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Beating the Odds

Einstein’s Lesson for Everyone

Today marks 106 years since Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity.

It reminds me, believe it or not, of a recent ESPN.com article on San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson.

What possible connection could there be between the man who changed physics and a man who throws baseballs for a living? Simple. Neither one was well-rounded.

We never hear of Einstein’s abilities in geography or history or other subjects. Being well-rounded wasn’t the way he lived. Instead, he became fascinated by one thing: the forces of the universe. A pocket compass made him wonder what was moving the needle. He thought about what it would be like to ride on a beam of light.

Like Einstein, Wilson was interested in one thing, and that thing was baseball. As author Elizabeth Merrill says in the article, Wilson told his counselors at LSU, “Put me in classes that I can give no effort towards and I’m going to focus on baseball.”

Quite an interesting thing to say to a college official. But it made perfect sense to Wilson.

“You can’t be a pro unless you dive in,” the article quotes him. “You can’t just put one foot in and say, ‘Oh, well let’s just test this out.’ You’ve got to dive in and you’ve got to swim around in your dreams. You have to go for it.”

Does this mean that athletes should stop caring in the classroom? No way. Student-athletes should pursue excellence in both venues. Besides, the odds are strongly against any young athlete who dreams of making the pros.

The lesson is this: Don’t worry about trying to be good at everything. No one can do that.  Forget about being well-rounded. Instead, develop sharp edges.

Both Einstein and Wilson went for it. Both won big.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


One comment for “Einstein’s Lesson for Everyone”

  1. Good point, Mike. (Though the parent in me doesn’t want kids to adopt Brian Wilson’s collegiate strategy).

    Posted by Lee | April 11, 2011, 8:55 am

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