The Rule of Thirds


A few weeks ago, Chipper Jones was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Being a fan of any team in the state of Georgia means I’m used to disappointment, but Chipper Jones reminds me of the great seasons of 14 straight division titles for the Braves. The image of Chipper Jones in an Atlanta Braves uniform is a hallmark of childhood. So the older I have gotten, the more baseball brings back fond memories of growing up in Braves country.

Now, I know it’s February, and it’s only the beginning of spring training. But there are lots of life lessons we can learn from baseball all year long. In fact, we talked about one here at the beginning of last year. Today, I want to talk about the rule of thirds.

For the creatives reading this blog, this is not the rule of thirds that applies to photography. Instead, this is a concept coined by Tommy Lasorda who is famous for serving two decades as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He believed that no matter how good your baseball team is, you’re going to lose one third of your games. No matter how bad your team is, you’re going to win one third of your games. So it’s the other third that makes the difference.

In baseball, the teams that win the other third are the ones that make it to the playoffs. But these teams aren’t just lucky. They are strategic. They are hardworking. They have the right people in the right positions and painstakingly prepare for each of their opponents.

The rule of thirds is consistent. The worst team in baseball this year will probably win at least a third of their games. The best team will probably lose at least a third of their games. But those high performing teams—teams that understand this principle—won’t allow one win or one loss to define their season.

Each of us would benefit from taking this same approach and mentality to our everyday lives. It’s easy to fail or lose and think that we’re failures or losers. This year, each baseball team will play 162 games. The greatest baseball teams will likely lose more than 50 times, but they won’t think of each loss in isolation. They will see those losses as part of the journey of their season. In the same way, we can’t dwell on our failures and miss the whole picture of our personal or professional growth.

On the other hand, this year, the worst teams will probably win at least 50 games. They say a broken clock is right twice a day! But if one of these teams treats one win like they’ve won the World Series, they will be laughed at. Securing one victory isn’t all that valuable if they can’t consistently replicate their success. In the same way, we can’t hang our hats on one success if we’re failing in other important areas.

If you own an ice cream store and haven’t sold any ice cream this week, you can’t celebrate when one person buys 6 scoops on Saturday. The rest of your week shows the true measure of your success.

If the majority of your customers love the services you provide, you can’t decide to close your business because one customer complained about a bad experience. This one customer’s experience does not negate your success thus far.

If one employee thinks that you are a poor leader, you can’t step down from your position because you’re no longer qualified. One employee’s opinion does not affect the overall success you’ve had as a leader and mentor to your other employees.

The rule of thirds informs our personal and professional lives. Resist the temptation to look at successes or failures in isolation.  Keep the proper perspective on your relationships, your sales, your customer satisfaction, and your company growth as a whole. Championships are won when you look at the aggregate; our businesses and lives are no different!

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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up