Just Do Your Best: My Father’s Legacy

My relationship with my dad was centered around one thing: baseball. No matter where we were, what we were doing, or who we were with, everything about our connection seemed to be grounded around the game. He was my coach, my critic, my fan, my motivator… The list could go on for hours. It wasn’t that he thought I was the next Derek Jeter or Barry Bonds- I don’t think he did. But his expectation was always that I would do my best. I would give 100% no matter what.

As time has passed and it’s now been 4 years and 3 months since he died, I’ve continued to notice more and more similarities that my dad and I shared. My dad was a home builder and entrepreneur, and touched many lives in his 46 years. The hundred of people who showed up to his services are the true testament of this. It’s been a challenge playing the game without him in the stands, without his advice as well as his criticism pushing me to be better. But through his passing and continuing my career in Division 1 baseball, I’ve found more within myself than I ever envisioned. My lifelong dream, like millions of other kids growing up, was to play in the big leagues. I worked hard to achieve that goal. But through the hard work and the ups and downs of the game, I’ve found a direct correlation between my future and my relationship with my father.

As I mentioned, my dad was a successful entrepreneur. He worked incredibly hard in his work, but more importantly cherished his role of being a father to myself and my two brothers and being a wife to my mom. That was his most important priority. By playing baseball as long as I have, I’ve realized that I am not a baseball player. I’m my father’s son. Through his lessons and the challenges of the game I’ve been able to find my path as an entrepreneur and have decided to become the Founder of a sports technology company. Being an entrepreneur and an athlete go hand in hand. You need to have tireless work ethic, thick skin, a level head, and most importantly an ability to execute at a high level. You need to wake up everyday, hit the alarm and go out and compete in whatever needs to be done that day. These are all traits that I learned from both my dad and from my baseball career.

I miss my dad to death. But he didn’t live, fight cancer, and die for nothing. Life is about how you live and touching as many people as you can in a positive way. Whether that’s through sports, business, art, music- you must be self aware about what you’re good at and how you can bring value to people. My dad was good at construction, building homes, and business. That was his legacy to those who knew him. But to me he was more than that. My relationship with him taught me that life is not about how much money you make but rather how you make your money. If you are passionate about what you’re doing and can make enough money to live you’re more likely to be happy than the millionaire down the street who makes money in corrupt ways. I’ve quickly become self aware that I have a knack for similar things my dad did, which is why I’ve decided to pursue my company rather than using my 4th year of NCAA eligibility and pursuing an MBA. Baseball has been my engine to drive this far. It’s important that any athlete realizes it’s more important to use the game to live a productive life than letting the game use you. There’s tons of things an athlete can take from their career path and apply it just about anywhere. But from my experiences and my relationship with my dad, there’s three pieces of advice any athlete at any age should hear to ensure a successful life, successful career in any field and a successful legacy.

1. Be ready for the curveball.

When I was told my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, it made me extremely confused. How did my dad, a man who never smoke, never drank, end up with this deadly disease at such a young age? It didn’t matter how many times I asked this question or how hard I tried to find the answer. Life had thrown him and my family a curveball. We were up at the plate with the bases loaded, ready to hit a grand slam in a fastball count and we struck out looking because we weren’t prepared. My dad fought hard, you would never hear him complain about his treatment or how he was feeling. He did the best he could to maintain his role, to support my brothers and make it to as many games as he could.

The odds say that pretty much everyone in the world will be touched by cancer. Either you’ll have it or someone you love will. That’s just the way it is. What’s most important is being ready for the curveball, being ready for the chaos and living life to the fullest while you can. You should commit that random act of kindness today. You should stand up for the kid being bullied. You should go home after work and hug and kiss your spouse and kids. Life’s too short to do any less. We don’t know the hand we are going to be dealt. We know what we have been through everyday leading up to today, but what will tomorrow bring? Not everything is in our control, but it’s important to control what you can. And be ready when the things happen that you can’t, but they will. How will you carry yourself today?

2. 99% of people will not support you. Hold the 1% close.

This is one thing I am sure pretty much every athlete can relate to. To become successful, it requires crazy goals and dreams, as well as extremely hard work and execution. My father was about 30% of my 1%. Losing him hurt my core support system. But in what I’ve lost in losing him I’ve found in self confidence. It’s important you know who is in your 1%. I can assure you that if you look at most of the people you have close to you, you could cross them off the list. Want to test this? Present them with a crazy idea or ambition and see how they react. Human nature in all of us doesn’t want anyone else to get a true advantage. People get jealous and envious. Again, this can be applied to any field. If you’re the best musician at your school or best accountant at work I am sure you have had doubters say things either to your face, or you hear the inevitable chatter behind your back. Since I’ve decided to take the leap as an entrepreneur, I’ve heard everything said behind my back. And I am okay with it. It’s most important to stay focused on yourself, focus on your execution, and going back to #1 it is important to focus on your actions and how they will effect your legacy. This isn’t selfish. By focusing on yourself you are focusing on your family and true friends in the process. It’s important you’re your best for them. The 1% deserve it, and the 99% just aren’t as important.

3. Know your role on the team.

My college career has been a roller coaster ride. I’ve had to play a variety of roles from bench player to team leader. Both roles are difficult in their own ways. Being a bench player means that you’re most likely never going to see the field, but the expectation is that you will support the guys who are out there no matter what. You’re expected to be unselfish and focus on the team’s outcome, not your own frustrations. Being the team leader is difficult because all the pressure is on you. You’re the guy. You’re the one out there that the bench players and coaches are counting on to play well and execute, and if you don’t your team will most likely lose.

It’s important you know who you are on the team you’re on. Whether that’s at work and you’re an intern or the CFO. You have to know who you are at that time, know and accept your role, and help the team win. Everybody started somewhere. It’s most important to learn as much as possible no matter what your title or position. If you’re a new artist and just scored a new gallery, go network with experienced artists and find out how to improve your work. If you’re a rookie on a professional team, get around the veterans and learn the ropes on how to be a pro. This is a really simple thing to do, but extremely difficult to actually execute. Ego plays too much of a role. The successful ones in life can put their egos aside and focus on the team’s results, no matter if they are bench players or stars. This was by far the hardest adjustment for me and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. Awareness of your place on your is one thing, embracing it to win is another.

“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”- Mickey Mantle

It truly is unbelievable. I could list 100 more tips or connections between sports and life. Playing sports at any level is an amazing opportunity to prepare for life. Even if you’re the best player in the the history of sports, you can’t play forever. You need to be prepared for life after sports and be ready to take off the jersey one day. For me that day has come sooner than I realized and I am at peace with it. I’ll never forget that the game helped shaped me and the amazing memories that have formed along the way. I’ve been afraid of losing the game because it was my connection with my father. But through all that I’ve been through, I’ve realized that turning the page to the next chapter will get me even closer to him than I’ve ever been since he’s been gone.

His message to me and our family before his passing was simple: “Just Do Your Best.” Work hard, fail easy, and always remember, in or on any field, to just do your best.

Chris Liskiewicz