Of Good "Stuff" and Slumps

 If you are a baseball fan, you are no doubt watching more games than usual as the playoffs are in full swing and the World Series will start soon. Even if you are not a baseball fan, please keep reading because this week's column is about so much more than just baseball.
     As with any pastime, baseball has a vocabulary that is all its own. If you watch a game you are likely to hear discussion about whether a pitcher has good "stuff" on any particular occasion.   Good "stuff" means that the pitcher has an intangible combination of good movement, good location, and good sequencing. If you continue watching a game you will at some point hear discussion of a batter who is experiencing a bad "slump." This means that the batter is not seeing and hitting the ball well and that his batting average over the last several days or weeks is far below what it has been for the season. Pitchers are delighted to have good "stuff" and batters dread finding themselves in a slump.
   What causes a pitcher to have great stuff and what causes a batter to be in a slump? If I knew the answers to these questions I would probably be managing a team in the World Series as these are the very questions players and coaches at every level of baseball are constantly trying to figure out. The truth is no one knows for sure and that is what makes baseball so fascinating.
   Why is it that some days you and I are really "on" at work? Why are some meetings really productive and the time flies by, and other meetings go nowhere and seem to last forever? Why is that some vacations are magical and others don't seem to work out so well? Why is it that sometimes when we go out for dinner with a friend or loved one the conversation really flows and we leave feeling inspired and uplifted, and other times we go out for dinner with that same person and the conversation is flat and our overall experience is uninspiring?
   It seems that in life, as in baseball,  our experiences are a mixture of good "stuff"and slumps. Sometimes we are "on" and everything is flowing and other times we are out of rhythm and nothing quite seems to be working. No one knows for sure what causes good "stuff" and slumps to happen when it comes to baseball, and I suppose that is true for life as well. I do, however, have a sense of what some of the factors are that influence the likelihood of us experiencing good "stuff" in our lives and I'd like to briefly touch on those in the remainder of this column.
1. The first factor that helps us have good "stuff" is being fully present. The opposite of being pressent is being distracted, being physically present, yet being somewhere else emotionally or spiritually. We can tell instantly when someone is really present to us and when she or he is distracted and only half listening to us. It might be more challenging, but equally important, to detect when we are the ones not being fully present to others.
2. A second factor that helps us have good "stuff"is preparation. If we show up for a meeting of any kind (work, family, or community) late and unfocused regarding what the gathering is to be about, there is not much chance that good "stuff"will happen.
3. Energy is another factor that influences good "stuff"happening. The energy we bring to an interaction in large part determines the outcome. Showing up tired and hoping to gain energy from an interaction is very different from showing up rested and looking to give energy to the interaction.
4. Finally, attitude makes a big difference in whether we will experience a slump or whether our "stuff"will be flowing well. To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether we think a meeting, conversation, or family gathering will go well, or whether we think it won't, we will usually be right.
   Note that these factors influence how our interactions will go and will guarantee or  control the outcomes of our various interactions with others.  They are factors that maximize the chances of more good "stuff' and less slumps happening, whether in baseball or in life. When slumps to occur though, experienced players continue to show up, keeping their focus, preparing well, bringing positive energy, and maintaining a positive attitude, knowing that doing so will help them get through a slump more quickly so that good "stuff" will happen again soon.