About 10 years ago, I came up with this huge idea to help my high school.
I went to "Walt Whitman High School (New York), "the greatest school we know. We promise to be true to thee, wherever we may go."
It was a very special four years, during which I grew to my man size self, played baseball with guys who had grown up together on converted potato fields, cried to the shocking and life changing deaths of JFK, RFK and MLK, dated a brace of the most beautiful women on Long Island and need I add more?
I connected with a fellow classmate to mastermind what we might do. Often during the conversation, my former classmate would respond to my query with "google it!"
I was embarrassed each time she said those words as if she were repeating a cheerleader prompt.
What the hell was she talking about? Dare I ask.
Finally I had to.
"Excuse me, when you say: Google it." Just exactly what do you mean?
I was wiping the egg of my crimson colored face when she brought me into the changing 21st century.
"It is a search engine which helps you connect your thoughts with information of any kind."
In time, I came to think of it as a way of thinking.
You come out of a movie and you wonder if the actor who starred in the film ever appeared with his co-star in any other films.
Your refrigerator breaks down and the warranty no longer applies. Do you go to the reliable Yellow Pages to search for a repair source?
You are watching the Yankees play and a thought takes you back to the very first game you saw as an 8 year old child in 1958.
What to do?
How many high schools in America honor their alumni and connect with their current and future student base by establishing a place for the very best minds, a Hall of Fame?
The classmate and I went our separate ways, but the knowledge she gave me would never be forgotten and for that I thank her, even though she will probably never know of my gratitude.
Google it! These two words would set me free.
Wasn't that the kind of future thinking which was unique to my mindset?
Fact is I had always been a rebel, a forward thinker,a visionary. I just hadn't focused on the words which would describe me.
My thinking was in the future, while most others around me were stuck in the past or desperately trying to keep up with the future.
I had stepped up to the plate on my high school baseball team. The tying run was on 2nd base, but only one out remained.
Most ballplayers, especially a youthful amateur might be overwhelmed by the moment, drawn to moments of failure when last confronted with this game situation.
Think in the future? How do you pull that off?
I had struck out twice against the starting pitcher, a crafty Northport Tiger left-hander. There was no precedent for me to be successful in this at bat.
The few hundred in attendance encouraged me with yells.
I stepped out of the Batter's Box to collect my thoughts. I visualized what would happen next. In my mind, like a color film playing against the screen in my brain, I found myself thinking in the future for one of the very first times I could recall.
What else would you call thinking where you had an At Bat in your head before that same AB took place on the field?
It would be, although I hardly knew it at the time, a life changing moment.
I continued watching the movie now playing in my head. The Tiger pitcher delivered a fast, but straight toss down the heart of the plate. The past two times, I had watched like a Cigar Store Indian as the umpire rang up strike one.
This time, I was ready and surprised even myself by swinging my bottle bat handle Nellie Fox model bat and hearing the wood crack the horsehide with a resounding whack.
I watched in my mind's theater as the ball flew off the bat like a rifle shot, over the Shortstop's leap and bouncing wildly in the outfield while the tying run streaked home, the outfielders chased the ball down and I scampered around first, sliding into second base with a game tying double.
My motion picture of the mind had slowed the game down to slow motion, but the action which evolved on the field was riveting and powerful. I thought my 18 year old head was going to explode with these thoughts.
Just exactly what was I seeing here? The future? My future?
Back to the movies. Sound was added as if some unknown Director had ordered a mental soundtrack. Car horns filled my head. As I stood on 2nd base, I looked beyond the outfield fence over the right field wall. Our newly constructed Teen Center was awash with kids enjoying the first summer like rays of a gorgeous Spring late afternoon on Long Island.
The horns serenaded me as I asked for TIME from the umpire and wiped the infield dirt off my baseball pants. A double. The most important AB in my life and what had I done? I hit a double which tied the score and now positioned us for the climatic win.
I had to rush back to the theater and see how all this turned out.
But I never did.
I was hearing another voice from within the theater. It was like a Public Service Announcement being made by famous PA announce Bob Shepherd or the school principal, Woody "the woodpecker" Zarros or maybe it was another authority figure of my youth.
I was jolted back to reality and extricated from my trip to the future in my private time machine.
I had to hold back tears. None of this good stuff had happened in real time. It had all been make believe. I was disgusted with myself for acting like a child. I was 18 years old. When was I going to grow up?
And now the pitcher has the ball and now he lets it go
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
Oh, my lord. Now I was quoting poetry in my head. However, this was not ordinary poetry. From the time I had joined the high school team, I had become the designated raconteur for the Wildcat ball club. During our road trips to West Islip, Commack, Northport, Amityville and places all over Long Island, I spun funny stories, such as Casey at the Bat, an 1888 poem written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer for the San Francisco Examiner for its June 3, 1888 editions to celebrate this growing in popularity game of baseball which seemed to connect with all Americans.
I had committed the 8 minute poem to memory and acted it out on those bus rides as my teammates convulsed with laughter. I was a born comedian and I loved every second of it. Living a life of quiet desperation and awkward coming of age of the American male, I had stumbled upon a character which filled me with confidence like the cartoon character Popeye and his penchant for spinach.
What happened in the next few seconds is a duplicate of what I teach to athletes, students, coaches, entrepreneurs and future leaders around the country. It is why people pay me to change the way they think
I have been doing it for over 50 years. And this very moment is where it all began..
And now the pitcher has the ball and now he lets it go
And now the air is shattered with the force of Casey's blow.
The movie I had just screened in my head was carried out in reality on that Whitman field that afternoon.
The swing, the crack of the bat, the frenzied outfielders, the racing around the bases, the blaring horns and all the glory an 18 year old boy could ever hope for.
It had all happened to me.
I became a high school hero to a handful of people that May afternoon in my 18th year.
What I became to myself would be far more important.
I could think in the future and make things happen that I dreamed in my head.
How lucky was I?