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  • Writer's pictureJeremiah Ritchie

Clear the Mechanism

I recently watched the first few episodes of Yellowstone. I can understand why so many people like it. It's freedom and guns, horses and cowboy hats, sex and politics and conspiracy. It's also Kevin Costner in what is surely an iconic, career defining role. But my favorite Costner characters are sports themed. How do you not shed a tear when he gets to play catch with his dad in Field of Dreams? More than once I've dropped another ball on the golf course, Tin Cup style, until I make the shot I know I can hit. But the movie I quote to myself more than any other is from his 1999 film For Love of The Game where he plays Billy Chapel, a veteran pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who might be pitching in his last game. He takes the mound in front of a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium, holds his glove to his chest and says, "Clear the Mechanism."

When Billy says this, the crowd goes nearly silent. All of the jeers and insults of Yankee's fans become nothing more than white noise. Everything blurs out except the catcher (played by John C. Reilly) and the next batter up. He gets the signal, winds up, delivers the pitch, and we're left with nothing but the musical sound of a fastball connecting with leather and the loud call of "Striiike Onne." It's magical, at least if you're a baseball fan. It's the tool Billy uses to remove the distractions in a high-pressure environment so that he can perform his craft.

I use this phrase all the time. Sometimes it's just to help me refocus at work and get to the task at hand. Sometimes it's when I'm doing work around the house or reading or even on the golf course when I've bogeyed two holes in a row and am having a hard time getting over a three-putt. Clear the mechanism. Put all the distractions aside and just think about the next shot.

There are many ways you can put this device to work for you. Billy's mantra is just one example. Before a coaching session I light a candle and sit in silence for three to five minutes. Sometimes when I'm working in a crowded environment and there's a lot of conversation (like right now), I'll slip on some noise cancelling headphones, take a sip of beer, and sit still until the dark brown liquid settles in the glass. Then I write. Any ritual of intention can help you tune out to the things vying for your attention.

You can use this in more personal ways, too, when you're just trying to engage in something important to you.

Do you need to spend some quality time with your kids but are having a hard time disconnecting from work or the lawn that needs to be mowed or the bird feeder that needs filled?

Clear the mechanism.

Do you need to mow the lawn but you've just remembered an email you forgot to send at work earlier that day?

Clear the mechanism.

Is there a good book you started but haven't opened again in weeks? A long walk in the dark you've been putting off because it seems selfish? A friend you haven't spoken to in a couple years, not because of anything specific but because life just happens?

Clear the mechanism.

Distractions will always come up whenever you try to do something important, something of meaning or change or transformation. Steven Presfield, in his crucial book The War of Art, calls it Resistance. And resistance will bury you. It's vital that you develop tools to overcome resistance whenever it pops up. Hopefully this can be one for you.

Clear the mechanism.

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