just stood up here in front of all these people and admitted he made a mistake. No one’s ever too good to admit they screwed up. What’s important is you learn from it and don’t make the same mistake twice.”


Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to