Madison Bumgarner didn't just bring home the trophy - he brought home a lesson on how to lead our lives.

Bringing It Home

This week, I got surprised twice. First, I experienced joy from a baseball game as the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. Second, and perhaps more surprising, I became a baseball fan.
Why this latter transformation was the more remarkable feat goes back to my fourth grade PE class when Miss Scott put me in to pitch. I executed a perfect no-hitter by throwing balls so out of the zone that I walked every single batter. From that moment forward, I knew that I was not well matched with baseball.
But on Wednesday night, I witnessed a better match when a 25-year old Giant named Madison Bumgarner who, after executing a 117-pitch shutout just two days prior, stepped in during the final game and delivered 68 more pitches, holding the Kansas City Royals to three hits and no runs.
"I wasn't thinking about finishing the game or how many innings I was going to go or pitch count," Mr. Bumgarner said after the game. "I was just wanting to get outs." He streamlined his focus and stayed on task to get the job done and win the game.
When I consider this pitcher through my leadership framework, The Five Elements, I see an Achiever.  Action-oriented and fearless, Achievers approach every task with gusto. They seek to win. “I didn’t know if he had enough left tonight,” Kevin Bumgarner said of his son, “but I did know that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate." That determination led Madison Bumgarner and his team to victory.

So, what is an Achiever? Imagine a lake, calm on the surface, but teeming with turbulence underneath. Madison Bumgarner embodied that lake -calm, barely breaking a sweat and never losing his cool. Teammate Buster Posey commented after the game that he was “amazed at how he just sits on the bench and seems so calm. When you're as good as he is, it's easy."
Easy? Not so fast, according to Coach Dave Righetti who reminds us how hard Bumgarner had to work. He recalled a previous and less successful performance for this pitcher: "Bumgarner was rushing. He had to learn to focus and trust."
Mastery of his inner turbulence however, did come. And when it did, Madison Bumgarner instilled confidence not only in himself, but in those around  him. "Once I saw him warming up...," fellow pitcher Tim Hudson, said, "I knew he was going to get the job done."
As I watched the game unfold, I could sense confidence growing in me that Mr. Bumgarner would achieve his goal.  Even on screen, he conveyed depth and the determination to win - one pitch at a time. True to form, in a post-game interview he gave thanks to his team and his fans for placing their trust in him.
Yesterday I joined two million fans at the Victory Parade. The love Madison Bumgarner received from the crowd must have been a highlight for him. But I can only imagine that a bigger highlight came in the text his father sent him during the eighth inning of the final game -
"You’re so much more than awesome....I couldn’t be more proud of your baseball accomplishments.”
Madison, you are an Achiever for the ages. You’ve brought home both the trophy and a shining example to fans – old and new - by leading with excellence, sportsmanship, teamwork, and humility. To you, I tip my cap.


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Kevin will be co-facilitating a series of Welcome Table community meetings with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on November 3-6 in New Orleans, LA.

I just finished reading "The Half has Never been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism," by Edward Baptist. This incredible book chronicles how the institution of slavery was the unspoken foundation for the evolution of the United States as a world power. In many ways, this book is a good companion with The Warmth of Other Suns and in my opinion, both should be required reading for high school students.  I highly recommend these books.
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