As I take my morning walks here in suburban Chicago, I notice the ‘W’ flags still waving in the breeze, reminding me of the Chicago Cubs world series championship victory two weeks ago that still leaves an afterglow of positivity for fans. Yet, what is so important, in my opinion, about the Cubs overcoming their legendary 108 year old ‘Billy Goat Curse’, is not so much the win in and of itself, but the lessons we can all learn from this experience. In my opinion, it is the universal human values and psychology exemplified by all involved in this victory that can lead to anyone being a champion of their life and the good feelings that go with this.
First, I think we ought to give credit to the leadership of the Cubs organization itself. The leadership showed self-confidence, which is perhaps the foundational value for just about any other values. Four years ago the win and loss numbers were inverted. The new president of baseball operations for the Cubs at that time, Theo Epstein, encouraged all at the beginning to not lose heart. It was undoubtedly a ‘dark night of the soul’ for the team and fans, but Epstein could already see the ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes’, saying that he had a plan. There had to have been tremendous patience and forbearance for all those involved at that time. The self-confidence in Epstein’s vision for his club must have been palpable for the events to have taken shape as they did.
Second, the Cubs manager Joe Maddon, had the right action, right leadership to inspire his young, talented players to give it their all. He never seemed to take events too seriously and injected a wry humor (‘try not to suck’), encouraging all, instead to live in the moment, demonstrating what a precious jewel mindfulness is to the human condition. When we live in the now, we are free of anxiety. Anxiety and fear constrict us from expressing our true self, which is by nature innocent, happy, and joyful. He encouraged the players to enjoy themselves and have fun. And they did! The young players understood this well and it undoubtedly brought out the best in them. Kris Bryant’s smile after hitting his first home run of the World Series was reminiscent for me of a child opening up a gift on Christmas morning to find his favorite toy. Can any of us perform well in any role unless we are bringing such positive inclinations to our efforts? Maddon had belief in his players, seeing good in them even when the players may have not seen it in themselves at the time. He moved Addison Russell up in the batting order even as he was struggling with his hitting. Russell responded by hitting a grand slam and having 6 RBI’s that game! What can we learn from this as managers of businesses and families?
Third, in order to succeed, the team itself showed unity, resilience, and tenacity. No endeavor can succeed well unless these qualities exist. It was an unusual accomplishment for the Cubs to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Indians. The Cubs club showed how the microcosm of its team is an example for the macrocosm of the world. Players from such differing ethnicities as Latino, African-American, and Caucasian showed unfailing dedication to the cause of collaborating as a team. It was observed that just about every member of the team was a contributor to the championship victory. The game was going into extra innings in game 7 (after Cleveland came from behind to tie it up), when a brief rain delay came. The Cubs, led by player Justin Heyward, called a team meeting. The consensus in the meeting was, ‘Yes, we can do this, we can win!’ It is an example of how ‘unity’ is possible in such ‘diversity’, and how we have much more in common with each other as humans than our differences. What can we learn from this value in our families, our communities, and in the wider American society, where differences abound? When we are united as a group, we are so much stronger individually as well. The individuality when selflessly contributed to the greater whole of a group effort is enriching in a profound way.
Finally, here is to the fortitude, forbearance, and perseverance of everyone involved with the Cubs effort from 1908 on! The fans seemingly never gave up. The mantra from year to year was ‘wait til next year’. What faith this must have entailed! The Cubs team was recipient of much devotion over the years as the ‘loveable losers’. People did not give up their hope in spite of repeated defeats. The climax after the 108 year wait for Chicagoans made the victory incredibly sweet. Witness the jubilation of the five million revelers who poured into the streets of Chicago to celebrate after the victory. What lesson can we learn here from the forbearance and fortitude it takes to face repeated setbacks and then ultimately find success through perseverance?
There is much that can be learned from the Cubs victory. Much can be learned even from the Cleveland Indians team that played so valiantly and ultimately lost. I hope that these examples will inspire you in your daily lives to give it your all and to fulfill your most cherished aspirations, whatever they may be!
By Jeff Lucas, LCPC, CADC, CGP
President, Dunham Counseling Center