The Big Mac Blog

Rangers manager Jeff Banister on defeating fear

Jeff Banister is entering his third season as the manager of the Texas Rangers.
Jeff Banister is entering his third season as the manager of the Texas Rangers. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

People have made millions in the industry of helping people deal with and defeating whatever problem that exists in their daily routine.

Psychology. Self-help books. Counselors. Self-help DVDs. And people devour it all in the name of losing that final 10 pounds. Of improving their outlook on life. Of becoming a better version of themselves. Of breaking and improving their routine.

Of conquering fear.

Rather than ask a “Life Coach” I asked a coach in real life who has conquered, and ridiculed, fear.

Looking at Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister you would never guess that he was once told by doctors that he would never walk again. Or that he nearly died.

By now you likely know that on his 16th birthday Banister was diagnosed with osteomyletis. It’s a form of cancer by bacteria that destroys the bone marrow.

The original diagnosis included amputating his leg above the knee. Instead, he had seven surgeries in an 18-month span and saved his leg.

After conquering that, he suffered a severe injury playing college baseball and was paralyzed from the neck down. He was told he would live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Doctors feared a sudden movement from something as benign as a sneeze would kill him.

He would conquer that, too and went on to collect a hit in the Major Leagues.

Today he is 53, married with two children and is the manager of the Rangers. If anyone knows about defeating a fear or two or 10, or negotiating life’s obstacles, it’s this man.

So I asked him what advice he would give a regular person who is struggling to do what they want, or conquer their fear.

It’s a long answer, but this is what Jeff Banister has to say to you:

“First of all it’s OK to be scared. That’s the No. 1 thing. We are so conditioned to think fear is something bad. The reality is fear is the alarm clock that says, ‘OK - it’s time for you to do something different. It’s a way for you to think differently. And it’s OK. And then it becomes, ‘What’s the next second going to bring?’ Literally.’

“How can I manage to fight through whatever I’m fighting through the next second. People who don’t, who can’t get over, who can’t get beyond, they think about it in too big picture perspective. In my opinion. They think of the end well before they get there and they get discouraged. They just stop. You say, ‘Screw it - I’m not going to do it. Can’t do it. Takes too much energy. Feels too bad. There’s nobody here to help me.’

“There are a million excuses why not. For me, it was I got to the point where I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. Tired of asking, why? Tired of seeing people cry. Tired of hearing people say, ‘It’s going to OK.’ Well, it ain’t always going to be OK. There are (awful) days. Matter of fact, in the beginning there are going to be way more bad days than there are good days. But you are trying to overcome something.

“At some point you are going to have to face whatever — if it’s hail you are facing, how are you going to be tougher than hail? If it’s the unknown you are facing, then face the unknown. Let the unknown in. And know that everybody on the planet has fear, and is scared.

“It’s literally, ‘Next second. I am going to face the next second and survive. I’m going to face the next second and survive.’ I am going to challenge myself to be better than the last three seconds.

“Look, I got out of the hospital after the broken neck and I was sitting on the porch and I thought about all the days that I had literally just day dreamed about sunshine. Daydreamed about clouds. Daydreamed about birds. Playing catch. Seeing my friends. And I sat on that lawn chair in the front of my house, and none of those friends were there. They had other things to do. Sun was shining, clouds were bright and it all felt good but I felt sorry for myself because I was sitting there with a walker.

“And there was something that said, ‘Get the (bleep) up and go walk. Walk.’ One step. Next step. Third step. ‘Til I eventually found my way all around the block. I was scared to death I was going to fall. I was scared to death I wasn’t going to make it.

“We like to come up with excuses of why we feel fear when we shouldn’t do the things that we need to do in life. And then we just quit. We just stop. Survival is fear and then allowing that fear to drive you to the next step. Open the door.

“Every person has it in them. Sometimes we fear something and back off, and run away from it. You think there aren’t great people who stand on a stage, give great speeches that motivate people who aren’t scared to death that every word that comes out of their mouth that people are going to laugh because they stutter or misspoke?

“There are hitters in the game today that walk in the batter’s box that feel anxiety and fear. They don’t step out and say, ‘I can’t do this any more.’

“Stare down what you need to stare down. Put yourself in a place that allows you to be other than what you are 10 seconds ago.”

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Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof

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