A Pitcher, a Golfer, and a Baby Bird
Whenever I hear a really good analogy, something in my brain gets triggered, and I want to find ways to remember it, perfect it, and share it.
When people ask me how I come up with blog ideas every week (for over 250 weeks now, and counting) I usually note that the difficult part isn’t in having enough ideas, it’s having too many.
So when I hear the same analogy coming from two completely different areas, I take notice, and I try to find ways to combine them into one blog.
Last week I was watching a Cubs game on TV, and Jake Arrieta was on the mound. The colour commentator was John Smoltz, a former pitcher himself, and a Hall of Famer too.
He was talking about issues Arrieta had been having with control, and Smoltz mentioned that he was working on finding the right grip on the ball in his hand as he threw his pitches.
“You’ve got to think of the baseball as if it’s a baby bird”, he said (I’m paraphrasing here) “You don’t want it to fly away, but you don’t want to squash it either”.
This sounded very familiar to me.
Years ago, when I still played golf (or rather “tried” to play golf) I was having issues with a really bad slice.
A slice is when you aim the ball at the green, and you hit it and for the first second that you watch it, you’re really happy, but then the ball just decides to take a right turn, often into the woods.
I don’t recall exactly where the advice I heard came from, but I absolutely remember reading or hearing the story about the bird.
“Think of the golf club like a baby bird, you don’t want it to fly away, but you don’t want to squash it to death either”.
Business Family > Family Business
So what the heck does all of this baby bird stuff have to do with family business? I’m glad you asked.
When people think about family business, they usually think about the business part of it. In the term “family business”, the word “business” is the noun.
My preference is to talk about the “business family”, where the word “family” is the noun.
I think I’ve been pretty consistent with this, as even the secondary title of my 2014 book, SHIFT your Family Business, is “Stop working on your Family Business, Start working on your Business Family”.
When I meet with members of a business family, it usually doesn’t take very long for issues to come up that have a lot more to do with “parenting” than they do with “business”.
And it’s the parenting part that brings us back to the baby bird analogy. As a parent myself, I too have struggled with the temptation to grip the bird too hard.
As a former child, I can tell you that at times I felt like I was a little too “directed” in my life. Being “directed” is a close cousin of being “squashed”.
If you love someone…
It saddens me when I meet people in their 40’s or 50’s who work in their family business, and it becomes clear after a short time with them that they’re not really there because they want to be.
If they could hit the “rewind button”, they would have made different choices. Unfortunately, there is no “rewind button”.
These issues almost always stem from the baby bird being gripped too tightly.
Instead of just throwing more balls than strikes, or too many lost golf balls, the consequences are much worse.
Go Fly Now
When the baby bird is held in your hands for too long, it will never learn to fly on it’s own.
Even worse, when the time comes that the bird HAS TO fly, and it can’t, because it never got the opportunity to learn to fly on it’s own, parents will often criticize them for not having what it takes.
Too Loose > Too Tight
While you may think that it’s simply a matter of finding the right balance between gripping too loosely and gripping too tightly, that may be true for the golfer and the pitcher.
For the parent, gripping too tightly causes far more problems.