I heard it. It was as loud to be as a gunshot going off. I felt my elbow pop and I knew, instinctively, that my baseball career was over. My arm hung limp by my side and I remember my head coach coming out to the mound to ask me what was wrong. I had been pitching throughout the entire season with an arm that was barely holding up for whatever reason and this was a moment of my “comeback” after taking 6 weeks off to heal. I couldn’t throw anymore. I could barely even keep my arm by my side. I handed him the ball, walked off the mound, headed into the trainers room and sat there devastated.

I would play a couple more years before the final nail was in the coffin, but there was something about that moment my senior year of high school where I just knew it was going to be a matter of time until I had to hang the cleats up.

That intuition ended up being right on the money, as it usually is, and I had to walk away from the sport I loved.

This post isn’t really about baseball though.

This post is about something that happened to me inside when I lost baseball.

When my arm cracked, I lost trust in something that I always had – my killer instinct.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had this incredibly competitive killer instinct where I could be put into any high pressure situation and I felt deep inside that “I got this.” When my elbow fell apart and I lost the main expression of that killer instinct, that deeply rooted competitive drive, something in me tamed. It’s like I got put into a cage. The lion in the cage still has that instinct that it had out in the wild, but as long as it remains in the cage, it will travel the path of being a tamed beast.

Throughout the years, I’ve been traveling down a path, for the most part, of uncovering things that have always existed in my life as a piece of me instead of building or tacking them on. I’ve discovered parts of myself in full that I had seen glimmers of in the past but never really saw them all the way through for what they were. As I continued on this journey, those glimmers turned to sparks and from time to time they would ignite into full blown forest fires. It’s not uncommon for things to be traveling along at a meandering pace (or what feels like it) in my life and then all of the sudden things are engulfed in flames – in a rather good way.

What started to develop over the course of many years was the reemergence of belief and faith in my abilities. To be completely honest, the events of life piled up on me way back then and I did arrive at a time where I really did break. I slammed into rock-bottom so hard I bounced twice. It always surprises people to hear that the story before this story was written wasn’t always like this. It was chaos. Absolute chaos for a vast majority of my life. Internal tornados reigned supreme and tore everything up that got in their path. Not exactly the best way to be living.

But I lived that way. Since I lived that way, I know how to connect with others on that level.

Coming out of that though…and honestly, it feels like within the last year that I’ve actually broken free from that old story (surprising being 5 years into this huh?) I’m clearly seeing that there were specific events in my life that changed things. That comes as absolutely no surprise to me because I understand better than anyone else that life can life you when it has the chance. So despite feeling that there are some things in the unfinished business category standing at 26 years old looking at myself right now, I get that I have an endless supply of opportunities to  continue creating for myself new stories. New ways of living. New efforts.

I have the ability to be relentless.

I’m learning every single day. But what am I really really learning? I’m learning just how much of an impact my past and the story that dictated my life before this one that I am living right now shaped and molded the things that I have to deal with on a daily basis. It would be silly for me to tell you that you can’t just start over brand new like nothing ever happened. Nope. Not the case. You can start to write a new story for yourself…but like it or not, you’re going to have to bring out the cleanup crew to help you dismantle the old habits, work with the thoughts and emotions, and spend some time digging into this place where most of your greatest lessons live.

That’s the reality of it.

Some days are going to be a struggle. Some days you are going to hurt bad because things popped up and it caused something inside of you to burn. That’s ok. Honestly, it’s fine for that to happen. It happens to everyone. But building walls and pretending like it never did happen, that’s when you’re setting yourself up for danger. That’s when things get really messy.

But you have to retain that instinct. You have to be willing to 100% your gut and function out of a place where you just know what to do instead of sitting back and being paralyzed by analysis all the time. I’ve been there. What made me struggle even more in this place is a grand debacle down in Los Angeles which just undermined my confidence even more. It took me a long time to let that go.

So where does this all land me right now?

There was a time years back where I would stand on the mound, cool, calm, collected but with a relentless burning desire inside of me to carry out my mission with everything I was capable of. It was a raging fire. It was beyond passion. I didn’t care about a thing in the world when I was up there. The only thing that mattered to me was pounding the zone with what I had that day and taking care of business.

And there’s that caged lion again…pacing…waiting for the moment to be let out. Waiting to be given the chance to function on instinct again. He’s always had it. It never left him. Just waiting…

All he has to do is push the door open…realizing the whole time it has been unlocked

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project