The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

(Kindle Book)

1991 Topps Bob Tewksbury

First of all, I think The Gifts of Imperfection is the wrong title for this book. It seems to me that it’s more about her focus on wholehearted living than it is about accepting your imperfections. But before we get into the content of the book, the choice.

Some of these just aren’t going to work that well. There was no obvious pick for this book, and after I made my choice, I realized it really wasn’t as good as I thought.

After he retired from baseball, Bob Tewksbury earned a master’s degree in psychology from Boston University, then served as a sports psychologist for the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs. In my mind this was a direct link to Brene Brown and her works. Brown, however, is not a psychologist at all but has a degree in social work and does research. I would argue though that both offer advice to get the most out of life or any given task, so I’m going with it! And they both wrote books, so I’m really golden here! Brene Brown focuses on wholehearted living. In his (great) book Ninety Percent Mental, Tewksbury gives his tactics for overcoming doubt and anxiety in order to achieve high-level performances. What really stuck out for me was his three step process for regrouping when things start to spiral out of control:

  1. Breathe* – slow yourself down.
  2. Focus on the task at hand – come back to the present moment. What am I trying to accomplish?
  3. Positive self talk – something like “I got this.” Or, “I’ve done this before.”

*I’ll never forget going out for a mound visit and asking my pitcher to breathe. He nodded his head but didn’t breathe. I said, “No, seriously, take a breath.” He shook visibly with his mouth mostly closed, struggling to take in any air. I talked about whatever else needed to be talked about, finished my mound visit, walked back to the dugout, turned to the head coach and said, “Yeah, he’s done.” Ever since that day I made it a point that all my pitchers be able to take a deep breath on the mound when things started getting out of control.

The Gifts of Imperfection gave me a lot to think about, and I recommend it to anybody who wants to rethink some of our everyday behaviors. Some highlights:

I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take the pain away when it doesn’t happen. It does, however, minimize the joy when it does happen.

The best definition of power comes from Martin Luther King Jr. He described power as the ability to effect change. If we question our need for power, think about this: How do you feel when you believe that you are powerless to change something in your life?

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want.

– Margaret Young

This blog is meant to be fun, and as such, my card choices are occasionally based as much on who I want to think and write about as they are for the appropriateness of the pick. I loved writing about Dan Quisenberry, and I chose Tewksbury partly because I’m also a huge fan of Bob Tewksbury. Like Quiz, Tewks was a control pitcher. In fact, since 1920, Dan Quisenberry is second in fewest walks per 9 innings and Bob Tewksbury is third. (He is 23rd overall, one spot ahead of Cy Young, but behind such memorable hurlers as Cherokee Fisher, Terry Larkin and Fred Goldsmith). Three times in his career “Tewks” averaged fewer than one walk per nine innings pitched and twice lead the league in strikeouts to walk ratio.

Recently, my friend Michael and I were looking up a game played in 1993. On September 7, 1993, in the second game of a double header played in Cincinnati, Mark Whiten became the 13th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game. The final score was 15 to 2. Michael asked me, “How long do you think the game took?” I figured 17 runs was a lot, but the fact that he was asking meant it wasn’t as long as you’d guess. So I guessed two hours and 58 minutes. The answer: two hours and 17 minutes.* The pitcher? Bob Tewksbury.

*The first game of the double header was a 14-13 slugfest that took three hours and 41 minutes. This leads me to one last thought completely unrelated to Brene Brown, Bob Tewksbury or The Gifts of Imperfection. There’s a lot of talk about changes in baseball, most of them revolving around speeding up the game or creating more action. I know people who argue this, who say they don’t care how long a game takes. And, to a certain extent, I agree. An exciting game can be exciting for three and a half hours. But a 15-2 game is really only exciting if someone does hit four home runs in a game. Otherwise, I hope that game is mercifully over in just over two hours. Nobody needs every Yankees-Red Sox game to last four and a half hours. But all of this brings me to Franklin Roosevelt’s “Green Light Letter” to Major League Baseball. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Commissioner Kenesaw Landis wrote to the President asking if baseball should continue now that the country was at war. Roosevelt replied on January 15, 1942 that “it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” In part, he justified this by saying “Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half.” That was true in 1942. That was true when Bob Tewksbury took the mound. Unfortunately, that is no longer true today. And even less so during the postseason when baseball should be at its most exciting.

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