Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Secret is Attitude

My friend Joe is a baseball player in the Giants’ organization. He plays AA, a minor league level. During spring training he gets to rub elbows with the guys from major league teams, and he enjoys asking them about the factors of their successes. Joe has collected a lot of interesting thoughts and compelling stories, but one thing he mentioned to me caught my attention as being about more than just baseball. He asked a famous pitcher how he spots greatness.
The pitcher replied, "There really are no substantial physical differences in the Majors. They're all great players or they wouldn't be there. The talent is all so top level that you can't see much of a difference between them, except in their results."
Joe asked, “So why is it some of them are superstars and others not? Some are Hall of Famers and others end up selling cars for their brother-in-law.”
The pitcher said, "Well, taking away performance enhancing drugs, the difference is attitude."
He went on to explain that a superstar pitcher wakes up on a pitching day expecting to pitch a perfect game. When confronting each batter, with every movement and every breath he figures out how to blow it past him, or fool him, or get him to ground out. He pursues victory as if it were his birthright. Even if he gets shelled, he walks off the mound certain, truly certain that he will throw a perfect game the next time he takes the mound. And when he can't do that, he starts failing.
For my purposes as a writer and leader, I think there is more to this superstar than adopting a posture arrogance. To decompose it a little, the superstar pitcher, as described by our major leaguer, has laser-sharp focus on the highest possible objective. Failures don’t stop him or slow him down. They're not even speed bumps; they happen and they're gone. They don’t impair his single-minded dedication to perform to his own limits and beyond, right in the here and now. He does not permit doubts to creep in and lower his expectations of himself.
We can't avoid it that our lives are filled with uncertainty. It’s a tough journey and each step is usually a little different for everyone. Completing a journey of growth and change requires many different things that may be hard to control, but one place we can focus, one place we can always use to ground ourselves, even when we’re soaring, is our attitudes.
When we wake up each day, do we hit the mound confident? Are we focused on greatness? When we confront obstacles, are we thinking about “not failing” when we might instead be thinking about blowing it past our opponents? Do we let mistakes linger, get depressed and spend energy assigning blame? Does our mood and commitment and performance drop with setbacks? Do we permit doubt to creep in? Are we shying away from our best performances for fear of disappointing?
It seems to me that a huge obstacle to success is letting the past govern our attitude toward today's challenges. Our assumptions about our limitations are wrong, and our attitudes are what we decide they should be. Just like the superstars in the Majors.
What do you recommend to help us get our attitude exactly where we need it each morning?