“The Art Of Fielding” by Chad Harbach is one of my favorite novels of the last decade. It’s about a college baseball star, Henry Skrimshander, whose life is upended when he makes one bad throw. Henry spends the majority of the novel wrestling with his own self doubt and trying to recapture the person and star he once was. Give it a read.
I’ve been reflecting on this specific passage which details the philosophy of his young baseball coach and mentor, Schwartz:
He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story. You told it with a hint of doom. You included his flaws. You emphasized his obstacles that could prevent him from succeeding. That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph. Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone, they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you.
When making art or striving to achieve any goal, we all want to be pushed to our limits. Even if we don’t know it. Or admit it.
A good coach, teacher, family member, friend, etc…helps us get there. Seek them out. When you find one, be grateful for their honesty and their relentless pursuit of your excellence. It’s a real gift.
And while you’re at it, maybe you can be that coach for someone else.