Success Lesson From Strikeout Kings

Everyone knows Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) is a great baseball player.  He ranks among the top of all offensive categories.  In fact, he ranks 5th all-time in Home Runs!  That’s very impressive.  Do you know what list he ranks even higher on?  Strikeouts.  Yes, Rodriguez actually ranks 4th on the all-time strikeout list.  And he is not alone.  Jim Thome ranks 2nd in home runs and 8th in strikeouts.  Sammy Sosa?  He is 4th in home runs and 9th in strikeouts.  And there are several others.   What’s the success lesson from strikeout kings?  In short, if you want to be successful, don’t be afraid to miss a few.  In short, go make some mistakes.

Here are three lessons I take from these successful baseball bombers.  There are three key steps that they all share in common.

Step 1, Step up to the Plate

Before you can hit a home run, you have to first step up to the plate.

What is your dream?  Owning a business?  Moving up the corporate ladder?  Retiring early?

Whatever your dream, it takes action to achieve it.  Too many people think they can declare their dream and it will happen.  But it doesn’t work that way.  If you want to make something happen, you have to make something happen.  They key word here is “make”.  That’s an action verb.  It requires you to do something.

Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what that something is.  To do that, you may have to try several things (step up to the plate multiple times) in order to see what works for you.

Step 2, Take a swing

It doesn’t do any good to step up to the plate if you don’t take a swing.

I remember when I was 9 or 10, I wanted to play little league baseball.  I had always loved baseball but had not had a chance to play because we had moved around and the place we lived before didn’t have a tee-ball program like they do today.  I couldn’t wait to get my chance at the plate.  The first time I got up to bat, I got hit by a pitch.  It didn’t hurt that much.  But it scared me.  And for the longest time after that, when I stepped to the plate, I was afraid of getting hit.

Too often business owners act the same way.  They have a misfire when they start their business, and then give up.  We sometimes refer to this as giving up “three feet from gold” (Read my previous blog about that).

Our culture doesn’t help with this either.  Here in the midwest, if your business fails, you are often seen as a failure as well.  Most of us don’t have the resiliency to reboot, to start over, to give it another shot.  But that’s what it takes to succeed.  Did A-Rod hit a home run in his first at-bat?  No.  In fact, he had 54 at-bats during his debut year (1994) without a home run.

But did he give up at the end of 1994?  No.  His first home run came on June 12, 1995.  The first of almost 700 round-trippers.

We can do well to learn from this.  Being a success isn’t easy.  It takes hard work, patience, and resilience.

Step 3, Learn From Your Mistakes

You probably won’t be an overnight success.  So learn from your mistakes.

I believe one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was that I had some early successes that seemed to come easy.  Then, when I hit more challenging hurdles later in my career, I wasn’t as prepared for those.

One of the things I had to learn in sports was to overcome a physical challenge I had.  I have a lazy eye.  As a result, I have “mono vision”.  Because of that, I have difficulty with depth perception.  I did not understand this at a young age.  So when I played baseball, I was stuck int he outfield.  And guess what, I could not judge a fly ball coming at me.  I had to learn that I needed to play infield or catcher because the depth perception wasn’t as much of an issue at those positions.

One of the hardest lessons I learned in business was signing up to lead a no-win project.  I was a little bit cocky and a little naive.  I was leading a project that had asked for nearly $4 million to get it done.  Our executive team gave us about $1.5 million.  As confident as I was, I thought, let’s get it started, and we’ll figure out the money when we get there.  Boy was I wrong.  When the money ran out, and we had a particularly completed project, I did not receive any kudos for how much we had gotten done.  I learned from that mistake, but it definitely impacted my career at that particular organization.

Big League Implications

In conclusion, there are a lot of people who complain about never making it in the “big leagues”.  But when you look at their lives, and the opportunities they had to “stand at the plate”.  You see that they never took a swing.

If you want to take your career to the big leagues, you should learn from the great hitters and start swinging.  But take another piece of advice that every great athlete knows.  Behind every great player lies a coach that helped them get there.

Do you want to be successful?  If you are interested in learning how you can take your career, your business or your life, to the “big leagues”, you should hire a coach.  If you would like to talk to me, contact me at jjennings@focalpointcoaching.com.