Publish October 24, 2023
The Mental Game of Running a Design Business
writing down notes

The Mental Game of Running a Design Business: Lessons from the Baseball Field

Growing up, baseball was a cornerstone in my life. My two boys played passionately, and we attended an astounding 180 games annually. This passion wasn’t just for the thrill of the game but also for the life lessons it offered, many of which I discovered are strikingly parallel to the intricacies and mental game of running a design business.

The Unseen Power of Mental Strength

One significant revelation I had was the realization that baseball has a success rate of around 30%. This means that to be labeled as ‘excellent’, you will, ironically, fail 70% of the time. Doesn’t that sound quite familiar to those of us in the design world? Pitches that don’t get accepted, designs that don’t get approved, and yet we push through. The mental tenacity required in both these fields is monumental. It’s about dusting off after a setback and stepping up to the plate, literally and figuratively, to take another swing.

Once, I had the privilege to hear a Division I baseball coach speak about the importance of mental resilience in the game. So profound were his insights that I felt compelled to adapt them to our design community.

Coach Tollett’s Teachings: From the Diamond to the Design Studio

Coach T emphasized the immeasurable importance of the mental aspect of the game. It’s not tangible – you can’t touch, see, or feel it. Yet, its presence is undeniable and powerful. Strengthening our mental game is vital not just for business success but also for a balanced work-life.

He drew from the teachings of Ken Ravizza, an acclaimed expert in mental preparedness, authoring “Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time.” Here are some key takeaways that I believe we, in the design business, can immensely benefit from:

  1. Process Over Result: Believing in your capabilities is the cornerstone of success. This unwavering confidence fuels drive and determination, leading to results.
  2. The Power of Positive Thought: Our minds often act on the last thing we hear. Negative self-talk can be paralyzing. Shift focus on achievable goals and positive affirmations to build a growth mindset.
  3. Reset and Go: Just as a batter can’t dwell on a missed ball, we in the business world must learn from our setbacks and move forward. Each ‘pitch’ or project is a new opportunity.
  4. Consistency is Key: Just as a player’s consistent form and muscle memory contribute to their success, we must also maintain consistency in our efforts. Regular networking, quality connections, and continuous engagement pave the way to long-term success.
  5. Live in the Present: Past failures or anxieties about the future can hinder our current performance. After the NBA Finals game, Michael Jordan was asked, “Were you nervous about taking the game-winning shot after missing the previous 11 shots?” he answered, “I did not know I missed the previous 11, I was trying to make this one.” Just as Michael Jordan said, he was not bogged down by the 11 missed shots; he was focused on making the current one.
  6. Control What’s in Your Hands: External factors like supply chain issues or client reactions are beyond our control. However, our reaction and approach to these challenges lie within our control. Staying focused on the present and taking actionable steps can steer us toward our goals.

In my design studio, I have a sticky note that simply says, “Breathe.” It’s a small reminder, but it brings my focus back to the now, helping me navigate the daily challenges with clarity.

Both baseball and the design business demand not just talent and hard work but also a resilient mindset. Embracing the lessons from the baseball diamond can provide us with unique perspectives and tools to thrive in our professional journey. So the next time you face a challenge in your design business, channel the spirit of a baseball player, take a deep breath, and swing for the fences.


Go listen to my podcast on my website at or on iTunes here and keep up with my other blog posts.