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From the Grandstands to the Game

A decision needed to be made. Sitting comfortably at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on a sunny, beautiful Saturday morning I had just started my long, anticipated summer vacation from school.

Having just completed 3rd grade and celebrated my tenth birthday months earlier, I was determined to make the most of the next three months with the freedom I now had.

My brother Eric and I were traveling along with our church youth group in a bus for a special, unique event. A Billy Graham crusade was in town that weekend and the kids program was taking place in the morning (called the "kids crusade.")

After some fun skits by the "Donut Man" and "Psalty", accompanied kids singing worship songs-----I heard the convicting Gospel message of Jesus Christ that went straight to my heart.

Then an alter call was given for kids to walk out onto the field, making a decision to follow Christ. Within a few minutes nearly my entire youth group around me was heading onto the field. For me it felt like eternity as I hesitated knowing the commitment I was now faced with.

I gradually got out of my seat but my feet remained glue to the ground. Fear seemed to grab a hold of me as my heart raced with questions, yet a deep longing for a radical change in my life compelled me to finally walk forward.

As I stepped out on the field with my brother and friends in receiving the gift of salvation found in Jesus Christ, a strong refreshing wave of relief washed over me. Right then and there it became apparent that the life I was knew was no more. That this was a moment I'd never forget.

While it wasn't until 4 years later upon getting baptized that I took full ownership of my faith in Christ, that morning on June 11th, 1994 in Cleveland indeed has never left my memory.

Recalling the hesitation with the weight of the decision upon my shoulders contrasted with the relief, joy, and peace I found directly afterwards is perhaps one of the most amazing shifts in emotions I've ever experienced. That day I went from a fan of the Christian faith to a follower.

Photo Note: This is the scene of what took place later in the evening at the Billy Graham Crusade in Cleveland Municipal Stadium on June 10th, 1994

Spectator to Ballplayer

The game of baseball likewise has two distinct sides from which it can be viewed from at a ballpark. In the stands from the perspective of the fans watching the events of a game or a ballplayer on the field actively engaged in what's happening.

Fans are invested in the game and their team to a point, but can turn their attention or loyalty elsewhere when it suits them. From the fans perspective, the game is about entertainment. Relaxation. Enjoyment. Comfort. These are the things catered to fans and its given to them.

In sharp contrast are the ballplayers competing on the field. Focus and discipline are mandatory. Taking risks and being willing to fail are inevitable.

Sweat, hard work, and pain come about naturally through the events that take place through 9 innings in any given game. Performing under pressure, battling stress, and overcoming fatigue are what's expected from ballplayers.

While most fans at one point or another dream of what it be step out on the field as ballplayers, the reality is we don't possess the physical, mental, or emotional skills needed to do what these world class athletes are capable of doing. It's far easier to be a spectator than it is to step up to the plate.

Staying In Our Seats

In the first two innings of our productivity principles we've covered the foundational importance of having the correct mindset (perspective) and the value of planning. Our perspective and planning are useless however without making the shift from passivity to being proactive, which is the 3rd principle.

The hardest part for some in the goal achievement process is the actual start. It's much more easy to dream and formulate a perfect plan, then it is to actual get your skin in the game. To become a spectator idolizing those who have accomplished what we desire but failing to follow in their footsteps.

It's far easier to remain in the place that's well known, comfortable, and requires little effort on our part with our goals like a fan in the stands watching a baseball game. Getting lost in-between the regrets of our past and the fantasies of our ideal future.

For we're all faced with a decision to allow fear of the unknown to remain seated with the life we currently have or to stand up and step out actively move forward towards change.

The Decision We Must Make

That's the tension I felt as a 10-year kid that Saturday morning in Cleveland. But it's something that I've encountered many more times throughout my life in the years that followed.

Making the decision to get baptized at the age of 14. Choosing the path of my college education. Committing to a missions trip to Mexico. Training and running a full marathon. Saying "yes" to marrying my wife Kathy.

For each big milestone I've come across, there was a starting point. A decision to step forward confronting my fears or to cower, remaining seated in what was known, familiar, and comfortable.

The most memorable and life-changing milestones I've experienced all came about as a result of taking that first step forward being proactive. Passivity on the other hand has brought about frustration, disappointments, and regrets when I allowed big opportunities to pass me by.

The Pit of Passivity

As I write this I'm a few days away from attending my twenty-year high school reunion. Sadly the memories I have of high school aren't exactly positive. Why? Because I choose the path of passivity.

My mindset throughout those four years was to just get by, to survive. Practicably my grades were lackluster and I severely paid the price in college (literally and figurately speaking).

Instead of investing in classes and after school clubs to discover to grow in my character, uncover what my career calling was, or to make new friends-----I choose to remain comfortably seated in what was familiar and easy.

So when it came to college, I wasn't prepared or passionate pursuing a career. It directly lead to a full decade of indecisiveness and insecurity. It wasn't until my early thirties that I began actively seeking to step forward with my life and walked on the path of purpose forsaking my well worn pit of passivity.

Stepping Up to the Plate

A passive approach with your life is like a ballplayer who willingly sits on the bench afraid of facing a team's best pitcher. This pitcher throws a 100 MPH fastball, sharp curveball, and a tough changeup. In observing video feed and seeing him up close, fears of striking out while looking like a fool in the batter's box, keep him glued to his seat.

A proactive approach is a ballplayer who eagerly embraces the challenge of facing up against a tough opponent digging into the batter's box, eyeing down the pitcher, and taking swings. Yes there's the risk of striking out. Of failing to reach base or drive in a run(s). In getting hit and experiencing pain.

Yet once a ballplayer crosses those white lines with a bat in his or her hands---the choice has been made. They're committed to the process of pursuing a path beyond passivity. One of purpose and potential. Seeking to embark on endless possibilities in playing with a passion for progress.

Going After Your Goals

It's only with a proactive attitude, a willingness to step up to the plate in facing our fears that personal growth with achievement can take place. Goals don't get going until you do. Good intentions are meaningless without an external inertia; pushing yourself out of a state of rest.

The first step forward to enter the game of life leaving behind the safe comforts of the spectators indeed can feel scary. It leaves you vulnerable to pain. Exposed to failure. Susceptible to opposition and rejection.

Yet the journey ahead that's full of challenges, roadblocks, trials and tribulations----is worth the blood, sweat, and tears from start to finish. For in this game of life, great sacrifice is required but if played correctly achieving victory can be found.

Now the choice is yours to make. Do you stay seated watching as a spectator passively letting life pass you by or grab a bat to get into the game towards going after your goals? For when you step up and step out, get set for your life to never be the same again!


All photos courtesy of

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