Executive Extra

Monthly content focused on leadership exclusively for the Executive members of NAA.

Drop the Ball

Tuesday, 08 December 2020 09:38

If someone throws you a ball, you'll probably catch it. You'll probably at least reach for it. Even if there's no real reason for you to, you probably will.

Why? Because somebody threw you a darn ball.

Lemme tell you a secret. You don't have to.

Just because someone throws you the ball doesn't mean you have to catch it. Now, let's be clear, there are some good reasons to catch the ball:

  • So it doesn't hit you in the face.
  • Or hit someone else.
  • Or if you agreed to catch the ball ahead of time. (Saying "no" is such a powerful thing.)

Or let's say you're a wide receiver ...

It's the Super Bowl and the quarterback throws the pigskin to you. #GoodReasonToCatchTheBall

But, a lot of the time, if you didn't catch it, it would just fall on the ground. It would probably sit there quietly, minding its own business, until someone picked it up. Probably the person who threw it to you.

Enter life.

People throw you lots of balls. LOTS.
Every week.
Every day.
Someone's probably throwing you a ball right now.

I am in New Mexico. My family and I arrived on Sunday and we're getting back to Austin next Sunday.
I forgot to set my OOO responder in my inbox and then started getting nervous when people were sending me all kinds of messages.

Then, I thought, "99.99% of these messages can get answered next Monday, and no one will lose their home or life." I've been intentionally dropping balls in Gmail since Sunday as if my name was Dez Bryant.

Face it: Someone ALWAYS needs something.

  • Your child wants something.
  • Your boss needs something.
  • Your significant other.
  • Your church group, PTO is asking for something.

And don't even get me started listing all the things people want you to do for the holidays.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

"But wait, Daron, what if nobody picks up the ball?"

Sometimes bad things happen when balls fall. When you ignore your boss or don't pay your bills or do laundry—there are consequences. I like clean socks. But most of the time, bad things don't happen.

  • The ball sits on the ground, enjoying a nice rest in the cool grass.
  • Sometimes its owner comes along, scoops it up and takes it home.
  • Sometimes that ball wanders off, never to be seen again (insert a Pentecostal happy dance here).

Many people believe those balls gather with others no one wants to catch, living their best lives together, right next to the colony of lost socks.

"So, what about the balls I don't want to catch?"

First, figure out what you do want to catch. In other words, what are your priorities? It may not be easy to determine. But try this:

  • Carve out some alone time
  • Before everyone else wakes up or after they're asleep if necessary.
  • Sit.
  • Maybe play relaxing music or make yourself chai tea.
  • Get comfy.
  • This might take a while.

Then think about the upcoming week, month, year. What is most important to you? Make a list of your top two to five priorities. Three is good.

They can be general like work, family, health. These are mine. Or more specific like run a 5k in six months or take your side-hustle from dream to website. Write them down. As you go throughout your day, keep them in mind. Then when your boss, spouse, child, friend, social media connection throws you the ball—think before you reach out.

  • Call a timeout before your gut says, "Yes!"
  • Catch that ball if it supports your priorities.
  • If not, don't. Or do. It's okay to catch some balls that don't support your priorities, as long as you're aware that it's time away from other things.

Shoveling your elderly neighbor's walk may get you nothing more than cold hands and a warm heart. That's okay.

So in short, during the holiday season, and in the spirit of a crazy football season ...

I'm begging you to drop the ball.

Daron K. Roberts is an internationally acclaimed coach, author and speaker at events including NAA17 Convention's Celebration of Leadership. Follow him on LinkedIn and subscribe to his newsletter for more.

Photo courtesy of Daron K. Roberts.