Season 2, Ep. 5: When Life Throws a Curveball

Life has a way of surprising us. We can dream, plan and prepare all we want, but sooner or later life is going to throw us a curveball. It could be a problem at work: an unexpected move by a competitor or a downturn in the market. Or it could be a problem at home, like receiving a scary diagnosis out of the blue. Whatever you may be facing, it’s not our ability to avoid life’s curveballs, but our ability to react and respond to them well that will determine our success as people and as leaders.

Join us as we hear from Bill Mosiello—an accomplished baseball coach and hitting instructor—about how handling curveballs is all about the mindset you bring to the plate.

View Transcript >>

Daniel Harkavy (00:00)   We’ve talked a lot about preparing for failure here on the Building Champions podcast and for a very good reason. Failure is one of those things that like death and taxes, there’s just no avoiding it. Every leader will confront failure at one point or another along their leadership journey. Last season, poker player Annie Duke showed us how using probabilities can help us anticipate failure and plan for multiple scenarios when executing a business strategy. And in this season, Alpine guide, Jason Martin’s experiences on the mountain taught us how having the right skills and mindset are crucial when handling failure. But even with these lessons in mind, even when you as a leader have done everything you can to forecast and plan and prepare, sometimes life just throws you a curve ball, a challenge or a situation that despite your best planning takes you by surprise and brings with it a good deal of pain, confusion and difficulty.

And in moments like these when life gives you something you weren’t quite expecting and it has a big impact on your work and on your leadership, your ability to respond in a way that’s both healthy and effective will determine your success. So for this episode we thought what better way to learn about how to respond to life’s curve balls than to speak to someone who has coached some of baseball’s greatest hitters on how to hit an actual curve ball?

Hi, I’m Daniel Harkavy and this is the building champions podcast. Our goal with this podcast is to share some interesting stories that highlight key leadership issues from a unique perspective. Also, you can learn how to better lead yourself, your team and your organization. This episode is all about life’s curve balls and how the best leaders have strategies for reacting and responding to the unexpected throughout a decades long career as baseball coach, Bill Mosiello has worked with over 80 major league players.

First as a manager in the minor leagues and now as associate head coach and hitting coach for TCU, bill has had the chance to coach and develop some of the greatest hitters in the game from Todd Helton and Robinson Cano to perhaps this generation’s greatest talent in two time MVP. Mike trout with that kind of experience under his belt, bill knows what it takes to be a great hitter and it’s not easy. Perhaps one of the hardest things about hitting, especially when facing a great pitcher is seeing the ball clearly and being able to tell what pitches about to be thrown at you.

Bill Mosiello (02:39)
So you know, it’s more of just we get, we have little openings in, in an area where their release point happens to be. So we have a little, you know, a soft circle around where his release point is. So we, we, we focus on that and then out of their hand, we’re trying to recognize different, a spin or a fast ball or some breaking balls pop out of the hands early. Don’t you know, that’s part of the pitcher that have great success is their deception. On and their delivery and maybe how they hide the baseball and and in today’s game that there’s a thing called tunneling where maybe three pitches come out of the same slot.

Daniel Harkavy (03:13)
See what I mean? It’s not easy with all the different pitchers a pitcher can throw and all the ways that he can disguise what pitch he’s throwing. A hitter’s job is really difficult and our jobs as leaders can be just as tough. Life has a way of throwing things at us that are very difficult to read. A situation or a bit of news might look like. It’s going to go in one direction only for things to flip on, a dime, leaving us scrambling. For some of us life’s curve balls come to us at work. Maybe you’re in the middle of your career and there’s a new director level position that’s opened up in your company. The role description has you excited, you’ve connected with the right people spent hours working hard and preparing for the interviews, and then you find out they’re going to go in a different direction and your teammate, the candidate that you thought was the least qualified for the position, the one that you didn’t like all that much, nor did you think he was any good at his previous job.

Well, now he’s your new boss. For others, the curve ball might come at home. You’re working out regularly, you’re eating really healthy and clean, you’re getting great nights rest night after night, and then one day you notice a little lump or maybe it’s a nagging pain that you can’t ascribe to anything in particular. Then you go to the doctor only to be blindsided by a significant diagnosis. Maybe it’s cancer. I know there are thousands more examples out there and some of you may be staring down your own curve ball right now, worried, confused, anxious, unsure of how you’re going to handle it or what to do next. For some practical advice we can learn from a lesson bill tries to instill in his players to help prepare them for facing any pitcher.

Bill Mosiello (05:05)
Really the bottom line is in hitting to me is you’ve gotta be prepared for the fast ball at all times cause that’s the hardest one. There is the hit because it’s being thrown the hardest and as they hit her you can’t look slow and then hit something hard but you can look hard or something fast and be able to be prepared to handle a hanging breaking ball or a soft hanging change up. So it’s mainly as being prepared for the best stuff they’ve got and then you give, it gives you an opportunity to handle all the other pitches.

Daniel Harkavy (05:36)
This goes back to our conversations with Annie Duke and Jason Martin about how to plan ahead and prepare for failure. But I think bill adds an important element here when he says you can’t look slow and then hit something hard. What he means is that a hit her can’t be sitting in the back of the box anticipating a slower pitch and expect to be ready to react in time when a fast ball comes. But if the hitter is always ready for that fast ball, then they will surely be ready to react to any other slower pitch when it comes to leadership and preparing for life’s challenges, the fast ball for you as whatever the worst case scenario would be for the challenge or situation that you’re facing. And if you can prepare to the best of your ability for that worst possible outcome, then how much more ready will you be for all other less dire scenarios.

And if you need help thinking through how to best prepare for that worst case scenario, that failure, be sure to listen to our second episode of this season preparing to fall. But what if you’ve done all your planning, you feel like you’re ready for the worst life or work can throw at you, and then some problem or issue that you never expected comes out of nowhere for a hitter when they’re ready for the fast ball and all of a sudden this slow looping curve ball comes at them. One of the worst things they can do is to react too quickly and swing early. They have to be patient, recalibrate, and swing at just the right time. When this happens to you, when you’re caught off guard by that surprise problem, it’s important to remember to slow down. Don’t react too quickly, pause and take the time to assess the situation, see how you might need to recalibrate your plans and then respond appropriately.

And when you’re taking that moment to assess, there’s an acronym we find helpful. C I a control, influence, and accept. What are the things about this particular situation that are within your control? What action can you take that will directly impact the outcome and then influence the eye? What are the things that while you don’t quite have full control over, you can still influence how they go. And finally, except for those things that are completely outside of our control, it’s important to take ownership and be clear with yourself that these things are outside of your control and so you can’t sweat them or worry over them too much. They simply are and you have to work with them and around them. In addition to slowing down and taking the time to assess before you respond to life’s curve balls, your success in these situations will also be determined by how you handle them emotionally. This is where the inner game is so important and that’s why we love talking about the concept of self leadership here at Building Champions. For a coach like bill, the inner game also plays an important role when it comes to sports and competition. He knows that many times it’s not the external challenges, but the internal ones that can defeat us.

Bill Mosiello (08:56)
When you talk about sports is that, you know, the toughest opponent, any player ever faces Is the one in the mirror. You know? I mean that’s, that’s the toughest opponent you’ll ever face

Daniel Harkavy (09:01)
For the hitter standing at the plate, sometimes the real challenge comes more from his own thinking, his own belief and approach to the situation more so than whatever the pitcher might be throwing at them.

Bill Mosiello (09:12)
The difference between, you know, baseball, you know, X amount of years ago and today’s players is today, it’s okay to strike out as opposed to the great hitters that I’d been around. They weren’t afraid to look bad that you may get full to all get out and look horrible, but, out reach and still give themself a chance to fall off a pitch to get to the next pitch. You know what I mean? It’s the guys that believe in themselves all the time that keeps competing, that keep staying with the process.

Daniel Harkavy (09:39)
the best hitters roll with the punches and keep fighting. If they’re surprised by a pitch, they don’t give up and walk back to the dugout. They hang in there, they trust in themselves and their ability to face the situation and they keep going. They lean in. This principle is so true in our lives as leaders as well. So how do you keep going? Here are three practical things you can focus on to help you to get through this situation, this curve ball.

First, it goes back to what bill said. Believe in yourself. Chances are you’ve experienced curve balls in the past and you’ve been able to handle them. Sure. You may have experienced some bumps and bruises in the process, but remember the lessons you learned and think about how you could apply them to this situation. Pull from your own experience. Second, no matter what the situation, I’m confident that someone out there has experienced something similar. Go to them for advice and input. Be curious and open to new ideas and possibilities.

Learn from what they did, both good and bad. Tap into the experience of others and finally, don’t feel the pressure to go it alone. Are you faced with an amazing opportunity at work or an unbelievable challenge? Reach out to your teammates for help. If that curve ball comes at you at home, be quick to reach out to your family, to a friend or a support network. Believing in yourself as important but so is believing in those around you. Invite people into what you’re experiencing. When the curve ball comes your way, it can often feel overwhelming in that moment. Even if you’ve done what you can to prepare. Even if you slow down before you respond. Even if you believe in yourself and know that you’ve got a strong group standing with you in that moment, it can still be a heavy burden to carry and it’s easy to focus on the negative and question, why is this happening to you?

This is where the power of perspective plays such an important role. For me personally, this is where my faith comes into play. It helps me to navigate through these circumstances, through the curveballs that might come my way. No matter where you are in your belief or faith journey, looking beyond yourself and at your situation can be crucial to navigating through your circumstances. And often even when faced with some of our greatest fears and biggest challenges, those seasons of life can breed opportunity.

Bill Mosiello (12:16)
You know, people like to talk about baseball as a failure game and I tried to turn it around and I learned this from the great Augie Garrido is, it’s not a failure game. It’s an opportunity game, you know, so you are going to fail a lot, but you don’t, don’t, don’t think about the failures. Think about your opportunity, the next pitch or your next at bat.

Daniel Harkavy (12:35)
I love this perspective from Bill and he’s right. Statistically baseball is a failure game. The best hitters in the history of the sport barely succeed even 40% of the time to hit the ball when they’re at the plate. And like baseball, life and leadership are quote unquote failure games in their own right. Failure is a regular part of living life and growing as human beings. But if we’re able to flip the script and see the opportunity in our moments of failure and in the curve balls that life throws at us, our ability to handle those moments, learn from them and grow will be so much greater even when we plan and prepare. We never truly know what challenges we’ll have to face next, but I do know that if we can get our inner game right and if we can face the curve balls that might come our way with a greater sense of strength, trust, and resiliency than our lives and our leadership will be all the more effective and purpose filled coming up. Todd [inaudible], our vice president of content development will sit down with one of our building champions, executive coaches to discuss how you can begin to adjust your beliefs and behaviors so you’re more ready to handle life’s curve balls.

Todd Mosetter (13:54)   Hi, my name is Todd and I work in the content department here at Building Champions and I’m excited to sit down with my friend and colleague Shannon Eckmann to talk about surprises. Shannon, thanks for joining us. So earlier this season we talked about preparing to fall, right? There are some situations that as a leader, I think we can be prepared for, they might not happen, but we can go through the steps because there’s a chance they could happen. Where do you see the difference between being able to prepare for something that’s likely and just dealing with a curve ball?

Shannon Eckmann (14:25)
I think how we started this episode a really said a lot when Bill Mosiello talked about despite your best preparation, life is literally gonna throw you a curve ball. And, and the thing that I loved about that, it’s that the guys who believe in themselves, they’re the ones who keep competing because surprises are going to come.

Todd Mosetter (14:47)
They’re just part of life, aren’t they? Yeah. So when you think about working with, and a surprise comes, right, a curve ball comes, where have you seen clients really do a good job at handling these? Cause the truth is sometimes we handle them well and sometimes we don’t. Where have you seen them do a great job?

Shannon Eckmann (15:03)
You know, I think that what, what I have always said is that surprises are character revealing times, not character building times. And so if a leader really has been doing the good work of working on themselves and figuring out what, what are my values, how do I want to lead my life, then when a surprise comes, they have a way to work through those. In fact, I was just listening to something this morning by Roy Disney where he was quoted as saying, when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. And that’s where people get caught in a surprise because there’s both the flashpoint of the surprise and what you do in the seconds and minutes after that.

Todd Mosetter (15:51)
So you’re talking about the need to do that hard work ahead of time. What advice can you offer someone now before the surprise comes of what that hardware could look like? So they’re prepared when the curve ball comes,

Shannon Eckmann (16:05)
You know, it won’t surprise you that my answer has a lot to do with living with intention and we use our life planning tool to help people figure that out. What is most important to them and giving them a chance to say, where am I at right now? Where do I see myself in the future and how am I going to get there? And today’s episode is about how am I going to get there when the unanticipated shows up because our future isn’t just based on if everything is perfect, nothing bad ever happens to us. It’s what do we do when life constantly throws us curve balls. It can be unsettling, but it’s also the exciting stuff of life.

Todd Mosetter (16:49)
I love that. When you, when we think about the analogy that we often use with life planning, it’s like it’s a GPS and one of the great parts of a GPS is it reroutes you when you get detours. Exactly right. And that’s what a surprise often is, right? It is going to take you off course, but the question is do you still know where you’re going so you can get back on course? I have a feeling that when surprises hit, there can almost be this need to put the life plan away. Like, I got to put that on hold because I got to deal with this. How would you help a client kind of balance that?

Shannon Eckmann (17:23)
The thing that I would say is that many times surprises are actually embedded somewhere in our life plan already. They, they’re sitting in one of the accounts and so if, if something happens in someone’s life, what we often do is talk about let’s do a temporary re-prioritization of this so that maybe you just got a phone call and were notified that your mom has breast cancer. Okay. Guess what? She’s all of a sudden your parent’s account is shooting to the top of your list and you have a framework where you can do that and figure out how am I going to reshuffle so that I can pay attention to this and live with intention with my mom right now. At the same time figuring out temporarily what am I going to shift over to the side. If you have a plan, it is so much easier to have that kind of conversation.

Todd Mosetter (18:22)
I think that’s such a great point. We spent a fair amount of time so far talking about the unexpected surprises that happen in our life. That’s probably where many of us face them, but we feel them at work sometimes to a new project. Our company just got bought. New manager comes in. Lots of things. We talked about the importance of a life plan for the ones at home. What advice can you give someone when that surprises work-related?

Shannon Eckmann (18:47)
A couple of things come to mind. And I, as I was thinking through this, I was using the idea of what happens if you’re blindsided by a competing product. And, and you don’t control the them, you don’t control the problem, but you do control your reaction to it. And so thinking through how, how do I immediately, when a surprise hits me in my work environment, what do I do? Do I reach out? Do I decide that even if I am the leader, I work collaboratively, I bring my team together. How do we want to deal with this together? The number one thing I would say is go slow. Go slow in order to eventually go fast. But don’t go charging into it with the knee jerk reaction. Those are not always our best reactions. Instead, figuring out what are we going to do with this and what opportunity does this actually present to us? And let’s get into the creative part of our leadership so that we can think through how are we going to deal with this, where, where are we headed to begin with and how do we show insane curiosity about what’s going on, about what that surprise is so that we can eventually use it as a turning point in our leadership and whatever it is that we’re doing at work.

Todd Mosetter (20:12)
I love that example of insanely curious. So when you talk about slowing down and being insanely curious, what are some practical ways that you’ve seen clients execute on that?

Shannon Eckmann (20:24)
Something that comes to mind, in fact, I’ve talked about it already a couple of times today in sessions, is that when a surprise hits, oftentimes our sabotaging behaviors can kick in. That we’re just looking to knock it down, get rid of it. And, and what we’re trying to do is shift and say to people, move into the Sage and, and your Sage behaviors handled challenges in a way that produced positivity, positive emotions. Be curious, be empathetic, be clearheaded and laser focused. Oftentimes we’ll see because we’re people leaders, we’ll spend some time in sort of that woe is me mode or I don’t like what just happened or here’s how I feel about it. And I try to move people as quickly as we can to what do you believe? What do you believe about yourself, your ability to handle this? What do you believe about your team? What do you believe about your competitor and what do you believe about your ability to handle the circumstance that you’re in?

Todd Mosetter (21:34)
I love that when we talk about beliefs, right? Because it’s so important to focus there. Before you move into action. What common beliefs have you seen successful leaders hold onto during these surprise times?

Shannon Eckmann (21:52)
Two things come to mind about the person themselves and it, it has to do with humility and passion. You want to lean in to those kinds of beliefs. During a time like this, making sure that you’re not going to be successful as the leader when the water is calm, you’re going to be successful as a leader when the waves are crashing and you realize I am the captain of this ship because I have the experience, I have the know how, I have the wisdom, I’m capable of this with my team. And that’s the thing that I try to help people remember is be humble. Remember what you’re passionate about and bring your team with you. If you’ve hired well developed well, they’re ready to handle this with you.

Todd Mosetter (22:46)
I love that. Focus on the team. And that concept of having a team I think applies whether you’re at work or whether you think about your personal life. When you think about leaning into those around you in surprises, how does that work? Well, right? I mean there, there can be this tendency to want to go it alone, right? Cause you, there’s that balance of humility that you’re the leader and you don’t want to burden other people with the surprises in these challenges. What do leaders need to remember to ensure they’re not trying to go it alone?

Shannon Eckmann (23:18)
I think you want to make sure that you don’t wait too long to tell people what’s going on and to ask for help. I can remember big surprises in my own life and, and now that I’m way on the other side of them all, well, one for example is when I worked at a university, I’m sitting in a cabinet meeting one day someone comes in and says, your husband is waiting in your office. I go to my office, he tells me he has cancer. That’s a surprise. Walking through those kinds of surprises, not alone. Gather your team around you. People want to go through surprises with you. Ah, in fact, now that I’m years away from that, I just had the good fortune to have a conversation with one of the nurses and she said to me, 18 years later, working with you and your family and your friends changed my life. So surprises can have these amazing ripple effects. And if we, we want to be open to that, that even seemingly really challenging surprises can have silver linings. And I know that can sound Pollyanna, but I also know it in my bones and I think many of our listeners are gonna know that too. You have to search for the silver lining in the surprise.

Todd Mosetter (24:44)
I think that’s a great perspective to have on perspective. Right? Like you said, it’s easy when you’re going through something difficult and people say, well, you know, buck up, look for the silver lining. It can feel hard, but experience tends to show us that some good can come out of almost any situation. So when someone finds themselves in the middle of a surprise, you’ve talked about slowing down. I love that. Don’t rush to action, but at some point you need to take action, right? I mean, the surprise isn’t just going to fix itself more often than not. Daniel talked about this process that we use with clients, rate control, influence and accept. Can you walk us through how you would help a client go through that process?

Shannon Eckmann (25:27)
When a client gets thrown a curve ball, I immediately go to the framework of control, no control influence and, and starting with what are the things that you cannot control and, and if you can’t control them, then let’s accept them to be what they are and then move into what are the pieces that you have control over. What do you do with those? And what about the influencing pieces? How do you move through each of those? Because where are we get hitched up is when we think we have more control than we do. And then it’s like we’re spinning our wheels. So instead moving in and quickly saying which one of the buckets does this land in? And, and based on that, how do I set strategy from their, not reaction but strategy.

Todd Mosetter (26:18)
I love that example because too often we probably spend more time complaining, focusing on the things that in the end we can’t change. But if we can get to a place where we’re creating action and strategy, like you said, we can actually start moving forward. Yup. Which when you get a curve ball is probably one of the most important things. Take the time to slow down like you’ve said so well, but at some point you have to get moving. Before we close, any final thoughts? Right? So someone’s listening and they’re finding themselves right in the middle of a surprise at this moment. What advice would you give them?

Shannon Eckmann (26:58)
The things that I think are so important is as, as leaders and many of the people who listen to our podcast are as leaders know that you are capable of moving through these well, remember that you are resilient, you’re ready for this. Surprises are character revealing and remember that if you’re living with intention, you’re paying attention to your values, you’re letting them guide you. These will be choppy waters, but they will lead to something better.

Todd Mosetter (27:33)
As someone who has gone through a fair amount of surprises, which I know you have, that advice carries a lot of weight. Thank you for sharing it, Shannon. Listeners, as always, I’m building champions.com/podcast no surprise there. You can get tools as well as all of the transcripts from the episodes. Shannon, thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

Daniel Harkavy (27:54)
Thanks so much to our guest, Bill Mosiello, for his expertise and fantastic take on handling the unexpected. As a reminder, you can listen to the other episodes and access relevant tools by visiting building champions.com forward slash podcast and we’d love it if you could share the podcast and leave us a rating and review in your Apple podcasts app. Doing so helps people to find us and it helps us to learn what we’re doing well and how we can continue to grow and provide our listeners with content that will truly transform their lives and their leadership. Thanks for joining us and a big thanks to Lucian Green who helps us with the research and the writing for the podcasts and my long-time friend Scott Higby, who does the audio and production, and he has Studio C Creative Sound down in San Diego. Thanks again.