I was sitting in a meeting last week for work, halfheartedly taking notes as the clock ticked away the afternoon. One speaker finished, then the next, and statistics paired with goals to make the time move even slower. Then, our college athletic director got up to speak and changed the dynamic of the meeting. From the first time he opened his mouth you could tell he was excited about what we were working on. Although the subject of the meeting, future enrollment for the college, was a rather somber topic, he was exuding passion for the task at hand.
Although I will spare you the details, he did say something that stuck: “Sometimes the things you are going to be asked to do are things that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse. We all have things that we love to do, the parts of our job that make it rewarding. What is going to set you apart is your ability to embrace the challenge presented by the things you do not like to do. Those are the things that will make the difference between being average and exceeding our goals.”
I quickly scribbled down what he had said, making sure to carefully preserve his words. As I got home that night I was still thinking about both his passion for our college, as well as that quote. I began to think about the necessity of taking the things you would rather not do, embracing the challenge, and working to put them in your wheelhouse.
As a lifelong baseball fan, I am all too familiar with the wheelhouse. When a hitter feels comfortable at the plate, the wheelhouse is his favorite area of the strikezone for a pitcher to throw the ball. When that pitch is coming in to your wheelhouse, you know that you can do something spectacular with it. In the interest of self-loathing, here is a clip of Aaron Boone getting a pitch in his wheelhouse against my beloved Sox in the 2003 ALCS:
When all have things we do not want to do. Often times these are things which are required of us, and we have no choice but to eventually do them. As I student, I often struggled with procrastinating on assignments. Procrastination is a leading sign that you are avoiding things expected of you. All throughout high school and my freshman year of college I relied on my great test taking skills and strong writing abilities to coast through as many courses as possible. Eventually, my avoidance of working early to ensure that I could spend the requisite time to complete each assignement to the best of my ability began to show. My grades began to slip, I was constantly stressed about the things I had yet to complete each semester, and I knew that I needed a change.
In order to eliminate my tendency to put assignments off to the last moment I had to radically rethink my approach to the academic portion of my life. Several things helped me to move away from the negative habit of procrastination. First, I had to think about how much easier things would be to complete if I had a plan from the moment the work was assigned. Part of my preparation became revolved around establishing a timeline in a weekly planner for what parts of each assignment I would complete each day. By dividing the task into smaller portions, it became much less stressful and more manageable. As I have often reiterated on this site: “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
Secondly, I made sure to ask for help early. Even if it was a subject that I was strong in, it always benefited me to touch base with an instructor during their office hours to make sure that I was completely clear on what was expected. This practice forced me to look over all of the requirements early in the process, ensure that I had a meaningful direction prepared, and also showed the instructor that I was putting in the necessary work to complete the assigned work to the best of my ability.
Finally, I made sure to stay accountable. When I would start to fall behind on my prescribed plan and slip toward procrastination I would make sure to play catchup as soon as possible. Staying vigilant helped to erase the stress the accompanies not putting in the work expected of you throughout the process, and ensured that I would not skip any steps in forcing my work toward its ultimate potential. By the time I reached graduate school, and I had achieved a balanced approach based on pairing my strong writing skills, excellent test taking abilities, and a measured approach. I had taken my greatest deficiency as a student and put it in my wheelhouse, allowing me to go all Aaron Boone in the ALCS on most of my assignments.
You do yourself no favors by avoiding the changes you need to make to face the challenges that lurk on the periphery of your personal strike zone. If you can put in the work to improve the skills that you currently lack, you will not only improve in those areas, you will strengthen your overall abilities to get the job done.
Until next week, keep those engines revving and running.