I have a life hack I call “The Baseball Team Theory of Life,” recently proven in a way that makes my heart sing.
My theory is based on recognition of mutual need—none of us can successfully traverse this life without help—just like no baseball team wins the World Series without each member contributing skills to the others. Be willing to give and receive, erring on the side of giving.
I was reminded lately that it’s crucial to have able people on your team who’ll step to the plate when called. It could be to nurture, like compassionate listening or a gentle correction when our self-image is slipping. One sentence we can’t hear enough: You can do this.
Sometimes a specialist —a pinch hitter—is required, like the former film entertainment company CEO who fact-checked my book. Or a catcher like an editor friend who looked at my early pages and gave me advice I sometimes didn’t want to hear.
Luckily, I am attracted to talented people. I love the stimulation of hanging with friends who raise my game. Folks with unfamiliar experiences who see the world a little differently than me. I’m addicted to learning. I crave that awe-moment when my chest expands with a new insight, and my horizons shift. (Bonus tip: a sign of maturity is recognizing such cliches are true.)
Recently, I was flummoxed over the all-important cover for my debut novel in my series Trinity of Bitches. Despite many revisions with the designer, it wasn’t working. A bad cover is death to a book. Most books are bought online nowadays, but even in bookstores, you’ve got just a few seconds to grab the reader.
Then I had a light bulb moment: get potential readers to weigh in. I created a private Facebook Focus Group and invited women friends who are avid readers and love animals. I asked them to invite their friends age 35-105 from across the country and overseas. Soon I had 146 team members—the greatest baseball team ever!
I asked for a week’s commitment. Take a 15-question poll each day to give feedback on a different cover. I was looking for gut reactions to images, tag lines, fonts, colors, etc. so they didn’t have the book jacket description to guide them. I also got feedback on my series title—Trinity of Bitches—because it could be considered offensive if you don’t know the bitches are dogs. Finally, I gave them the book jacket copy and asked them to comment. Then, armed with a better understanding of my book’s content, they mused on the suitability of the cover to match my story. And if the cover compelled them to buy the book.
In return, I offered an e-gift bag of goodies and a raffle for ten pre-release copies of my novel. The focus group didn’t know what was in the goodie bag, but it included art from a talented friend because art renews and stimulates. As well as a delicious recipe for Thai Pumpkin soup from a friend who’s writing a memoir cookbook, and a moving chapter from another friend’s recently released novel. (Note the back benchers here feeding my team.) Plus other treats.
The smart feedback and engagement were amazing. I got new ideas, links to articles, color charts, websites, and encouragement I was not expecting. I was so moved by the support that I found myself hugging dozens of people at church as surrogates for the love and #gratitude I felt toward the focus group. Not everyone participated, of course, but the critical mass gave me a crowd-sourced view that was invaluable. (Thus proving the corollary to my theory: Most people will help you a little, some will help A LOT!)
So, see. I was right. We need each other to get by in this world. The kindness we exchanged in my focus group will lead to even greater kindnesses. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that a single act of kindness can lead to dozens more, according to a study conducted by political scientist James Fowler of the University of California and medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University.
Today, a friend asked me for help getting unstuck on an important project, and you know I’m going to do all I can. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”