It was August 2nd, 1999 and we were actually sitting in the infamous Wrigley Field, about to watch the Cubs take on the Expos. Our seats were in the upper deck on the 3rd base line. My Mom was on the far right, then my Dad, my sister, and myself. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I was there for one reason, to watch Sammy Sosa hit a monstrous blast of a home run like he had done 66 times the year before. Lucky for me, it was about to happen.
It was the first inning, nobody on base, and Sammy Sosa came up to bat for the first time. He dug his cleats into the box and bent over slightly as he waited for the pitch. From there, everything seemed to happen in an instant. The pitcher released the ball, Sammy took a mighty swing, and the crack of the bat deafened the ears of every single one of the 35,000 fans in attendance! With my own two eyes, I watched Sosa take his patented hop as he watched his line-drive home run clear the ivy-covered wall in left field. The crowd erupted with a roar that sent chills down my back! I jumped out of my seat, clapped my hands together with excitement, and gave my Dad a humongous grin. I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.
Success Lessons I Learned from Baseball
Baseball wasn’t always something that kept my attention when I was a kid (I just loved to see those home runs), but I have learned to love the details surrounding the game now that I’m an adult. The general concept of baseball is easy. Hit the ball, get on base, and try to get to home plate. If your team gets more guys around to home plate than the other team through 9 innings, then you win.
But, within this game there are an infinite number of stats that are considered: batting average, on base percentage, ERA, slugging percentage, defensive error numbers, and even runs saved (and these are the more routine stats). There is so much going on behind the scenes that is needed to produce a winning ball club, it’s really quite unbelievable. And from this game, I have actually learned many success lessons as well – 15 of them to be exact. Not only is this a fun way to learn about the actions needed for success, but it might just help you remember them for life as well.
There are many scouts that have seen great talent in kids when they were young (sometimes before they’re even teenagers) and predicted great things for their future. But, many of these kids never amount to anything. Some of them lose interest, others get caught up in the wrong crowd, and others just plain don’t work hard enough to make it in the big leagues. To become a big time major league baseball player, a young man needs to practice and hone his craft in middle school, high school, college, and then probably even a few years in the minor leagues as well. Many years of preparation are needed if they want to step foot on that major league grass.
The same is true for the rest of us as well. While we probably aren’t going to become well-known baseball players, we still need to prepare for our future – in whatever field that may be. To become a financial analyst, I needed to get good grades in high school and then work my butt off in college. Without this preparation, there’s no way anyone would have hired me into their company to analyze their financials!
2) Never Stop Practicing
Do you know what major leaguers do when they reach the big time? Many think that they just lay back and watch the money roll in. Not true. When baseball players reach the major leagues, they are in for the hardest work of their lives. After all, they aren’t playing against the neighborhood average Joes anymore, they’re facing the absolute best talent from around the globe. To continually succeed at the major league level, players must practice every single day by taking batting practice, fielding fly balls, and taking grounders in the infield. To stay on top, practice never ends.
It took me quite a while to understand that this was one of the top success lessons in life as well. Sure, it’s a good thing to get your diploma and get started in the working world, but you can’t stop there! If you want to succeed in life, you must continually learn and grow. Read books about your field and about how to improve yourself as a person. Take classes to sharpen your skills at work. Do these things and you’ll succeed. Ignore them, and you’ll soon be quite replaceable, and maybe even fired.
To hit well in baseball, you need to first learn the basics and have a fantastic eye for where the ball will end up. Beyond this though, you must also use the tools that are exactly right for you, such as:
- A bat that is the perfect length, weight, and material for your swing
- Cleats that fit snugly, but aren’t too tight
- Sunglasses for shielding your eyes from glare
The same is true for your profession. Here are the tools every office employee needs too succeed:
- Fashionable clothing – dress for success, wear what suits your personality, and try to stand out a little
- A dependable, rust free car – you don’t need a Ferrari to succeed, but you don’t want to be totally embarrassed of your car. Find the middle ground so you can get to work, be confident, and kick butt.
- A smartphone or tablet – being technologically savvy will get you noticed, especially if you can use it effectively in the workplace.
- Occasional gifts – being a cheapskate will not help you advance your career. Be giving, extend a helping hand, and give small gifts to coworkers (this could be as simple as donuts for the day).
- Education – this somewhat piggy-backs on #2, but your looks mean absolutely nothing if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. The absolute best tool is a solid education and the ability to use it in your everyday tasks.
4) Small Things Can Make a Big Difference
For some reason everyone thinks that success just instantly happens – like one day, a person is just walking along and BOOM, a $300,000 job lands in their lap. Ummm, no, I don’t think so. There’s no success lessons that I know of that teach this. On the contrary, success is earned in little increments every single day.
In baseball, the small things typically lead to those big scoring innings. A walk here, a bloop single, and maybe even a bunt. The same is true in real life. There are many small things that you can do, which will inevitably lead you to the big successes:
- Pick up trash out of the company landscaping
- Take on an additional project to lighten the load of someone else
- Show up early or stay late when needed
- Are you an expert in something? Help someone else by teaching them what you know
It could be anything, but many times all of these small actions lead to a promotion or better pay within your own job. Look for those small things, expect nothing in return, and a reward will likely come to you regardless.
5) Need Great Offense AND Defense
At some point in the mid nineties, the Texas Rangers paid out a ton of money to pick up five or six big sluggers. They were predicted to win their division that year, but actually came far from it. If I remember right, it was probably one of their worst seasons in franchise history. The reason? They had an amazing offense, but their defense was terrible. The pitching was lousy and the fielding was even worse, and even a powerhouse offense just couldn’t make up the difference.
I’m going to speak for all the guys out there — we typically like to play offense and forget all about defense. We invest in risky tech start-ups and like to keep very little in savings. All offense, no defense. Of the top 15 success lessons, this one ranks pretty high on the list. Sure, there’s a percentage of funds that can go toward that tech stock, but you need to be sure to play defense with your money as well. In other words, make a point to stash six month’s worth of expenses into your savings account because there WILL be a rainy day at some point in your life. It’s not at all exciting, but it is necessary for you to weather the inevitable storms of life.
I can look at a player’s stats and get a pretty good feel for their skill level, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Okay, so they hit home runs and have a pretty good average, but what about their hustle and leadership abilities? Do they eat right and exercise daily? Do they play in such a way that will make them an asset for the long-term? Again, it’s tough to know by the stats.
The same is true in business. There might be a real estate property that’s selling for half of what you would expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. The foundation could be cracked and the roof could be leaking, making the whole house basically worthless. On the flip-side, a house might appear to be priced at market value, but you know that there’s a huge company opening it’s doors just a few blocks away in the next year. You could negotiate the price down slightly, buy the property, and then rent it out for far more than you owe each month since the demand will soon skyrocket. Success lessons tell us to look at the stats, but keep your vision set on opportunity as well.
7) Always Be Ready for Opportunity
Miguel Cabrera is one of the most feared hitters in the league, but he is always ready for opportunity. Pitchers are taught to pitch him carefully, but inevitably a fastball will find it’s way across the middle of the plate. If Miguel is ready, he often pounds this pitch nine miles into the bleachers somewhere.
Look for opportunity in life too, and more importantly, be ready for it! Some point in the near future, you will find that steal of a deal, and if you have no cash reserved, then guess what? You’re not ready. To truly be ready, you should have cash piled away in a liquid account that can be easily withdrawn from. Don’t buy average deals, just be ready for that steal of a deal.
When hitters are doing poorly, it’s because they are thinking about EVERYTHING. Maybe the pitcher is going to throw a curveball, or maybe a fastball, or no wait, I bet it’ll be a change-up. When hitters try to think about everything, they are not following one of the most important success lessons: keep it simple. See the ball, swing the bat, hit the ball.
The success lessons in life break down to the same result: keep life simple. Spend less than you earn, put money into your savings account each month, and invest in simple mutual funds and real estate. That’s really all you need. Focus on just a few things and you will experience success.
9) Shining Stars Can Become Poor Performers
Amazing baseball players one year can quickly become a joke the next. They could struggle because of injury, emotional challenges, or because of aging. A great player one year does not necessarily mean a great player in the next.
Remember this when you’re investing your money. If you had one stock go up 30% last year, it almost certainly won’t do that again this year. Plan on fluctuation and diversify your money.
10) You May Have to Get Dirty from Time to Time
Baseball players start their games in clean, crisp uniforms, but they often finish the game with dirt and grass stains everywhere. To make those great plays that help the team succeed, they need to slide into bases, jump into the stands, and lay out completely when diving for a fly ball in the outfield. By playing to win, baseball players know that they’ll need to get dirty.
This is one of the top success lessons because people often miss this point somehow. Success in their minds is buying a franchise, staffing some employees, and then just expecting the money to roll in. Unfortunately, this isn’t how life works. To succeed in business, you might need to do everything yourself for a while. Accountant, head salesperson, master plumber – each one of these roles is covered by you. Work hard (by wearing all those different hats), save money, and build your investments. You’ll have to get dirty today, but in the future you might just be able to lay back (like you’ve always wanted) on your fortune and have someone else do the dirty work.
11) Cheating Will Only Lead to Failure
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” –Warren Buffett
Sometimes baseball players get too focused on winning and fame. They get caught with corked bats, foreign substances on their arms, and they fail drug tests due to the ingestion of illegal performance enhancers. Cheating often leads them to short-term fame, but a lifetime of misery and shame.
When speaking about success lessons, cheating just cannot be skimmed over. Sure, there are a lot of cheaters out there. They might think they’re winning, but ultimately their tactics lead to a life of sadness and void. Look for win-win situations in your life. Do right by people and treat everyone even better than you would treat yourself. You’ll never regret it, and better yet, you’ll likely live to be happy AND wealthy.
There are some guys playing in the major leagues that have absolutely not business being there. They aren’t the best hitters and they aren’t even that good at fielding. BUT, they out hustle everyone else on that field and turn themselves into phenoms.
Success lessons #12 – you can out hustle everyone else in business too. If you work for an employer as many of us do, most work just hard enough not to get fired, so you should easily be able to out hustle everyone else in that place. This will ultimately lead to more responsibility, bigger titles, and better pay. Hustle your butt off and you’ll likely be rewarded.
13) Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself
When baseball players are trying to steal a base, they want to do so without the pitcher realizing it. So, they quietly walk away from first base, stand still, and then take off without ever getting a glance from the mound (they hope anyway). The less attention they get, the better.
Instead of heeding these success lessons, many people start flashing cash when they begin to grow wealthy (actually, some do this even BEFORE they have any money). Inevitably, this display of your wealth leads people to ask you to cover their meals, buying them small gifts, and they might even be so bold to ask you for straight up cash. If you want to be wealthy and stay wealthy, then it’s best if most people have absolutely no idea that you make that much money at all. Live by this creed and you’ll keep more friends, you’ll live life peacefully, and best of all, people won’t be begging at your door.
14) Diversify Your Portfolio
Baseball teams cannot be made of all singles hitters and they can’t be formed with only big sluggers. Winning teams do best when there are a mix of “table setters” and “table clearers”. In these success lessons, you need to be sure to diversify your portfolio as well. Invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, mutual funds, index funds, side-businesses, and maybe even precious metals. The more you spread your money around, the safer it will be from devastation.
A baseball team consists of 25 players. One single player can decide to improve by lifting weights, eating healthily, and practicing twice a day, but ultimately that one player cannot lift the whole team on his shoulders with his sole performance. But, if that player inspires the team and commits himself to everyone else succeeding as well, then the team has a much better chance of winning that championship.
Businessmen often trust no one else but themselves, and this is their ultimate demise. In order to succeed in life, one must develop a team of people and then do what’s best for the entire team. If you’re interested in real estate, you’ll need an agent, an insurance professional, a banker, and a lawyer. Do good for the team and they will do good for you, which should result in a win-win situation. Championships are not won by a single player, but by the efforts of the team.
Which of these success lessons is your favorite?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.