February 26, 2018
I was thinking on the weekend about what I might write this week. I never quite know until the time comes what I’m going to post on here – there’s no editorial schedule – and I worry sometimes that I won’t have anything to say.
As I was thinking about it, I remembered one of my personal mantras: “Stand in there.”
I guess it’s time to share it.
I told this story publicly for the first time at a funeral in 2010. The funeral was for my best friend since I was ten years old, and the words were his. His name was Troy and he delivered them to me from behind the fence at a baseball diamond in Allenford, Ontario, where I was stepping into the batter’s box for the first time.
I was 16 or 17 at the time. I joined the men’s fastball league a lot of my friends were playing in after having not really played any kind of competitive baseball before. I was a reasonably good athlete, but definitely a newbie at the plate with some guy getting ready to windmill a ball at my head. I was nervous and I guess it showed in my stance.
“Stand in there, Johnny.”
Troy’s voice. I can still hear it.
He was a fabulous athlete with an effortless swing. The game came much more easily to him than it did to me. He was telling me to move closer to the plate. Stand in the hitting zone where I could make good contact with the ball (provided I could even see it). More than that he was telling me to be courageous. To trust myself. To take my swing.
I showed extraordinary patience for a rookie batter and took a walk on the at-bat. It was a small victory then, but the moment has turned into something much bigger and more profound for me. Baseball doesn’t matter, but those words and that voice have stayed with me ever since. Stand in there. It’s been a source of strength and encouragement for my entire adult life.
The first time I stood in front of a high school class as a trembling student teacher: “Stand in there.”
Job interviews: “Stand in there.”
Navigating a European car with a stick shift onto France's A1 Autoroute in rush hour traffic: "Stand in there."
Ascending the stage at shows big and small, guts wrenched with nerves. “Stand in there.”
Even speaking at his funeral: “Stand in there.”
In lieu of any wisdom this week, I’m giving you that mantra and that encouragement. When you’re facing something that scares you, stand in there. When you’re not sure if you can do it, stand in there. When you need to be brave, stand in there. When you want to take your shot, stand in there.
Go all the way. Give it your very best. Be bold. Feel the fear and do it anyway. You’re much more powerful than you think and you can handle it, whatever the outcome.
And if you need a boost when you step up, feel free to borrow my best friend’s advice and use it.
Stand in there.
You got this.