In any competitive field—business or sports—high achievers dominate. At any given time, very few rise to the top. As history unfolds, those top achievers compete to be known as the best ever—to enter the hall of fame.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame recently welcomed my good friend and longtime client John Smoltz. That incredible milestone and his induction speech inspired me to write more about what Smoltzie taught me about striving to be better every single day. These three inspiring habits made him a lock for Cooperstown, and they can help any of us get the most out of our professional careers.
1. Chase your goals no matter what.
As a kid, John would stand outside his little brick house in Lansing, Mich. and throw to a square he had taped on the side of the house. He didn’t have much to work with. From that target, he could barely step off the 60 feet before he was on the street. Didn’t matter to John.
Other kids would call him a “geek” because he didn’t “hang out” enough. Again, didn’t matter to John. He had a goal, to pitch in the big leagues. Those same kids ended up asking that “geek” for his autograph and game tickets.
It’s one thing to make it to the major leagues, and John wanted to stay for much more than a cup of coffee. He wanted to make a difference. He lasted a remarkable 21 years and was the first pitcher to rack up 200 wins and 150 saves.
Goals allow clarity and focus. They drive discipline and efficient use of our time and resources. I believe goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time based) help alleviate pain later in life. When we set goals, we don’t wake up 10 years into a career we hate. We are living Hall of Fame lives when we have goals that drive us to make the most of our talents and desires.
2. Value and nurture relationships.
John knew that friends and acquaintances drive business success. Someone you compete against might work for or work with you one day. Someone who works for you might be your boss one day. You don’t know, so you value and nurture relationships by treating others with respect. It’s easy and even status quo for a professional athlete to remain aloof and non-relational because people put athletes on a pedestal. That wasn’t John.
Authenticity inside of relationships takes courage. At times, it demands vulnerability and sacrifice. When we represented John at the peak of his career, we had a $50 million plus offer from the Yankees. A key relationship made John turn down the deal. He wanted to stay with the Braves because of his tight relationship with manager Bobby Cox.
Relationships signify loyalty and the ability to go beyond one’s self to connect with others. John mentioned another important relationship in his induction speech, a teammate early on in his career who demonstrated the importance of relationships on teams:
“I remember sitting in the locker room at Tiger Stadium, a fish out of water, scared to death…. Alan Trammell came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I am Alan Trammell. Anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. This house is your house.’ And I will never forget. I thank you, Alan Trammell, for teaching me what a professional baseball player is all about.
It was as if he had introduced and gave me a baton and said now pay this forward every chance you can, because this game has a chance to impact a lot of people. And I have done that to the best of my ability thanks to Alan Trammell’s imprint in my life.”
To whom much is given, much is expected. Give when you don’t think you can, give when you may not be that sure if you could. Give because giving is the right thing to do.
Smoltz took time for rookie teammates, children’s hospitals, the media, family, friends — you name it. I saw how exhausting it was for John in his peak. He knew on some level that giving was how he grounded himself and allowed the full expression of his abilities on the field. Giving is full engagement, and he’s still giving to the Atlanta Community Food Bank and other worthy organizations.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Who is the John Smoltz in your field—the person who embodies lasting excellence? I will bet that his or her success has the same hallmarks as John Smoltz’s Hall of Fame career. You must chase your goals no matter what, and with that perseverance, you elevate your reputation through building relationships and giving.
John got this and more. He worked it and it worked for him, for more than two decades at the top of the national pastime. If more of the world did the same, wouldn’t this world be a better place?
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.