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Overcoming Adversity

Burton Rocks: Looking At Life Through a Different Lens – Joel Goldberg Media

Lessons / December 7, 2022

In life, some seasons will be winners, others will be teachers. And nowhere can we learn as much as from baseball itself. Whether overcoming adversity or winning with grace, America’s pastime instills all of the lessons.

Over the course of my decades-long career as a sports broadcaster, I’ve gotten an Ivy League education in them. As a keynote speaker, I now have the privilege of sharing those lessons with corporate audiences along with behind the scenes baseball anecdotes you won’t hear about anywhere else. That peek behind the curtain is interesting. But the real reason I share them is because the lessons, especially on overcoming adversity, translate so seamlessly to the challenges my listeners find themselves up against.

It’s something every Great, no matter who they are or what they do, has to go through. After all, nobody became the best by having everything handed to them. It takes grit. And just like life, baseball grinds on, making each new day an opportunity to be better than the one before. Whether you’re a kid, a professional or something in between, the lesson applies. And if overcoming adversity is the measure of success, one recent guest on my podcast Rounding the Bases is the G.O.A.T.

He’s a wildly dynamic individual with experiences that are simultaneously diverse and uniform. But they share a single common denominator: rejection of the status quo. He’s best known for shattering sports contract precedent and has co-authored with greats from the sandlot to the silver screen, catapulting his moniker into the echelons of pop culture. He can even claim fame as the first lawyer featured on a Topps baseball card.

It’s all in a days work for Burton Rocks, the sports attorney, New York Times best-selling author and founder of the CL Rocks Corporation. His path wasn’t always easy. In fact, his is a story largely influenced by overcoming the adversity he faced as a child. It was when he committed to thrive despite it all that quantifiable change began, in his own life and for those around him.

SINGLE: Precious Priorities

While his childhood peers spent their days running, climbing and playing, Burton spent his battling severe asthma. It was so acute that by the age of five, he had suffered three cardiac arrests. Because of his condition, Burton’s sick days far outnumbered his well ones. In fact, many of his earliest memories took place from the confines of his hospital bed.

The situation was far from ideal. But in the true spirit of overcoming adversity, Burton was able to frame the experience positively. “It taught me that if, you know, I can make it through that, I guess in retrospect, I can make it through anything,” he shared, speaking about his health challenges as a child.

It also brought the incredible benefit of extended periods of togetherness with his parents, family and others who genuinely cared. “When you have precious time with people,” he said, “It really is that. It really is precious.” And it was an experience that went on to shape his worldview for the rest of his life.

DOUBLE: A Different Lens

Birthdays are important for everyone, but when you’re not sure if you will live to see your next one, they carry a certain gravitas that many cannot appreciate. “I really just wanted to live,” Burton told me while reflecting on what celebrations were like as a child. For him, they were never about parties or presents. They were days to recognize another year of existence.

“It was a completely different lens of life that I was forced to look through,” Burton acknowledged. He then went on to liken his experience as an oft-hospitalized youth to wearing glasses you know have the wrong prescription. It was painful, of course, physically and emotionally too, knowing that life inside that hospital room didn’t look the way it was supposed to. But it also taught him to see things in a way that others simply do not.

Burton still celebrated every year, especially when he was sick, with a perspective that was as unique as it was healthy. “Wow, I can’t believe another year has gone by,” he remembered thinking to himself. After overcoming adversity the way he did, it’s no wonder he has continued to acknowledge every new year since with a marked sense of humility and gratitude.

TRIPLE: Winning Perspective

In my career as a sports broadcaster, I’ve met my fair share of sports agents. But Burton is in a league of his own, so to speak. His unique background brings an incredible realness to everything that he does, and has become a part of his magic. His own experiences overcoming adversity are so deeply ingrained in who he is that a part of it can be found in every interaction he has, especially with the counsel he offers his clients.

“You can’t control life and you can’t control other peoples’ lives,” he shared. What you can control is your attitude, and your ability to give your best every day, regardless of the infinite variables trying to keep you from doing so. When discussing his approach to clients, he told me, “Life experiences have taught why one way is a better path than the other.”

Burton recognizes that his perspective will resonate with some and not with others. For those that do, the relationship becomes as unique as the way he sees the world. “I love it,” he told me, before adding, “and it’s great because I get to see different lives.”

HOME RUN: Embracing Intangibles

Baseball, more than any other sport, lives by statistics. For all of its wins and losses, the stats fail to include some of the most important pieces to success: intangible human elements. Data misses the empathy that is critical to holistically understanding who showed up to work that day. And while Burton may be an agent, an author and a business owner to name just a few, his work to change the way we evaluate people may be what he known best for.

He calls it the Quantified Intangible (QI) Sheet, and it challenges people to rethink traditional means of judging talent. Instead of focusing purely on statistics, the metric quantifies an individuals’ other traits – such as success at overcoming adversity – that make them unique. “At the end of the day, you have to be able to itemize your brain where your intangibles were,” he explained.

‘Where have you failed’ and ‘where have you succeeded’ are questions he asks on his QI survey, which gives a more well-rounded perspective of individuals. It looks for and takes into account things that influence how you act and relate to people. It was the basis of his Ted talk and has also become an integral part of modern-day MLB recruiting, both on the field and in the front office.

Because contrary to conventional opinion, winning alone doesn’t constitute greatness. How you deal with not winning is equally as important, maybe even more so. “We’ve all had failures in life,” he said, “Maybe it was the best thing that ever happened.”

Listen to the full interview here or tune in to Rounding the Bases every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Learn More About Overcoming Adversity from Joel

Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.

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Full Transcription:

Joel Goldberg 0:00
Welcome into Rounding the Bases the podcast about culture and leadership with a baseball twist presented by Community America Credit Union: Believe in Unbelievable. Quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City. If you’re in Kansas City or all around the country for that matter, they are helping people find jobs, placing people, hiring, and they’re a great resource. That’s what I love the most. I still enjoy my partnership with them on a personal and professional level. Chiefofstaffkc.com, an incredible resource for you. Speaking of resources, speaking of incredible, my guest today is just that. He is a wildly dynamic individual. His experiences are simultaneously diverse and uniform, but share a single common denominator: rejection of the status quo. He’s best known for shattering sports contract precedent, and has co-authored with greats from the sandlot to the silver screen, catapulting his moniker into the echelons of pop culture. He can even claim fame as the first lawyer featured on a Topps baseball card. It’s all in a day’s work for my guests, Burton Rocks, the sports attorney, New York Times best selling author and founder of the CL Rocks Corporation. His path wasn’t always easy. In fact, his is a story largely influenced by the challenges he faced as a child. It was when he committed to thrive despite adversity, that quantifiable change began in his own life and for those around him. And I am excited right now to be joined by, I think, the guy, we said this before, with the coolest name in sports, Burton Rocks. Which is his name, by the way, it’s not made up or anything like that. Burton, how are you?

Burton Rocks 1:37
Joel, it’s an honor to be with you. Thanks, I’m great, my friend.

Joel Goldberg 1:41
It’s good to hear you. It’s good to see you. Good to see you right now, virtually. And I know that you are a very busy man. So by so getting the two of us together has not been easy. But we’ve finally done it. And I don’t even know where to begin. Because just in itself, it’d be really interesting to talk about being a sports agent, and having all the clients that you do. I don’t know where that even falls on the list of accomplishments and interesting elements to your life. I want to talk about your dad later, too. You have a famous father and all the things that you have done. But I think I would want to go back to just your story. Because, you know, from from what I know, you shouldn’t even been here at this point. And this is something that you overcame as a child, tell me about that. Because the odds were stacked against you, I know that.

Burton Rocks 2:32
Well, one of the first early images I have actually of being here is actually the room being dark in the middle of the day. And I was probably two and a half, three, and you remember certain things and I just remember saying, Hey, Mommy, it’s getting dark in here. And, you know, like, as a young kid, it was one of my code blues. I was in the hospital for life threatening asthma. And, you know, it kind of shaped me because it taught me for better or for worse job the fragility of life. So you you grow up. And you know, growing up and taking things for granted versus growing up and gasping for air is a little bit different. So I learned to appreciate the moments that I could breathe and learned to appreciate the moments that I wasn’t gasping, which were outweighed by the ones that I was. So at the end of the day, I thought that, you know, intangibles were going to always be an important part of life. And I guess it was in me before I even knew the word.

Joel Goldberg 3:40
Yeah, well, if you knew that word or two or three years old, then then that that’s, that’s that’s probably at a different level. But so how I mean, that was early. That’s so that’s the only thing you can that’s the only thing you can remember. But those are some of your Yeah, so I was gonna say those have to be your earliest so that is your first memory. So what was childhood like overcoming asthma and and really severe medical issues?

Burton Rocks 4:07
Well, back then. The the motto, the mantra was if you if you had a disability, the best way for other people to deal with somebody with a disability was get it out in the open and bully them and pick on them as much as possible. And then if you do that, the disability goes away. So it was very tough. I say that sarcastically it is to say the least, because back then the stuff that went on hiding the inhaler at recess during an ad sprint tag, kicking dirt and people in the in my face things that were you know, normal, childish, good humoured fun could never go on today. You know, punishment for wheezing in class would be sitting by an open window while they mowed the lawn to get stronger. Of course, you toughen up and you toughen up so much you go to the hospital and then either you make it or, or you don’t. So it’s, it was a culture back then that could be would be totally unacceptable today, across political platforms, nothing to do with any party politics, it would be unacceptable in on any political platform today. But that was the culture of the times. And in a strange way, I really did enjoy the, the times in the hospital, in a different way. I enjoyed it, because of the fact that it taught me that if, you know, if I can make it through that, I guess, in retrospect, I can almost make it through anything. And I did enjoy the togetherness with with my folks, with family, and with the few nucleus and circle of people who did care. So it did teach me about, you know, when you have precious time with people, you know, it really is that that it is precious. So that that but that part of the day to day misunderstanding, of the inability to breathe by the culture around me was, at the time, I didn’t expect anything else. And even looking back on it retrospectively, if I were to look back at it, you know, historically, as a historian of of disability change, it really wasn’t until the Disabilities Act that that things got better for, you know, for people with a problem.

Joel Goldberg 6:34
You know, I want to go back there in a moment, but I’ll just go forward to right now, because the world is so much of a better place yet, there’s always still more more work to be done. Whether that is for those with disabilities, or any walk of life and any type of issues, right? I mean, and unfortunately, so much of that turns into being political. And we argue over things like what’s woke or whatever. And I’m not trying to get into all that, because I do, I think, a pretty good job of staying out of the politics, because my belief is people want to watch Royals baseball, or listen to a pod, whatever it is. With that said, we’ve come a long ways. If we were to compare the things you’re talking about childhood, it would be totally unacceptable now. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. But it will be frowned upon. And it, would be there be pushback against it. Yet, I’m pretty sure that there’s still a lot of work to be done. How do you view where we’re at today? Let’s say there’s a, you know, young Burton Rocks out there that’s going through that code blue and having to go to the hospital and going to school, and maybe they are still being picked on? Where are we at?

Burton Rocks 7:40
I think we’re at the idea that it’s up to the parents to, instead of letting the kids raise each other, to step in. And to say, this is unacceptable, we’re going to turn off the social media, we’re going to get off all of this comparisons. We’re going to get away from who’s better than whom, and we’re going to accept the individuality of that child for who that child is, and appreciate everybody for their own uniqueness. And I think today, we’re in a much better state in so much as people are more open to that. What I’ve advocated for is that you make, you try to pick the best parts of yourself going through it, I can only tell kids out there, hey, embrace your uniqueness. Look at the long range road ahead. Don’t look at the specific at bat, look at a body of work. Look at a few weeks of at bats in a baseball analogy, and see that you’re going to be a winner in the future. Take your disability, see how it shaped you. And if you project yourself as a winner in the future, you will force everybody else around you to stamp that winning attitude.

Joel Goldberg 9:00
Oh, by the way, that is advice that you can give for any kid going through something it is advice that you can give to any one of your baseball clients, it applies to the daily grind of baseball, the marathon which I which I always equate to kind of a marathon of life, right? It’s not just one big moment. It’s day after day. That’s the beauty of baseball. And so going back to that childhood, a couple of questions, one, I I know you have to remember those scariest moments. And you know, I don’t know that any kid should have to go through something like that. But a lot of kids do. And it had to have been incredibly scary. It had to have been comforting to have your parents and to have support but just wondering, I mean, you talked about those earliest memories that two or three, those first memories, what it was like looking back all these years later to, to go through those life threatening moments as a young child to go through not one or two, but three code blues, cardiac arrest, before the age of five. How did that shape you?

Burton Rocks 10:07
Well, looking back on it now it seems like somebody else’s life. I, it doesn’t really seem like it was me. But it shaped me in so much as again, one of the happiest moments in the hospital was playing chess with George, who was, he would actually be in maintenance and he would stop his maintenance duties to play chess with me in my hospital bed. And we would have these amazing games of chess. I was five years old, four years old, we would have these great games of chess when my dad couldn’t be there. So you know, Dad would show up early in the morning, travel over, show up late at night, they’d let him close the place. That’s another thing back then, hospitals did not allow parents to stay with a kid. My, my mom had special permission from the hospital because she raised hell. So hey, they finally did it. And then my dad, of course, you know, they weren’t gonna say anything to him. They let him come in after hours and, and be with me. But, you know, for for the day, we the daily grind, so to speak. Those games of chess. Little things. Yep. I loved watching cartoons. I learned to draw. I had one hand with an IV in it. So the freehand, my right hand, I learned to doodle and draw. And I really liked a lot of artwork. You know, I actually, I came to really like Andy Warhol. That’s why when DeJong hit that home run into the M, I painted that picture for the Ronald McDonald House. We did the Topps baseball card. Because Andy Warhol had a disability as a kid. So came being picked on so we’ve resonated so I always liked that pop culture art. So as a kid, I loved art. But looking back on all those moments, I think, I think it shaped me and made me unique. I don’t think that I would, I would do it all over again. As crazy as that sounds, I do it over again. You know, I know it impeded any type of sports playing career. You know, that’s something that always pained Clyde Kings dear friend to my dad. Why I ended up writing his book. Yeah, so he wanted me to, he wanted to see me as a professional, ’cause he knew, you know, the talent was there inside. But it just, you know, when I was healthy, you know, Could I, could I throw in pitch? Yes. But but those unhealthy days outweighed the healthy days by a factor of, you know, 30 to one. So, you take what life gives you. And as you know, for your question, it shaped me. I just loved being around all different types of people at the hospital. And it actually taught me how to speak to adults on an adult level, because I had to as a kid.

Joel Goldberg 13:00
Wow. So I’m guessing then, and I think part of this is probably your upbringing and your background. And then part of this is the experiences of being in the hospital. Were you the kid that all the adults were saying, well, this, this kid really seems grown up that this, this kid’s really mature, I’m guessing that you are that kid that could just hang with the adults?

Burton Rocks 13:22
Well, I’ll put it this way. When the nurse came in to give me an injection, and I couldn’t breathe, most people would just take the injection because it’s there to save your life. I noticed that the plunger was not right. I said that dose is is is it doesn’t look right. You now, what do you mean? It’s what you get. It’s point five suspend. I said no, no, I get point one five. No, no, it’s point five. No, I get point one five. And I pushed it away and pushed it away. And I made such, such, I was so annoying as a kid. They had to go check. And I was right. It was point one five. So that would have been a pretty large dose for a little kid. So I that I was forced to know all of my dosages, I was forced to recognize what the needles look like, what everything looked like, when most kids were, I don’t know, watching Bugs Bunny and going outside and playing with their friends and collecting Topps cards and doing whatever.

Joel Goldberg 14:25
So it’s a tough way to grow up, to grow up quick, but, but you did and before I talk about your career, I’m just curious. As a kid clearly you loved sports. You played it when you could but you were limited because of the asthma and the medical issues that you were dealing with. What what did you want to be growing up?

Burton Rocks 14:50
I wanted to be a scientist like my dad. I wanted to have, you know, doctor in front of my name. I wanted to do that. I want to, to be a, I think, maybe professional, you know, ballplayer, whatever, I don’t I don’t know I, I really wanted to live Joel. I know that sounds so crazy, but I was I was so fixated with hey, how am I going to get here? And that was another thing as a kid having a disability forced you, instead of looking at birthdays like, oh, I’m 16 I want this or I’m 18 I want that. It was more like, Wow, I can’t believe it another years gone by. I’m here. It was a completely different lens of life, I call it, that I was forced to look through. It’s almost like being forced to wear glasses with the wrong prescription. You’re trying to see a clear picture with through through lenses that have been pre-determined that are not right.

Joel Goldberg 15:55
Well, again, I’m just I’m sitting there thinking about, you know, we all could be, I think so fortunate. Remember, I’m not I’m not sitting here saying oh, I wish that wouldn’t happen to you, like you talked about. If I could go through it again, I would. That that’s a painful sacrifice. But what a unique perspective, instead of celebrating another birthday, it’s celebrating essentially another year of existence. It’s celebrating making it to this point. I mean, it’s just a totally different perspective. And I think a really healthy one. So how, how does one go from a kid who’s battling for his life? I know having the love and support of your mom and dad had to have been everything. I think it still is just and I just know that from the little that you and I have had the chance to get to know each other over the last year. Tim Davidoff, longtime baseball writer, introduced us which I’m grateful to him, but you know, every conver, every conversation I’ve had with you, you do bring up your parents, I want to ask you about them later in the podcast. But how does one go from this really difficult, in some ways, childhood, it was your normal, it was your life. And you know, with the bullying and being picked on and the the, you know, the scary elements of your life being threatened by by this medical condition by asthma, to being a successful sports agent in the you know, macho baseball world. And you know, as well as I knew that, that that’s a little bit stereotypical, but it is a different world. You live in it, and you live in it very well. How do I know I’m going from like point A to point Z here. But how did you get to where you’re at? Because I know you have so among the many things you do you have so much passion for, for your job and the people that you help.

Burton Rocks 17:48
Well, it was a basically, I think Clyde King summed it up best when he said, when when one door closes, another door opens. And you know, when I was doing I did a I did a paper in school on on African American contributions to jazz as a little kid. And I loved writing. And, you know, I think my dad always used to tell me all the days get better and better. And some people might say, Dr. Rocks, what are you doing? That’s, that’s ridiculous. This, this, this, how can you say that? But see, it’s, it’s kind of like, you know, the famous play where the person looks out of a window and there are three people in the room and he’s giving a description of, of what’s out there. And people want to fight for that window. And it’s really just a brick wall, but they don’t know that. But that’s their lens into the future. That’s their reality or distortion of reality. And for me, I just took whatever, whatever pitches were coming to me and decided okay, playing door closed, writing is good. But law school was fortunate enough to hook up with with Clyde on his memoirs, learned a lot about scouting, went on scouting missions with him. George let him take me on all the scouting missions at the time. Probably couldn’t have been done today. But it was the pre-digital, pre-social media age, pre-internet age. So we could go where to Davenport and when the Royals were down in, I mean, all the different all the different different places and and I got an education in baseball and I guess you’d say baseball analytics before it was chic to call it baseball analytics. And and then I realized, after you know, after I launched the social media company, that I had a unique perspective on life to give to give clients an answer question about the agency. It really was an amalgamation of my writing career, my entrepreneurial career and then using my law a background in saying, Listen, this is where players need direction, this is where they really could use a helping hand in life. Because that’s what you’re really there for. And you’re also there to put your foot down against stupidity. Because you know, I would you, clients are gonna love you or not, and you can’t control life, you can’t control other people’s lives, you can only put your best foot forward. And you could only say, listen, my life experiences have taught me, this is the best path. And people are on board with it, or they’re not on board with it. And that’s okay, because that makes the world a different place. So for everyone. So I think my, my attitude has be become, let’s say unique. And so it’s resonated with, with certain people, certainly the clients that have embraced me stayed with me and, you know, fortunate to have have built this, this little company, and I love it. And it’s, it’s great because I get to see different lives.

Joel Goldberg 21:05
It’s fascinating to me, because, look, I know enough agents, and it’s like any other profession, maybe more under the microscope, maybe some of it can be more exaggerated, meaning that, you know, you’ve got some of these ag-, it’s like any other profession. I mean, you got good people, bad people, loud people, quiet. You know, whatever, like, you can’t put every agent into one specific stereotypical box. Just like you can’t put every single athlete into one type of box, we want to build them up and put them on pedestals and all that type of stuff. They’re all different. But what I do have to think is that there’s such a, in what can sometimes be a fake world, or a very transactional world, or both, that there’s an incredible realness, to way, the way that you interact with your clients. This is me, this is my life. Not that it’s all about you. But that there’s a vulnerability, I guess, is what I’m saying to the way you go about things instead of this, this sports world of tough macho, I got it all figured out. I don’t know if I’m making sense there. But it just seems to me like because of your unique background, your humility, that that is really going to click with some and maybe not with others. But that’s got to be part of the magic of what you do and the relationships.

Burton Rocks 22:27
Well, thanks. I mean, the the thing that I, I guess most proud of this is the one thing I’ve told people is there is no other agent that has had an metric that they’ve you know, done a TED talk on, and based on appreciation of life and uniqueness. See, that’s what my quantified intangibles talk was. It wasn’t I’ll take the LPs, take the the barrel balls and play, add them together, throw in a launch angle exit deal? No, I didn’t come up with an equation, I came up with an eye with a concept equation to take your your own adversity and show organizations, show people, and this works for business, it works for executive leadership. I’ve spoken with team owners about this and their executive hiring. And as you and I have talked off camera teams have incorporated parts of my metric in their draft questionnaires verbatim. And you know, when you when you give the TED Talk in 2015, and you see the questionnaires change at the draft and you know, 16, 17, 18, you know, there’s a trend, you’re you’re you know, you’re moving the needle. And for me, I always felt that the ability to judge a ball player’s skill is as important on the analytics as it is on if their data if they’re a hitter, their data to win the counter. Can they battle back? Or is it game over? I mean, if I’m the pitcher, I’m thinking game over, I’ll just get this guy to chase. But if you’re a hitter, can you battle back? Well, the players that can draw on experiences in life where they have battled back, can take those success and translate them on the field. Because the greatest have done that. Look at the greatest hitters and pitchers of all time. They have all battled through adversity, all battled through adversity. My father’s favorite player is a kid named Satchel Page, battled through adversity.

Joel Goldberg 24:26
That’s universal, by the way. Because there’s not one ballplayer I think it’s also universal beyond baseball, it’s universal in life, and often overlooked. Give me the sort of the origin of getting to the point of this TED talk because that was certainly groundbreaking and life changing for you. How did it come about?

Burton Rocks 24:46
It came about quite by accident. Stony Brook University was putting this whole thing together and they they heard what I was doing with my my metric with what I was using in my agency and they said this would be a fantastic TED Talk. So would you like to do it? And I said, Sure. And it was. It was interesting. In fact, in my TED Talk, funny part is, I wore a suit and I wear New Balance sneakers. And everybody’s like, why do you wear these sneakers that are green, it’s got every, you know, I think it all the rainbow colors in it, but it was great sneakers, and I survived. So it will be just new balance was was a younger company at the time. And they appreciated my uniqueness. And they were very, they were very nice to me. And it was just a symbol being on that floor. As to as to, hey, this is something really cool that corporate people can appreciate. So it symbolized it for me, it actually kind of helped me through the TED talk. And I loved it, because it was a, you know, a chance for me to really, and I and people thought that this was directed to adults. No, I directed it to kids and to parents. It really it was it might have been an adult audience, but it was directed at, we need to change the way we grade our youth, we need to change the way we think about this idea of categorizing winners. And never, oh my God, this idea of I’ve gotta win this race, win that race. What are you winning? I mean, at the end of the day, you have to be able to itemize in your brain where your intangibles were, what makes you unique, where, where have you failed? Where have you succeeded, and take those failures and turn them into successes, because maybe something didn’t work out. We’ve all had failures in our life, but maybe it was the best thing that ever happened. Because maybe from that, that that misstep, miss start or, as you call it a sacrifice bunt that didn’t go the way it was, maybe it didn’t end up being a sacrifice, but maybe it ended up being an out. But maybe the form was so perfect that the next time up, you were able to get the bunt down. And so that the I think all of those learning experiences can really, really, really build success for the future and be a prognosticator. That’s that that’s what my TED talk was all about. I thought you embrace your intangibles. And it was also designed to get Major League Baseball, and to get basically all sports to reevaluate the way they hire executives, because there were a lot of executives that had no people skills, and were condescending and dismissive. And that wasn’t going to work with me. Because, you know, in your, in your daily life, you might take that from certain people, not taking that from from a general manager or anybody. I mean, if you’re gonna be condescending to somebody, you know, dial somebody else’s number, because at the end of the day, baseball, and I’ve talked with owners about this, and they’ve agreed off the record, they need to rethink how they hire their executives. Not only with judging talent, but with relating to people, how to run an organization, how to have executive leadership, whereby, yes, there are always going to be PR hiccups. But you, there’s a difference between a public relations hiccup, and a disaster. So and if you see the organizations that hire executives with people skills have fewer meltdowns than those that don’t.

Joel Goldberg 28:30
Well, it’s, it’s unbelievable. And well, it’s believable to me, but I mean, it’s just, it’s incredible, because everything you’re describing really applies to any profession, any profession in terms of management, leadership, and, and, and also just digging deeper on the baseball side of it. I mean, baseball more than any sport, lives with its statistics. And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, either. And it’s to me, it’s been fun to watch the statistics evolve. It’s fun to watch. Teams have a guy that backs lead off, that hits a lot of home runs that never would have happened before because they’re focused more on I’m not just on base percentage, but ops and all these things. I’m not trying to go down that that rabbit hole too deep, other than the world changes, the game evolves, everything evolves. But we’re still behind in evaluating those intangibles, which is clearly your specialty and your passion. And whether that be with your clients, whether that be with the sport of baseball, or beyond and I just, you know, to put a bow on this thought I on an everyday basis, sit there and think when a guy’s going through a slump, is it mechanical? Or is there something else going on? That doesn’t show up in the stats that applies to all walks of life. It’s the empathy piece, right? You don’t know what someone is going through and by By the way, they’re not supposed to come into the clubhouse and announce to everybody, that they’re having marital problems at home or they’ve got a sick parent in the hospital or a child that is dealing with whatever it is. I’m just curious your thoughts on that, because I think that’s the crux of what you’re getting at here is figuring out how to identify everything that doesn’t show up in the stats.

Burton Rocks 30:23
Absolutely. And Joel, I love analytics, you’ve seen my data on MLB Network. I love the analytics. I always enjoy reading the back of the bubblegum cards. But for me, as much as I love the backs of those cards, and I learned math, and I did it, I love the front. I love the joy of getting a Dave Winfield card. I love the joy of my Reggie Jackson card. I love the joy of the Rickey Henderson card. I loved it, Don Mattingly. I mean, I love that joy. That being said, for me, why did I like that joy? Because they had charisma. And they had those intangibles, and you knew that they wouldn’t let you down? You you knew that, that that if if if iconic players like like Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield were were down in the count 0-2, the pitcher was in trouble, not them. That they were they were going to they were going to come through it was those intangibles. And so for me, I’ve tried to apply that to my clients, to the game and telling everybody look, you’re going to need in those specific situations to draw internally is subconsciously on it, you’re going to need to channel the emotions and to be able to rise to the occasion. And see I love, I love exit below. I think it’s a great step like launch angle. But mixed in with that if you had a perfect launch angle, and every bowl one fell, guess what, that’s 0-2. And then if you looked at the next pitch, and it was right down Broadway and the Empire punch down, guess what, that’s an out. That’s all for one. However, if you said to yourself, instinctively, okay, I’ve got this, I’ve timed this pitcher correctly. Well, then the next tip might be an opposite field hardline drive, and there’s your one for one. And conversely, if you’re the pitcher, I’ve got this guy. I mean, he might have hit those balls hard, but I’ve got him, I’ve got him. Now. Now, you have a situation where you’re going to strike this guy out, you’re going to make him chase your pitch not given. And so that all goes with the idea of intangibles. Because if you trained yourself at a young age, to focus on the strength and the intestinal fortitude that you’ve had, that you’ve proven to yourself and other situations in life, you can draw on that instinctively when you need it. And it’s also I’ve analogized this, Joel. I love analytics. Do I think baseball needs to be analytics heavy? Yes. But here’s the difference. Do I if I had taken that point five suspring, I might have had cardiac arrest. I might not be here. Point one five saved my life. So am I gonna swallow a bottle of prednisone? I don’t think I will. Take one pill. Sure. And so do we weigh analytic 70/30? Possibly. Do we wait it 95/5? I think we’ve overdosed on that. So that’s where I’d like to see a harmonization. We had an old school pendulum, we had an analytics pendulum, let’s bring it back into harmony. And let’s let’s have the intangibles, play a role in in the executive leadership. And so that’s where I’d like to see it even more. Not so much as in the in game management. But teams hire folks who are better communicators.

Joel Goldberg 33:58
I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s got to be a balance of all of this. Analytics are great, but they’re not so good. If you avoid all the rest of this, the same way that you wouldn’t just build a team based on personalities, but it’s a big important piece. But for some teams, not for others. Some teams just go straight for the analytics and the stats. And sometimes that’s where you miss some of the culture and then you don’t have what we call the the chemistry. I’ll ask you about the best chemistry, you know, in, in, in a little bit of the best scientists that you know that that’ll be in our bonus questions, but I want to wrap up with three baseball themed questions for you. In your career or in life, whatever it might be. What’s the biggest home run that you’ve hit?

Burton Rocks 34:49
I would say the biggest home run was founding the agency against all odds. Because everybody said I couldn’t do it. And and because, I don’t know, nice guy, whatever you want to call it. And that was a big moment. And I’ll also tie that the TED Talk in with that, because it got my point across to what I would like to see for the future, I want to leave the world a better place. That’s what, that’s what we all strive for. And so that was, that was a nice moment for me.

Joel Goldberg 35:23
Two great homeruns. How about a swing and a miss? And what did you learn from it?

Burton Rocks 35:27
A swing and a miss would be probably be my Chat With A Star, because while we were on the pulse of everything with the blog will be a lifetime, you know, metadata in, you know, blogging, celebrity fan interaction. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want the day to day drama, of dealing with, with the business world and doing that. So, you know, I told my partner, I wanted to step aside, but I don’t know if it’s a swing and miss. But it might be it might be a regret, to be honest, but you know, we all as I said, it’s very hard to know the path ahead when you’re at the fork in the road. Right then and there.

Joel Goldberg 36:10
Yeah. Yeah, always different when you’re looking back at it. And then the final is small ball. I think you’ve talked a lot about small ball throughout the course of this podcast, the little things that add up to the big results. That, the bunts, the sacrifices in the real world, so to speak. What is small ball to you?

Burton Rocks 36:31
Overcoming the asthma, you know, my writing career, and, and my Topps bubblegum card. In fact, I mean, I didn’t want to say that as a homerun. Because it’s about it’s an award. But I was so happy that you know, for three years I was featured on Topps cards. It was, it was great. It was the thing that made me happiest was, and I want all the fans to know that the proceeds went to Ronald McDonald House. So I felt like the cards were making a difference with the next generation of kids who were in need. And that was the whole entire goal. And you see in the background. My dad is in a cardboard cutout from from Busch Stadium. He’s wearing a mask and if he only wore the mask in it, because the mask has Ronald McDonald has on it. So he as a parent, as donors, he and my mom were donors for Ronald McDonald. So they wanted to to get involved with it. So that was the only way we could we figured out how do we get Ronald McDonald House on this cut out and it was during the pandemic so came up with the idea of okay, well, everybody’s wearing a mask, put a mask on a cut out and put Ronald McDonald House on it. So that was that was the reason for it.

Joel Goldberg 37:38
Incredibly important, making a difference in kids lives. I want to talk more about this in our bonus questions on YouTube, talking about the baseball card. The shoe deal. I don’t know if that’s the right way to put it. But your relationship with New Balance, got to talk about your, your father I love there’s a lot more to dive into. So I encourage everybody, it’ll be in the links to check out the YouTube page, Joel Goldberg Media or you can search for Joel Goldberg Media Rounding the Bases, Burton rocks, it’ll all be there. And again, it’s in the show notes. But long time in the making. Not easy for the two of us to we were close. It was it was mostly my fault. We are close to connecting in person in New York, I was running in a million directions. And then I wasn’t surprised to find out that then at a certain point you were running in a million directions to because that is the life of an agent. And the life of a guy that has a lot going on in making an impact in other’s lives as well. But for now, I’m so glad we got a chance to do this. So much incredible insight well beyond baseball in terms of life, and perspective as well. Congratulations on on such a successful and meaningful career, all the work that you’re doing to make a difference. I really appreciate you spending time.

Burton Rocks 48:10
Well, I’m blessed to be friends with you. Thanks so much, Joel.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai