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The Pink Elephant: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Results

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

I was 11 years old when my parents signed me up for a baseball summer camp at a local junior college in Northern California. The camp lasted for about six hours each day and, while we were there, we did everything from practicing fundamentals to playing scrimmages. Needless to say I had a blast. As a young baseball fiend, I was in Heaven. There was nowhere I'd rather be than on a ball field all day long in the middle of a summer day.

Even though the main concept of a baseball camp is to make kids better, I barely remember anything from my time there. In fact, I only remember one small detail. This one idea is something that made no sense to me whatsoever at that age, but it is arguably the most important thing I have learned throughout my entire career when I finally got a full grasp of the concept.

The Pink Elephant

I remember the coaches taking us into the locker room one day to talk about different aspects of being a baseball player, such as healthy eating, goal-setting, and work ethic. I'm going to be honest with you, if you pack 100 11 year olds into one room, you won't be able to hold their attention for long.

Amidst the joking and playing around with the other kids, I overheard one interesting part of the speech. The head coach asked us, "If I tell you to not think of a pink elephant, what are you thinking of right now?" Obviously, the image of a cartoonish-looking pink elephant inevitably entered my mind. As I zoned in and out of the rest of the discussion, I struggled to figure out how a pink elephant could relate in any way to baseball. It wasn't until much later, after a long series of trial and error when I discovered the true meaning of the pink elephant.

Say to yourself, "Don't think of a pink elephant." What is the key part of that sentence? No, it is not the elephant. It's actually the word "don't". The lesson: The word "don't" is an EMPTY word. It may carry a lot of significance in the English language, but to your brain it means nothing. You tell yourself to not think of a pink elephant, but the simple mention of a pink elephant causes your brain to fixate on such a creature.

Baseball Related

"Don't swing at the curveball in the dirt."