7 Lessons Baseball Taught Me About Being a Creative Director

I’m crazy about baseball. (Some might even call it an obsession). April through October, I live and breathe it. (And November through March, I long for it.) Obsession or not, I owe a lot to the game. Because, being a baseball fan has given me much more than my superstitious quirks or the occasional October ulcer. Baseball has helped form the foundation for the success of my career as an independent creative director. Yes, it’s a bold statement. And, yes, it’s absolutely true. Here are 7 of the most important lessons baseball has taught me about business — and about life:

  1. There will be strike-outs. A lot of them. But there will be home runs, too. 

    Enjoy the home runs when they come — but don’t spend too much time celebrating. Home runs are quickly forgotten. And no one likes the dude who stands and admires his own work for too long. (That’s a very good way to get beaned.) Enjoy the moment, but then get right back to focusing on the next at-bat.
  2. Nothing Lasts Forever. 

    Being on a winning streak is an exhilarating ride. But when we’re riding high, it can be easy to forget that a winning streak has a life expectancy. When the slumps come — and they will come — ride them out with grace and have confidence knowing that, just like the winning streaks, the slumps don’t last forever.
  3. It Takes Two To Make a Thing Go Right

    There are few things in baseball more beautiful to me than a perfectly executed 6-4-3 double play. But this play is impossible with just one person. Even if you typically work solo, like I do, the truly magical stuff happens when we add more talent to the game. The best work I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in usually meant I was a tiny cog in a much bigger creative machine. These were my biggest opportunities to learn, grow and be inspired by the process of others.
  4. Mix Up Your Stuff

    If you keep throwing the same pitch every single time, you’re guaranteed to get rocked. (Or nicknamed “Meat” — neither of which is very good). So build up your bag of creative tricks and keep them guessing. It makes your creative exciting and effective, and it keeps your POV fresh. (But also remember that, sometimes, your signature pitch is exactly what is needed for the job — and maybe even the reason you were hired).
  5. On Being a Five-Tool Player

    There are many lessons to be learned from the five-tool-players. A five-tool-player is valuable to an organization, because they can deliver in so many important areas of the game. The same applies to freelancers, which is why we must always show a willingness to dig in and do more than we are expected to do. But, on the flip side, there are only a handful of five-tool-players out there who can keep the pace and continue to put up big numbers in every category over the long haul, so, it’s also important to focus on what you do best — and leave the stuff you don’t do so well to the pros.
  6. Last Year’s Stats Don’t Count 

    So you batted .325 last year. That’s something to be proud of. But, your boss/client/coach really only cares about how you’re performing now. Don’t get too comfortable riding on past accomplishments, because the world can’t see your trophy case — and it needs people who can get things done today.
  7. Put In the Work

    Even raw talent needs to be honed and polished. The most successful ball players have something even more important than talent — and that’s work ethic. So always strive to be better, even if you already think you’re the best. (Which is something we creatives never do, because, let’s face it —we all secretly think we deserve to be sent down on a daily basis.)

Sometimes you’re the ace. Sometimes you’re on the bench. But every time you’re in the game, own it, play like you mean it and be grateful for the opportunity. 

And here’s the best lesson yet — working as a freelance creative director means baseball can always be on. And there’s nothing more inspiring than that.


My apologies to Matt Holliday...

My apologies to Matt Holliday...

The Power of Play

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."
Albert Einstein

When people ask what I do for a living, the conversation usually goes something like this:

They say:  “So, what exactly is it that you do?"

I say:  “I’m a creative director. Every day is different, but I am usually writing campaigns, putting together execution teams, designing, producing, managing brands…”

This is almost always followed up with a wistful statement from the inquiring party:

“I’m just not a creative person.”

“I wish I could be creative.”

“You’re so lucky — I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”

And all the variations in between.

I’m always happy to be the one to enlighten them on just how wrong they are. Every human on earth is creative — or at least has the capacity to be creative. For some of us, our inner child bubbles just a little closer to the surface, which makes it much easier to tap into this part of our brain. But what can we do to help open up the mind to its creative capacity?

We can play. 

My desk. Yes. Those are Billy Bob teeth.

My desk. Yes. Those are Billy Bob teeth.

Play helps unwind our tightly wound selves so we can open up to possibilities that we have trouble believing can exist in the ‘real world.’ And, we don’t have to play with purpose. When we switch gears and completely let go of the problem, the solution can come to us in some pretty unexpected places. In fact, for me, the smartest solutions usually find me — when I let go and quit looking for them.

I was very lucky to be raised by parents who valued silliness and playing and having fun (they still do!) just as much as they valued hard work, and I know this is what helps me look at things differently. 

So, today, a simple exercise — take time out for a little bit of fun. Let your hair down. Be silly. Sing in the car. Throw a tennis ball against the wall. Run like Phoebe from that episode of Friends. (You know which one I’m talking about).
Let your inner kiddo stretch his legs — and watch your mind stretch, too.