Living the Dream?

What a rare priviledge! This past weekend I had the chance to observe a group of young men live their dream.

My son plays on the Vanderbilt University baseball team. Since he joined the team as a freshman three years ago, the hope has been to make it to the College World Series–the big show. It has never been done at Vanderbilt before although they have been a top 25 team for 5-6 years.

His freshman year they made it to the Regional playoffs but lost (similar to March Madness, it is the top 64 teams). His sophomore year, they went to the Super Regionals (top 16 teams) and lost by one run. This year, from the first day, they made Omaha their goal. They were unwavering in their commitment. Yet, they never focused on it.

Huh? They didn’t focus on their goal? Their dream? How can you get there that way?  What has to be done well to be able to win?

  •  Do you have the right people? Do they have the right attitude? Do they have the right skills? (Attitude trumps skills everytime).  Vanderbilt has a seasoned group of juniors, many of whom have been playing for three years. They have amazing skills and even better attitudes. Is everyone on your team in it to win it?
  • Do you have the right chemistry? For any team to win, it must be a team, not a few superstars. Superstars might get you to the big show but they can’t win it alone. It takes team work. Vandy has a balanced team and everyone supports each other. Unlike many teams, they actually like each other and they pull together. They don’t focus on individual stats–they play for the team.
  • Do you do the little things right? Winning big requires a vision. Achieving the dream, accomplishing the goal requires a ton of baby steps done right. First are you doing the right things; secondly, are you doing them right? Fundamentals matter. Being able to execute the bunt is as important as home runs. Strong arms have to be balanced with soft hands. 
  • Do you work on the vision every day? Every team needs a strategy. A path to follow. A compass to guide them and give them direction. To get there you have to move forward a bit each day, staying on the path and avoiding rabbit holes. If you tie your daily work to the dream, you have a shot of reaching it. If there is no connection, you may do whatever it is you do very well, however your dream remains just that– a dream. How does what you do every day connect to or support the dream? If it doesn’t, why do it? This team worked on everything–including how to stand at attention for the National Anthem, how to celebrate wins, and the importance of teamwork. No stone left unturned. It is what it takes to be a champion–to achieve your dream. 
  • Do you break it down in manageable pieces? This team didn’t focus on getting to the World Series. They didn’t even focus on winning games. They focused on winning frames. Each game was nine frames/innings. Win those and you win a game; win a game and you win your conference. Win your conference, especially the SEC, and you qualify for post season play. Win those games and you go to Omaha. Dream: Accomplished.
  • You DON”T dwell on mistakes! One of the things a winning team needs is the ability to forget mistakes. They WILL happen. We are human. It is important not to let mistakes become excuses and take your eye off the goal. We all do it. We all come up with reasons why we didn’t accomplish something–not our fault. The weather was so hot, the umpire had a terrible strike zone, the ball took a bad hop, etc.  The economy is bad, customers are changing, competitors are giving away margin, etc. All true, but winners don’t spend much time on what they can’t control and instead on what they can. Good things happen when you work on what you CAN control. Funny, there are companies that thrive in this economy, are able to change their offer or message to attract customers, and sell value not price. You can too. No excuses, just bear down and figure it out. No one said winning is easy.

Finally, by paying attention to all of these things, this year, the team advanced through Regionals, Super Regionals and have finally qualified for the World Series.  Watch the video link and tell me if you think all the hard work is worth it! Go Commodores!

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