Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good Habits Make Good Students, Athletes, and Organizations

Most people know that good activities that might be difficult at first to practice become engrained in us after a certain amount of repetition as habit. Once an activity becomes a habit, it seems easier to perform and difficult to end. Sporting Chance Press author, J.D.Thorne, (The 10 Commandments of Baseball) likes to advise, "practice the difficult and make those good things which are difficult a habit." Thorne uses the example of a baseball first baseman who gets plenty of practice catching balls on bad hops. Chances are, that first baseman is going be very good in game conditions when his infield teammates have to throw under all kinds of situations.

Pursuits Outside of Sports

In pursuits outside of sports, the same dynamic is found, but good habits must be accompanied by good judgement. For example, in business, the MBA tool set was touted as the answer to all business problems for decades. But in time, business school practices were maligned in large part because of overuse. The problem comes from how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

Business schools preached the use of profit and loss reports for all individual company offerings. Yet, regardless of how disciplined an organization, those reports must be read within the context of the business conditions at the time. A product introduced during an economic slump, a product that was delayed due to a leadership change, a product whose costs doubled due to a temporary parts shortage--these products must not be judged like other products produced under ideal business conditions. Creating the P & L is the good habit, but using the figures indiscriminately is folly.

Yet, a bigger mistake is made if managers decide to forgo the P & L, because "they are just not accurate in today's business climate." This is a sloppy habit of neglect.

In MBA-speak, the term "activity standards" is so simple yet groundbreaking for a business operation. Activity standards are those things that need to be done in business when triggered by a certain event or decision. For example, when a new product is introduced, a press release is issued; a planned advertising campaign is launched; and the new product is put up on the company's web-based catalog. If an organization creates activity standards, but lets them lapse or does not adequately support them, the organization gets into sloppy habits and its business will suffer. A business that does not review and enforce its activities standards over a period of time will be troubled.

For kids, activity standards are just as important. Following each school day, a child needs to spend a period of time set aside for homework. Each new morning signals the need for kids to make their beds. A responsibility may be given to a child to take care of a larger project each week on Saturday. The challenge for parents is working within so much school schedule shuffling that inevitably goes on in schools today. Again, good judgement is required to determine how and when the activity standards can be applied.

It's difficult to establish habits when schedules are so often in flux. It's difficult to establish good habits when a student might need to be at school one day at 6 a.m. for band practice and then must stay that evening for soccer. Difficult as good habits may be to establish in a modern home, if they are not established, kids will suffer. Good habits lead to accomplishment and reinforce responsibilities, which in turn build self esteem.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press
Image of farm boy doing early-morning chores, Library of Congress.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

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