Have you ever heard of Jim Abbott? He was a pitcher during the years of my youth, first for the California Angels (that team that has nothing to do with LA, Oakland, San Diego, or San Francisco), and he pitched for a few other teams including the Yankees. This may not seem all that extraordinary until you learn that Abbott was born with only one fully developed hand. He learned how to perch his glove on his undeveloped hand while pitching and throwing so that he could field and throw players out in one fluid motion. Beyond all of that, Abbott also pitched a no-hitter, obstacles and all.
I saw a story on Abbott on Sunday Morning a few weeks ago, and the story focused on how Abbott is using his career to show kids with similar obstacles in their way that they can do whatever they want. The interviewer asked him if his hand had been on his mind when he pitched his no-hitter. Abbott said no. He was just a pitcher trying to accomplish what all pitchers want to accomplish. Of course, in the process of just trying to pitch his best, Abbott, through his actions, remains a shining example for kids who may feel hopeless or discouraged.
What does this have to do with blogging?
You might well be asking yourself what this all has to do with blogging. “Has Margie finally lost her mind? She’s just raving and ranting about Jim Abbott now.” Well, fear not, my furry feathery friends. I have a point.
In a parallel universe, Jim Abbott could have sat on the sidelines. He could have pointed out how sports were made only to accommodate “normal” people. He could have become bitter and angry and could have torn down pitchers who were born into an easy life. Of course, this would have made him a rather normal human being, but he’d have probably not become a known entity. He certainly would not have become part of the select group of people who, as professional pitchers, pitched a no-hitter.
I’ve noticed lately that a lot of bloggers seem to be taking this rather negative approach, however. There is an immense amount of focus on people who are offering bad advice, people who are doing this that or the other thing in a dumb way, bad this, bad that. And that’s fine. It’s part of the human condition to critique others, especially in a tight, competitive space like the online world. But what does this accomplish? It creates strife. It creates conflict. More than anything, it paints a negative portrait of just one person – the blogger.
My humble recommendation is that we in the online world take the Jim Abbott approach. Instead of pointing the finger at everything that is piled against us or everything that is wrong in the online world, perhaps we could focus more on the right way to do things. Perhaps through our actions we could guide people to where we feel they could or should go and emphasize that more than on the people who we feel are doing it wrong. Perhaps just by doing what we feel is best, we could serve as an example to the people who follow us about in this space.
Focusing less on the external
The other lesson that bloggers could learn from Jim Abbott is that we don’t need to worry as much about what others think about us and what we’re doing. This is something I’m certainly guilty of. Bloggers may wonder if people will like their voice. Will people think my advice is good or bad? Will I ever be one of the “cool kids” online? Jim Abbott could have worried about what people would think as he played first football and then baseball. He could have worried that people would make fun of his style, make fun of his hand, or stand in his way. But Abbott didn’t get hung up about any of that. He just did his own unique thing, unparalleled as it was in the world of professional sports. And he excelled.
Surely there’s a lesson there.
We all need to worry less about how we are perceived in this space. I fear we are all shrinking our potential impact by becoming too self-involved. What attracts me to social media is the capacity to share with others. If I want to talk to myself I can do that whenever I want (and maybe I do). Out here, it’s the amazing ability to share ideas and learn things. I really believe that, even still.
So what can we bloggers learn from Jim Abbott? Be your own self. Do your own thing. Instead of sitting and complaining about how much things suck and what d-bag x is doing now, shine your own light out there and make things better through your own actions. It’s an interesting concept, right?
Who wants to try it?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/baseball-backs/4970287139/ via Creative Commons