I believe we’re all the same, facing the same challenges in life as we pursue different goals.
What that means is that there’s no difference on a large-scale level between what I went through to get to this point in my writing career, what you went through to get to this point in your career, or what any professional baseball player goes through to try and reach the majors.
The skills and abilities we need for each task are obviously different. That said, there’s one thing that everyone needs: Grit.
I’ve written about this recently, looking at the power of the phrase “not yet” rather than accepting that something which isn’t accomplished is a failure.
Life is an endless pursuit. Anything you haven’t previously done, you can do in the future simply by… doing that thing.
But what about the things you’ve already done, or are currently doing? The endless pursuit also applies.
As I usually do in my Sunday First Pitch, I’ll share how it looked from my journey.
When I started this site, I was 25 years old, with a business degree and a few years of sports writing experience. Not long after starting this site as a side project, I was laid off in the 2009 recession, and eventually tried to pursue this as my full-time job.
I reached that goal, largely through posting new content daily, all day, tirelessly, as a person in their 20’s is capable of doing. Somehow, I had more of a personal life during those years, while also being able to write and post more, and it never seemed like a choice.
I’ve reached a lot of other goals since then. I was able to take this job from a small Virginia town to living a few miles away from some of the best beaches in the world, which would be cool if I was a beach person. I was able to eventually build the site to over 11 million page views, and then later about 6,000 subscriptions. I was able to provide a space for other writers to get experience and help fuel their own goals.
Each one of those things felt like a continuation of the previous thing. In many cases, I needed to adapt and push the site further to survive.
When the site was routinely seeing over 10 million page views a year, I had to switch to a subscription model, because the free site funded by advertising is a model that just doesn’t work for the scale of a site that I wanted. Once it went subscription, my coverage changed to help stand out and justify the subscription cost — now that people had to pay for our work.
I see my own industry as existing in three levels:
1. The top level are the reporters who provide original information. They are sources for news. You typically go to them first.
2. The next level includes the best experts for analysis. These are people who have been around for a long time, or have a unique form of knowledge on the subject. They might not have the latest news, but you want to know what they say about it after it’s out.
3. The third level are the content aggregators. These are almost like librarians. They collect and order everything that everyone else has written, providing easy access for people who are overwhelmed with the amount of choices. They don’t offer the level of analysis as the second tier, and their news is entirely based on the work of the first tier.
I’ve been at all three levels. When I started, I was mostly aggregating content, though I did make it a priority to go out and get my own stuff, starting all the way back in 2009 with coverage of Pedro Alvarez in his pro debut and the championship Lynchburg Hillcats, the Pirates’ High-A team at the time.
From the start, I was covering all three levels, but I was primarily on that third level, trying to make my way up.
After enough time and articles, I comfortably reached that second level, where my analysis on a subject was valued due to my years of coverage and the unique insight I could provide from my own reporting.
I eventually jumped to that top tier, albeit in a niche area of coverage. That’s a really difficult tier to be in. There’s a reason there have been dozens of Pirates reporters covering this team in the time I’ve been here. Being a top tier guy is exhausting.
Right now, I could still do that. I don’t want to. If I’m honest, I’m comfortable being in that second tier, providing my own unique analysis, and letting other people get credit for the reporting.
I used to wonder why newspapers split their coverage between reporters providing facts and columnists providing opinions. The reporters were always around, doing all of the hard work, and knew everything about the team. Yet, they weren’t allowed to give opinions, while the columnists were rarely around and able to say anything.
I was coming at that from the perspective of a level two who could jump into level one coverage at-will. I’ve never gone full level-one, which for me would probably mean going to work for someone else as a beat writer, and leaving behind all of the work I do to run my sites. I did get a chance to dabble in that lifestyle over the last several years, enough to confirm it wasn’t what I wanted. The travel, the endless quest for the latest information, and the rapid speed at which that information becomes irrelevant — leaving you searching for more almost instantly — I’m not built that way. There’s a routine needed for that which my body and mind can’t handle.
Or, perhaps it can, just not for baseball.
In either case, I’ve lived the pursuit to go from a level three content aggregator to a level two analyst. I’ve seen the pursuit needed to go from a level two analyst to a level one reporter. That level one grind, to me, is akin to the grind you’d need going from Triple-A to the Majors.
And the thing about that jump to the majors is that you’re only there for as long as you can cut it. The grind needed to endlessly pursue news and information is exactly why most sports reporters are so unhealthy. It’s why I’m pretty sure Ken Rosenthal is an alien, because it’s inhuman to be that effective. He’s the Mike Trout of the level one major leagues.
Of course, reporting and analysis is more lateral, and not a direct MLB/AAA comparison like baseball. It’s just two different jobs, but I laid it out that way to make a point about the endless pursuit of baseball players — and maybe many other industries.
In baseball, you work hard enough to get drafted, only to find that you’re just one of many players who were successful in that pursuit. Then, you work to reach the highest levels, only to once again be one of many who achieved that pursuit. If you’re good enough, you reach the majors, only to once again find yourself as one of many who achieved that pursuit.
The pursuit never ends. Until you’re Mike Trout.
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