A Baseball and My Fear

I’ve been carrying around a brand new baseball for a little over a week.


I found it in my car when I was cleaning it out and transferring the contents to a new car. Why was it in the trunk? Back in September I made a trip to Nashville for a conference. The Start Conference was created as a companion to the book Start. Earlier in the year, Start was released by writer Jon Acuff. It is the follow-up to his highly successful book, Quitter. I read Start. I joined a crazy crew of people for a wild adventure dreamed up and built up by Jon in July. The conference in September allowed me to meet up with some of the crazy people (now friends) I had met online. Unfortunately not every one of the over 2,000 people in the online group were able to attend the conference. The baseball in my trunk was for one of those people. A baseball fanatic. Ethan Bryan.

I had planned on having the baseball signed by the crazy online friends who were able to attend the conference. I actually brought two baseballs with me. With over one hundred people needing to autograph a ball, two would be necessary.

I forgot. The baseballs stayed in my trunk.

That’s actually a lie.

I didn’t completely forget. I chose to leave them in the trunk. Why? Why didn’t I follow through? How hard could it be to have a few dozen people sign a baseball for an “online” friend? Well for me it was impossible. One simple thing got in my way.


Now, six months later, I laugh at myself. I laugh at the irony. I laugh at the ridiculous thought of not being able to walk up to these people and ask for an autograph on a baseball for one of our friends. The irony comes from a portion of the subtitle of Jon’s book. Here’s the full title:

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters

Yep. Right there in the title. Also the focus of the conference.

Jon even had a punching bag set up so we could put on boxing gloves and punch fear with our fists.

Photo used with permission.

Photo used with permission.

I was nervous and shy. Up until that first afternoon of the conference, I’d never met any of these people in person. I had chatted online and spoken on the phone with a few of them, but no face to face interaction. I was excited to go to the conference. I wanted to be inspired by Jon and the other presenters. I thought I wanted to make face to face contact with my new friends. Fear was holding me back. I’ve been a sales consultant since 1997. I talk to strangers every day. It is a vital part of my job.

This was different though. This was a crowd of people. I don’t like crowds. I avoid small-talk. I’m not the person standing around with a half-dozen people after church chatting about, well, whatever “those people” chat about. I’d much rather sit with you at a table in a coffee shop.

Back to the baseball.

It is now the middle of March. Spring Training for Major League Baseball is in full swing. In less than three weeks my Detroit Tigers will open their regular season with a home game. Their opponent? Ethan Bryan’s beloved Kansas City Royals.

The baseball for Ethan goes with me in the car every day. It comes with me to my desk. I roll it around in my hand and try different grips while I work. When I’m home at night, I have it with me. Watching TV, reading a book, whatever I’m doing, I have it with me. My wife and boys think I’m weird. I’m okay with that. I know why I’m holding it. Ethan knows why I’m holding it.

Baseball is back.

Someday I will give this baseball to Ethan. Soon. Will it have a few dozen signatures from our mutual online friends on it when I give it to him? Maybe. But maybe I’ll save that for another time. Maybe this one will be special. We’ll play catch with it when we meet in person for the first time. And then I’ll autograph it and give it to Ethan to keep safe until the next time we meet.

What does FEAR keep you from doing?
Let me know in the comments. Join the conversation.


To learn more about Ethan Bryan, check out his blog: http://ethanbryan.wordpress.com/
He is a great writer and storyteller.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “A Baseball and My Fear

  1. What a great post. I can relate to the irony of joining the ‘punch fear in the face’ adventure while still in fear. It’s a great reminder to me that it takes time to grow. Even though you left the baseball in the car during the conference , you still bought and brought the baseball. That was a step! Now you’re ready to do more.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing. I really appreciated this post.

  2. great post rick! there are lots of areas where i seem really confident, like i am a heavyweight boxer smashing fear down to the dust. i love talking to strangers. i love meeting new people. i love public speaking.

    what i dont love is the more vulnerable places of my life like being 37 and having 2 kids and a health problem that screwed up my energy levels and my weight and then having to reclaim that. and then having to do that in public with a new role i’ve taken on in our church. part of the gap year course i help run is a once a week workout together and also the students had to create a healthy lifestyle plan, including exercise.

    i had to punch fear hard. and thats when the hustle stepped into my life. the first time i donned my workout gear and stepped out of the bathroom was like… a moment! i think i was sweating from fear! and then we still had to workout.

    now i relish the workouts. i resolved to get fit so that i wouldnt freak out, or die! i am bcoming more comfortable in my skin and and trying to lead these young adults from the front – if i can do it why cant they!

    but the very first step in it all was to conquer that fear and silence those voices!

    love what you’re doing rick! love who you are and how you’re touching the world around you!

    blessings, Claire 🙂

  3. What a great story! And isn’t it funny how something we held back of doing suddenly seem so easy? This baseball has become something so much more now for you, and I’m sure for Ethan too. It has a different kind of story and history than it would have originally. Keep writing my friend. Great post!

  4. This sounds so like me too! I would have loved to have been at the Start conference but I would have been scared to death to talk to everyone. Why is that? #PunchFearInTheFace. Get that ball signed.

    Thanks for sharing this! And I am enjoying all your #Next3Decades posts.