#4 Knowing How to Count

I have a personal guarantee that I’d like to share with you. If you are working on any area in life, be it anger, be it arrogance, be it davening (praying) with kavanah (concentration), be it tayvah (lust), I guarantee that you’re going to fall down many times. You’ll set goals and you’ll fail; you’ll set challenges and you won’t make it. And many times there’s a feeling of yei’ush (despondency), of depression — I failed, I blew it.

Rabbi Davidowitz, the Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of Rochester, used to say you have to know how to count. And he would give an example. If you look at a professional baseball player who bats 350, the man is on top of his game. He’s an all-star, making millions and millions of dollars. If he’s even batting 300, that’s pretty good. A 300 consistent hitter is a mighty valuable player.

Now, let’s understand what that means in plain English. For every 10 times he gets up at the plate, seven times he strikes out. Batting 300 means you’re on base three out of 10 times. That means seven out of 10 times you blew it; you failed. Could you imagine a professional ball player standing there with the bat saying to himself oh my goodness, I failed time after time — 70 percent of the time I fail! Seventy percent of the time I blow it! I’m a loser; I’m worthless. But that’s not what he says to himself. The crowd roars his name. And if it’s actually 350, if he’s only blowing it 65 percent of the time, he’s a world champion.

Knowing how to count is essential to knowing how to fight a fight. I guarantee if you’re battling tayvah you will not win every battle. I guarantee you you’re going to lose a lot of them. It may be a day, it may be a week, it may be a month, it may be two months, but then you fall. And you say to yourself what am I? I’m a loser! I’m a worthless loser! And you’re correct if you don’t know how to count. But if you know how to count and you win a few, that makes you a winner in that area. And then you increase that and increase that, you go on more and more. But knowing how to count means I will not be totally successful.

It’s not a winner or loser game. It’s not if I ever fail I’m a loser and worthless. You have to know that growth is incremental; you have to know that you will likely fail. You’re going to get back into the fight again and get back in again and again, but likely you’re going to fall down. And if you’re batting even 70 percent you’re a super-star. If you’re batting 50 percent you’re doing very, very well. And for the record, even if you’re only batting 30 percent, even if you’re only winning three out of 10, you’re doing phenomenally well. That understanding how to count is essential for growing in this area.

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