Baseballs and Tomatoes

Baseballs and Tomatoes

Recently, I heard a great story about a man coaching his 7-year-old’s baseball team. At practice, he was pitching to all the kids, and each would step up to the plate with their bat to take a few swings. As many kids tend to do, they’d stop their swing the moment the bat made contact with the ball. The result was more of a bunt than a hit – the ball would almost fall off the bat and trickle on the ground for a couple of feet. This would happen batter after batter. The coach tried to get his players to swing harder, get the bat in a better position, step into their swing, etc. Nothing changed.   

Since his players couldn’t seem to grasp what he was trying to teach them, the coach changed his own technique. He took the baseball in his hand and asked the batter what he was holding. The child looked at him as if it was a trick question. “It’s a baseball, coach,” the young boy said.  

The coach said, “No, it’s a tomato. I want you to think of this as a tomato and smash it!” The next pitch came, and the batter took the “home run swing” that the coach was looking for. From then on, each batter got up to the plate and swung so hard they nearly turned themselves around. But, they made good contact and got the ball out of the infield. 

The players’ success had nothing to do with their technique – it was about their mindset. The coach changed the way the batters thought of the ball. Instead of thinking of it as a hard object, each boy began thinking of a lighter, more fragile object he could easily bust up. Once their mindset was changed, success followed quickly. 

I bring up this story for two reasons: First, baseball season is back in full swing (pun intended). Second, it reminded me of the problems many of us have when talking to our clients about their future. How often do we discuss rate of return, fees, style drift and other financial terms that are likely over their heads? Not that those things aren’t important, but we have to focus on the clients’ needs and how we can help address them. 

We have to make it easier for our clients to understand the risks of living too long. It’s time to ask questions about how they’re going to live if they run out of money or need long-term care. More importantly, we have to change our story about how we can help them mitigate those risks. It starts with changing our own mindset … then changing the conversation. 

The Bottom Line: Think of positioning your clients’ needs in a new light. If you can change their mindset about the problem, you’re more likely to find a successful solution.