Baseball Life

3 Steps to Start Celebrating the Success of Others

Celebrating the Success of Others.jpg

Minor League Baseball can breed this awkward team dynamic where everyone's individual pursuit of the Big Leagues secretly but not-so-secretly trumps the overall performance of the team.

Sadly (but truthfully), this can cause players to struggle with the success of their own teammates (especially those who play the same position). And so, even though your teammate's success will help the overall performance of the team, it can also be seen as a potential threat to your individual pursuit of being the next guy who gets called up to the Big Leagues.

But honestly, who likes being the guy who struggles with the success of his peers?

Not only is this incredibly selfish; it is also self-defeating.

Such a scenario puts you at the mercy of conditions out of your control and places more pressure on your own personal performance. You end up cultivating an environment in your soul that harbors bitterness, resentment, insecurity and all sorts of jealousy. And then once this happens, gossip and pity-parties become your desperate method for regaining some control over the situation.

Nobody wants to become the former professional player who finds ways to talk about how he should have been in the Big Leagues instead of that other guy who’s still playing.

If this is where you’re heading or where you already find yourself, there is hope, but it will require a sincere desire and a definitive decision to change.

If you’re willing to change, the following three principles can get you out of a bitterness funk and help put you on the path to celebrating the success of others.

 

1. Admit Your Struggle to Someone You Trust

Yes, this is about as basic as it gets, but this is necessary for any change to take place. There is a reason Alcoholics Anonymous begins their recovery program with this same principle. Admitting that you have a problem weakens that problem’s control over you. It takes the monster off your back and places him right out in front of you where you can see him and all his ugly features. The people around you are no longer your enemy; only this monster.

Find someone to share your secrets with and someone who doesn’t add fuel to your fire. Find someone willing and able to keep you accountable to change. This can be a mentor, counselor, pastor, family member or even just a close friend.   

Admit that you struggle with the success of others. Admit your bitterness, resentment, insecurity and jealousy. Acknowledge the pity-party that you are still throwing for yourself, and that gossip has become your coping mechanism.

There is nothing else to accomplish here except unpacking the backpack of bitterness that you’ve been carrying around and then spreading all of its contents out on the table in front of you. The strength to change starts with sucking it up and being real about your weaknesses with someone you can trust.  

 

2. Learn to Love Even If You Don’t Feel Like It

Self-centeredness is what keeps bitterness towards others alive. The best way to cut the supply line of bitterness is to think less about yourself by spending more time looking for ways to love others. 

We will never become selfless by simply trying not to be selfish. It is proven science that our brains respond more effectively to positive goals than negative goals. Therefore, we must focus on something we want to do instead of dwelling on the thing that we are trying not to do.       

And so the best way to overcome the habits of jealousy, resentment and gossip is to begin the new habit of looking for ways to love others even if you don’t feel like it. Let random acts of kindness become your new hobby and part of your daily routine.  

Avoid the trap of assuming you must feel love for someone before you can show love to them. Love is an action first. The feelings may or may not follow. 

C.S. Lewis puts it this way: 

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

This can be a turning point in our struggle because it gives us a new goal that is entirely in our hands and not dictated by our circumstances or the performance of others. Many of us need to get over ourselves and give more of ourselves to others.  

One of life’s greatest secrets is the way that a life of self-denial in service to others mysteriously leads to more self-fulfillment than the other kinds of success that we spend so much time pursuing.

 

3. Empower; Not Power

Who doesn’t want to make it to the pinnacle of their profession and experience the rush of being a superstar and the wealth and luxury that come with it? 

I’m not delusional. Becoming a Major League ballplayer can bring all sorts of joy and excitement for those who have put so much time and hard work in the pursuit of their dream. And we should all strive to be excellent at what we do. But if we want freedom from having to have these things in order to be happy, we need to take our new habit of loving others to the next level. 

Instead of having to be the guy with more power and popularity than others, what if we were a guy who empowers others instead? What if we became the guy who's greatest value to the team cannot be quantified on a stat sheet?

True leadership isn't a matter of being better than everybody else but rather being someone who makes everybody else better. If you really want to cut bitterness off at the roots then embrace being the guy who makes everyone around you better instead of the guy who has to be better than everyone around you.

And so, if you ever find yourself fighting off the bitterness monster that seems to thrive in highly competitive professions, be real about your bitterness, begin a new habit of doing random acts of kindness for others and become the guy who makes your environment and everyone around you better. 

We should all be striving to succeed at what we do, but along the way we should be secure enough to celebrate the success of others too.

 

The Ride of Professional Baseball

The Ride.jpg

The game of baseball is a temporary train ride where the conductor orders most of the passengers off the train before they reach their desired destination. 

I spent over twenty years of my life as a passenger on this train, but a few weeks ago, it became apparent to me that it was time to get off. Baseball has been the air that I breathe, and the Major Leagues was always the desired destination. But just this past spring, after one last outing on Field 3 at the Orioles complex in Sarasota, FL., my life as an active player came to an end. 

Over the last couple weeks, I have been reflecting upon my professional career and the long road that has led up to this turning point in my life. And it has been during this time that I have perhaps stumbled upon an invaluable secret that so many players seem to miss along the way.

The game’s most valuable gift to you is found in the ride; not the destination.

The Ride

So many of us are so frustrated with where the game told us to "Get off" that we never take the time to focus on what the game gave us along the way. 

Although it was not a smooth ride, I am grateful for what the game of baseball has graciously given me. The game has taken me around the world — literally! I have forged lifelong friendships with people from all different cultures, religions and countries throughout the world. 

I have been given the humble gift of competing and playing the game that I love in front of thousands of people on the weekends but also the humor of playing in front of less than a hundred people during the week — my fellow minor leaguers know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing quite like the irony of playing a team called the Intimidators in front of a not-so-intimidating crowd of twelve people in Kannapolis, NC. (true story).

Baseball has also given me the gift of Unlimited Potential (unsolicited) All jokes aside, I could never write an honest reflection of what baseball has given me without mentioning the great men who have been so intimately involved in shepherding me and shaping me. These men who know my story best are well aware of the trials and setbacks that I suffered during my playing career. However, these trials became the very thing that God used to soften my heart and open my eyes to the wonders of how He works. I have come to a place in life where I can honestly rejoice in my suffering. 

 

Matt Taylor Post 2.jpg

 

A New Destination

I gave my life to Christ during the 2014 season shortly after my first back operation. That definitive decision to lay down my identity as a professional baseball player and to embrace my identity as a new man in Jesus Christ changed my purpose in life forever. 

The desired destination in the game was no longer my greatest desire in life.

Life surrendered to Christ as Lord created a foundation and a future far bigger than any prior dream to reach the Major Leagues. No longer was my “Why?” focused on building Matt Taylor’s Kingdom; instead my “Why?” became a focus on what God wanted to do with my life. I began to seek relationships with my teammates and peers in a manner like I had never done before. The field, clubhouse, training room and the road became practical places to radically love, serve, encourage and believe in others.

 

What the Trials have Taught Me

We will all go through various trials in life, and it is naïve for us to ever assume otherwise. One of the greatest pieces of advice that I have ever received on enduring the trials that will come was from Levi Lusko’s book titled, Through the Eyes of a Lion. In the book, he gives some eye-opening details into the great trial of losing his young daughter, and it was this quote that has spoken to me so loud and clear:

“It is also crucial that you don’t wait for a crisis before you get these sorts of rhythms in place. You must train for the trial you’re not yet in. The worst time to try to get ready for a marathon is when you are running one. We made the decision as a family to plant ourselves in the house of the Lord before the bottom dropped out, and as a result, we had the root systems in place when we needed them the most.”

The most important thing that the ride in this game has taught me is learning to ask the question, 

“On what is my foundation is built? What is my identity rooted in? And is my foundation and identity found in something that can be taken away in just ONE moment or ONE pitch?” 

 

Matt Taylor Post.jpg

 

I have written this with love for everyone who reads it. At some point along the way, the proverbial trails of life will ultimately come upon all of us. At some point in life we will arrive at a turning point. Are we building our foundation on the ever-present God who created heaven and earth and moves the mountains or are we putting all of our hope in something that can be stripped away at any second? 

For most of my life my foundation has been rooted in a game which could be removed from me at any point. My faith and hope has been placed in something that was neither eternal nor secure. However, it was the ride in the game that helped reveal that to me. 

Thank you baseball for helping me discover a passion and a radical love like no other, but more importantly thank you Jesus Christ for revealing to me that you are the stable foundation to build my identity upon. Life with you is eternal and secure. You are the cornerstone of my life, and I am forever grateful that God’s brilliant wisdom and powerful sovereignty used the most beautiful game in the world to change my heart and my future.

 

Matt Taylor.jpg
Matt Taylor Signature.jpg

Follow on Twitter: @MaTaylor24