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The Main Ingredient
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr.
In 1907 during a major league baseball game, the winning team stole second base 13 times. The catcher for the losing team, Branch Rickey, could not pick off even a single runner. That record stands to this day. That game also spelled the end of Rickey’s career as a baseball player after just two seasons. With nothing else to do, he went to college and law school.
Six years later, he returned to major league baseball. This time in baseball’s front office as an executive—and what an executive he turned out to be! He created the modern baseball farm system, which enables major league teams to nurture and develop future stars through their minor league teams. He was the first to establish a permanent spring training facility in Florida. He changed the way statistical analysis was used in baseball by proving that on-base percentage is more important than batting average. Rickey is best known, however, for breaking the color barrier by bringing African-American Jackie Robinson into the major leagues. His contributions earned him a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rickey offered this as his recipe for success, “Success is where preparation meets opportunity.” It’s a simple formula that reminds me of the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.” Obviously, you can’t take advantage of an opportunity if you don’t have the skills. It’s a good recipe for success, but it doesn’t reveal the secret ingredient.
A funny old song from Frank Sinatra moves us a little closer to the answer. Do you remember these lyrics from High Hopes: “Just what makes that little old ant think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant, can’t move a rubber tree plant!”
I love that song because a stanza later, we learn the ant can: “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.” Is having “high hopes” the secret ingredient? No, but it gets us closer to it. You see, the ant succeeds because it doesn’t know that it can fail.
Think about some of the successful people you know. What makes them big achievers? What traits do you associate with them?
When I ask my audiences these questions, I frequently hear the following: courage, perseverance, enthusiasm, discipline, confidence, decisiveness, self-reliance, responsibility, focus, ambition, and optimism.
All of these are certainly true of successful people, but which one is the overriding characteristic? What is the main ingredient?
None of the above.
That’s right—none! Yes, they are all important, but one ingredient takes the cake—your belief that you will succeed. It’s called self-efficacy. Your belief in yourself is the biggest part of actually reaching your goals. The best part is that self-efficacy can be acquired at any age.
We obtain a sense of self-efficacy in four ways. The first way is cumulative. With each success, we add a new layer of self-confidence. The second method is through observation. When we see someone similar to ourselves succeed, we realize that we can, too. The third path is controlled by our attitude—a positive attitude enhances our self-confidence whereas a negative one destroys it. The fourth method is from the encouragement of others. This is where you, as an effective manager, can help your people succeed. By telling them you believe they can meet their goals, you will help them believe it, too.
About the Author
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr.
Motivational Speaker and Humorist,
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