Trying to “hit one out of the park”, literally for baseball, and metaphorically, for the rest of us, is a tricky thing.

Some superstars, like Mark McGuire, made it look easy.  Later, we found out that he decided to use steroids along with many other players, in order to gain the bulk and the strength he needed to hit this show-stopping feat time after time.  Many people felt this subtracted from the feat of having hit a baseball, time after time, over the fences, but anyone who has ever hit a baseball knows that there’s much more than simple strength involved in hitting a ball- it’s about timing, watching, waiting for the perfect pitch, and taking advantage of the situation when its presented to you.

It seems when people look at success, and the success of others,  we think it looks so easy to be them.  We think “If  I could just get lucky, I could have that life, too.”  Our heroes and superstars  make it look easy.  We see them up on stage, for example, talking and delivering value time after time.  What we don’t realize is that the people we admire got there after years of honing their stage craft, their knowledge base, and the skills required to deliver these ideas to others consistently.  It isn’t magic, it’s just the accumulated experience of years of practice coming together to be shared for a few moments in time.

Julien Smith wrote an interesting post the other day about Gatejumping, and while there are short-cuts you can take to your end goal, most of them involve being in the right place at the right time.  You can ask people for help and to mentor you, but you have to get to know them first, and be someone they would like to help- they need to see your potential for success.   You have to train a bit in order to gatejump- and you need to know which hurdles or obstacles placed in your path need to be climbed and which ones you can simply walk around.

Putting yourself out there, asking for help, doing a project that seems a little bit more than is absolutely prudent, taking a risk- these are all things that help you grow, help you learn, and take you just a bit father down the path to your own version of success.  You can’t bottle the experience of someone else- you have to live your own life and define success for you.  And part of your path will involve dealing with obstacles and you’ll have to decide whether you will let each hurdle stop you, delay you, or merely motivate you to beat it and reach the next level.

To that end, I am constantly fascinated by different reality shows, especially things like America’s Next Top Model.  Season after season, contestants seek to get a prize they think will solve every problem in their life- yet they know, going in, that only one of the people applying for this “job” will actually succeed.  The Next Top Model show ends up being a manufacturing plant for models and wannabes, but what’s fascinating is that the eventual winner gets chosen largely on the basis of their own unique personal assets.  People get tossed to the side who have great skills- they may look good in front of the camera, deliver the perfect shot or catwalk, but their personality may fail- they fail to make that special impression on the judges- and that’s what takes the ordinary beautiful girl to the next level- her ability to become “the whole package”.

Likewise, we need to each become the best person we can be.  We can’t all be Chris Brogan, but we can take his advice and learn that by thinking outside the box, thinking about how you can solve the puzzle or problem presented, we can use each success as a stepping stone to the next big thing.  If you never stretch, if you never try to swing for the fence, to go that little bit further down the path, you’ll never know what you are truly capable of.

This also means letting go of the fear of failure, of course, and being willing to make mistakes and even look foolish from time to time.  Personally, I find I get the most out of trying things that look quixotic and a bit more than should be possible, and I’m always surprised how well things turn out in the end.  Once you’re no longer afraid to fail, but willing to learn from the experience, a whole new world will open up for you.

Heck, swinging for the fences is also just plain more fun than just trying to settle and just get on base.  Let’s not forget that, either.  You can always settle, but dreaming big and achieving simply feels a whole lot better.

What’s your fence?  What’s your goal that seems just a little out of reach?  Who can help you get there?  And why aren’t you talking to them right now instead of reading this?