Advice from a “natural” on developing skills.


This is George “Shotgun” Shuba. You may or may not have heard of him. He was an outfielder on the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers team that won the World Series.

“Shotgun” Shuba was known for his swing which appeared to be “as natural as a smile.”

Now, the reason I’m telling you this is because there’s a beautiful exchange in Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer that reveals how he got his swing.

It goes like this:

Kahn visits Shuba and tells him, “I would have given anything to have had your natural swing.”

To which Shuba replies, “You could have.”

Shuba goes on to explain what he did every offseason.

First, he drilled a hole in his bat and filled it with ten ounces of lead.

Then he took a ball of string and made knots in it until it hung in a clump, like a ball.

Then, reaching for a chart marked with X’s, he says, “In the winters, for fifteen years, I’d swing at the clump six hundred times. Every night, and after sixty I’d make an X. Ten X’s and I had my six hundred swings. Then I could go to bed.”

George Shuba got his natural swing by swinging a leaded baseball bat at a ball of string 47,200 times every winter.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s easy to look at sports stars or business leaders and think that they’re naturals.

And honestly, a few of them might be, but the truth is that most of them only look like naturals.

And they look like naturals because they have put in the practice.

George Shuba didn’t have natural talent–he developed a skill. He swung a 44oz bat 600 times a night every winter. There’s nothing natural about that.

The moral of the story is this:

Don’t fixate on whether or not you’re a natural.

Anything you can learn is a skill.

And the way to build skills is through deliberate practice.

Get your ten x’s before bed.

Then do it again tomorrow.

That’s how the naturals do it.