Manny Ramirez – a model of simplicity

“A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything” T. S. Eliot

At first glance, Manny Ramirez, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, seems a most unlikely poster child to illustrate Eliot’s words. A great hitter? Of course. His .412 batting average helped lead his team to win their first World Series in 84 years.

Yet with his reputation for being a bit flakey, to say nothing of his hairdo that sticks out wildly in all directions, he hardly seems to merit the label “simplicity.”

But appearances are deceiving. I recently heard Ron Heifetz, the Harvard leadership professor, describe a conversation he had with Manny’s sports psychologist. For several years this man had worked with Manny trying to get him to “simplify, simplify, simplify” his approach to hitting.

When Manny gets ready to hit, the psychologist explained, and goes through his antics on the way to the batter’s box, he is actually rehearsing his ‘mantras’, telling himself to

 stay calm
 see the ball
 make good contact
 move on.

His hitting shows it works! And not a bad example for our Christian life and leadership.

Paul wrote about “the simplicity that is in (i.e. toward) Christ.” And in another place he described it as “being anxious for nothing … knowing Christ … for whose sake I have lost all things … forgetting what is behind … pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward …”

“This one thing I… do” is how he summed it up.

Life and leadership is complex. So is hitting a curve ball. But Manny (and Paul) point us the way to a simplicity beyond complexity.

Your friend on the journey,

Leighton Ford

P.S. On second thought (or third) I don’t think Manny’s mantras will help me to hit like him (or run like Paul). They might help me to be more what God wants me to be! And they might just help me come up with a more intriguing hairdo!

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