If I'm going to talk to you about what it takes to be successful, I should start off by telling you what I believe success is. In America, most people equate wealth with success. If you have a lot of money it is assumed that you are successful in life. In fact, most Americans believe that there is a linear relationship between money and success. In other words, the more money you have the more successful you are. As the old saying goes money isn't everything, but it sure beats out whatever is in second place. With money you can buy everything, or so we are lead to believe. I guess the real question is can money buy genuine happiness? Well, let me put it this way - It can buy a lot more happiness than poverty. Whoever said that money can't buy happiness probably never had any money. It's interesting to me that people who are always pointing out the trials and tribulations of being rich are people who would love to be wealthy. Perhaps Pearl Bailey said it best, "Honey, I been poor, and I been rich. And let me tell you, rich is much better". She will get no argument from me there. In fact, I would venture to say that in most cases having money is a rewarding experience. Let's be honest - money can bring you freedom, power, status and a bundle of wonderful material things. I do believe, however, that money isn't everything and that there is a lot more to success than just being rich. When I was working in professional baseball, I was around some of the wealthiest people in the world and they were some of the most miserable people I have ever met. When I worked in the steel mills during my college vacations, I met some of the poorest people in the world. And do you know what? Many of them were extremely happy. Obviously, there is more to success and happiness than simply making money.
Have you ever read the book Quiet Desperation: The Truth About Successful Men by Jan Harper? If not, pick yourself up a copy - It's a fascinating reading. The book focuses on men who have power, money and wealth, all the things that we assume yield success. Interestingly, few of these men were happy and most of them were miserable. Why? Well... as Harper points out, having power and affluence is not the same thing as having success. These guys had all the money in the world, but they lost sight of what is essential for health and happiness. They became addicted to making money and in so doing became enslaved to riches and the things that go with it. In the process they lost themselves. Instead of gaining time and freedom from their affluence, they lost those very things. Instead of gaining the respect, esteem, and admiration that wealth can command, they forfeited it. In short, they cheated themselves out of the other things that make life so enriching and worthwhile.
This is not to say that money is bad or that it is the root of evil. The fact of the matter is that in itself money is neither good nor bad. There is nothing wrong with money or the desire to have money. In fact, money can be a great incentive for becoming a success. The point I'm trying to make is that money isn't all there is to being successful.
If money isn't the key to success, then what is? That is not an easy question to answer, but I believe Wynn Davis has the right notion. He says "Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is in the doing, not the getting - in the trying, not the triumph". We become successful when we push our heart and soul to the furthest reaches of which we are capable. It doesn't matter if you are closing a big business contract, competing at the World Championships, or just playing "Old Maid". If you do your very best, you will never be disappointed, no matter what the outcome. As Davis says, success is not in the getting - it’s in the doing.
I'm sure you've heard of Mickey Mantle. When I was a little boy, he was everyone's idol. He was a baseball phenomenon. Mantle had everything you would want in a baseball player: world class running speed, an arm like a rocket, incredible eye hand coordination and awesome bat velocity. Best yet, he was a switch hitter, and man, could he hit. Not only did he hit for average, he hit with power from both sides of the plate. Believe me, he was a pitcher's nightmare. At the end of his career, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also selected as one of the top 25 baseball players of all time. Can you imagine that?
What an accomplishment! Of all the athletes who ever played the game of baseball, Mantle was among the very, very best. Not only that, but he had more money then you could ever imagine. He had it all: money, fame, and prestige; but do you know what he said right before he died? In essence he said, "I’m ashamed of my career. God gave me all of these wonderful physical gifts and I abused them. I drank, I stayed out nights, and I never practiced hard. I have so many regrets, because I know that if I had done my best, I could have been so much better. Maybe I could have been the best of all time. Now I have nothing but regrets... believe me I'm no role model and I'm not a success. Look at my career to see what you shouldn't do, not what you should do." Right to his dying day Mantle felt that he could never make amends for the life he felt he had wasted; that was his cross to bear. This brilliant man, who had the world in his hands for the taking, threw it all away, because he was too foolish to realize that true happiness comes from accomplishment, not amusement. There will always be that "what if" that lingers about Mantle. What if he had applied himself, what contributions could he have made to his sport and his fellow man?
You know, in all the years that I've been in sports, one athlete stands out in my mind as being the greatest. No, it's not Muhammad Ali, Pete Rose, or Wayne Gretzky, although these guys have certainly reached a higher plane of existence. What might surprise you is that you've probably never even heard of the guy I have in mind. His name is Kenny Hall, and his sport is boxing. He's never won a world championship, a national championship, or even a regional championship, but in my mind he's the greatest athlete I've ever come in contact with. Why do I feel that way? Well, the major reason I feel Kenny was the best of the best is that he got the very most out of what God gave him. Every time he went out, he performed at an optimum level both physically and mentally. He took every moment to the very limit - every moment. Best yet, he performed the same way in practice. He pushed himself to the ultimate point of possible development - that's "greatness."
I don't care how important you are or how much money you have, there is no worse feeling then walking away from something knowing you could have done it better, wondering 'what if?' When you don't push yourself to your limit - you limit yourself, because you are not becoming all that you can become. There is no greater sin in life. The essence of life is to become all that you can become. When you fail at doing that, you fail at life itself. Like Robert Louis Stevenson said, "To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life."
There is no doubt in my mind that success is attainable for each and every one of us, but it doesn't come without a price. Success means getting your hands a little dirty, struggling a little, suffering a little, and working a little. It means taking the responsibility for choosing and defining your own life. It means being the very best that you can be.
Over the next few months I am going to talk to you about some of my ideas of what it takes to be successful in sports and in life. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to convert anyone to my way of reasoning. And I certainly don't want to tell anyone how to think or conduct themselves. No one knows better than you what is best for you. If you do things my way, then you are not you... you become me. That's not my intention. I want you to be all that you can be. I Just want to share with you some of the things that I have learned along the way. There is an old saying, "Don't walk behind me, because I'm not a leader, and don't walk in front of me, because I'm not a follower. Walk with me, side by side, and then maybe we can share something beautiful and meaningful together." That's what l want to do. I went to walk with you and share some of my thoughts. That's all. Take the ideas you like home with you and leave the others behind. We might call this series of talks, "In Pursuit of Success"". I'll see you then.
Yours in strength,