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How to Win

The Worst Advice People Get

If Rogers Hornsby were alive today, he would be celebrating the start of spring training.

Hornsby, a Hall of Famer and owner of the second-highest batting average in big-league history behind Ty Cobb, would be right there in Florida and Arizona, even though, technically, only pitchers and catchers must be there this early.

At this time of year, when the Super Bowl is over and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue comes out, Hornsby wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

To some people, that doesn’t sound like good tim- management. No one should waste all that time, right? Well, Hornsby didn’t care about much except baseball.

He didn’t read much, go to the movies, or enjoy a favorite pastime of baseball players, playing golf.

“I don’t want to play golf,” he said. “When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it.”

That brings us to the worst advice people ever get: become well-rounded. Students hear it when it comes time to prepare for college. You can decide how much sense that makes. Think about what makes goes into being an expert.

They usually focus on one thing. Einstein wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. Bill James has spent his life wondering how to measure the value of a baseball player. Experts are single-minded. In fact, try to name a single person who achieved greatness by being well-rounded.

Better advice would be: Forget being well-rounded. Develop sharp edges. Find a niche that intrigues you and learn more about it than anyone else in the world. You won’t be well-rounded, but you won’t need to be.

“I don’t like to sound egotistical,” said Hornsby, “but every time I stepped up to the plate with a bat in my hands, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the pitcher.”

Hornsby thought of little else.

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