“Feel the breeze!” the shortstop shouted at me.
Much as I wanted to hit her at that moment–she wasn’t wrong. I didn’t even come close to connecting with the pitch. But if I had, it would have sailed to the moon. I nearly did a 360 after my missed swing. That’s how badly I wanted to rip the cover off the ball.
The game was on the line. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. We were down by two– with two runners on base. There were two outs and I was at bat, facing a full count. One more swing like that and the game was over.
I stepped out of the box and collected myself. Instinctively, I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself. I didn’t need to hit a home run. I just needed to hit the softball.
I stepped back into the batter’s box and waited for my pitch. It was a little high. It was probably ball four, but I liked it and I wasn’t batting clean-up for nothing. I killed that ball. It didn’t land on the moon, but it nearly cleared the left field wall. The outfielder mistimed her jump and bobbled the ball. It was an inside the park home run! We won!
It was over a decade before I thought about that at bat again. I was watching my TV news live shots and I found them lacking. They were good, but they weren’t great. They weren’t memorable. I wasn’t loose. I wasn’t charismatic. I didn’t look comfortable. In short, I was trying too hard.
It took me awhile but I realized what my problem was: I was putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect. I thought I needed a perfect live shot to put on my resume tape (“escape tape”) to get a better job in a bigger market. What I needed to do was relax.
The next time I went live on breaking news I decided to roll with the punches. I talked about what was happening around me. I walked and talked. I never once thought about whether this would be perfect for my resume tape. I just did my job to the best of my ability, and I was great! I watched the tape back the next day and I thought, I’m back!
Most of us get caught up in being perfect, especially if we are doing something that is new to us. It’s not easy to give speeches when you’re terrified of public speaking. It’s hard to give good, concise answers when a reporter is asking you questions if you’ve never been interviewed before. It’s also tough to look and sound perfect every time you go live when you’re working 12-hour days in TV news.
Cut yourself a break. Not every word you say will be enunciated perfectly. You won’t always project great charisma and energy, especially at the end of a long day. And sometimes you’ll make a mistake. It happens. No one is perfect all of the time, and those that are, often aren’t worth remembering.
In my opinion, greatness comes in those moments when you let go, trusting that your best instincts will win out.