The Psychology of Suffering

The Art of Fielding is a highly-heralded debut novel.  Baseball is the backdrop, but it’s not about baseball, the publishers want to assure — so as not to turn off the non-sporting segment of book buyers.
Author Chad Harbach is an excellent writer of melodious prose.  His passages on talent, motivation and the human condition are brilliant.
In the book, Mike Schwartz is a hardscrabble scrapper in an arena of high intellect and impressive talent.  He is the Westish College baseball team captain, peer leader and mentor to Henry, the perfection-driven shortstop poised to break the NCAA record for no-error games.
Schwartz has an intuitive Midas touch.  He knows how to find the gold in each player.  He knows how to deliver the team wins.  His methodology: 

Emphasize the obstacles that could prevent success. 

The hero has to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph.Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense.  Everybody suffered.  The key was to choose the form of your suffering.  Most people couldn’t do this alone;  they needed a coach. 

A good coach made you suffer in the way that suited you.  A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.

So….here we are in a protracted economic downturn compounded by global uncertainty.  Very important to incorporate the happiness factor.  But there is an element of suffering in the equation. 

  • How are you leading?
  • Are you mandating across-the-board moves that require everyone to suffer the same way?
  • What would happen if sacrifice/discipline could be tailored on more of an individual basis?     
  • How might that impact the performance of the (pick one) organization, family, government? 

Good coach vs. torturer.

It’s an intriguing management analysis, whether you are leading or being led.  

Note to pundits and pollsters:  Also relevant in the political arena, whether you are voting or running for office.   

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene