A Relationship Story – Succeeding in Our Moments of Truth

The Dog Days of Summer 2006

There are subtle, but critical differences between the winner and the also-ran. A great example is something we are all faced with every day in our business lives, and I had a recent reminder of this valuable lesson. It came to me when I was faced with one of those uncontrollable and vexing disasters that seem so much like the sky is falling. You know the kind of moment I mean.

It also happened to be a baseball moment (of course, you say?), but you’ll really get the point here, so hang in with me. It’s not really about baseball.

So my “sky is falling” moment happens one morning, and I turn on the Astros and Tigers game (really, I’m not making this up, I do this on XM Radio) and the great veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte of the Astros is on the mound in a tight game. With 2 outs and runners on first and third, he coaxes the perfect inning-ending ground ball, but the shortstop boots it. Run scores. Pettitte grinds his teeth and you know he’s steamed. Even the veteran, the former World Series star, struggles to maintain his concentration. He walks the next guy to load the bases. He goes to a full count on the next guy: 3 balls, 2 strikes, 2 outs, bases loaded. Now the test has arrived. What will happen next? How will Pettitte react? A bad pitch now and it could be a double to clear the bases and the game would totally slip away. He has to reach down deep to come up with the right pitch. No margin for error. But this is no also-ran, this is a winner. So, when it really counts, Andy Pettitte the winner comes up with a great 3 and 2 pitch – and it’s a weak grounder to end the inning. His team is still in the game.

I was struck by the parallel between this classic ballgame moment and the moments of truth we face every day. I realized that success in business, a world of uncontrollables like the shortstop’s error, is really all about making great 3 and 2 pitches when the bases are loaded. The difference between winning and frustration can often be traced to these key moments, these critical inflection points. It can be about making big go/no-go decisions, or maybe it’s that key opportunity when your insightful comment at the perfect time can create a breakthrough in understanding, or it might be saying just the right thing at the right moment to maintain trust and confidence in a personal relationship. It can be many things, but it all comes down to making great 3 and 2 pitches.

When we are faced with these “sky is falling” moments, the key to success is the very next step we take, it’s the perfect 3 and 2 pitch to save the game. We can’t make the shortstop’s error go away. All we can control is our own behavior and our own next step. Everybody is watching, and that next step really has to be good.

Thanks for sharing your time. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

A quick update on business – I had the pleasure of being recognized for having both the highest revenue and the most new search engagements among McDermott & Bull consultants for both the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2006. I would like to thank all of you who help make this possible through referrals, networking support, and helping to build a positive brand for me and our firm in the market. I will continue to do everything I can to continue trying to help all of you whenever possible. Thank you all!


Jeff Black
Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618

2 Responses

  1. It is hard to be optimistic in our pessimistic world.

    Just listen to the evening news report; it seems that nothing good ever happens anymore. News coverage is overwhelmingly pessimistic and negative, since the good things in the world are just boring when compared to a car bombing in the Middle East. Even advertising is negative. Our breath stinks, our body stinks, and our teeth are yellow. These problems must be fixed, or we will be even more miserable with no friends.

    Yet, when we study the aged, we find that they are often optimistic about the future and look back fondly on the past. Studies seem to indicate that a factor in longevity is a sunny attitude or optimism. When successful people are studied, they often exude optimism about the future. They have a strong belief in their personal abilities and know that despite whatever adversity comes their way they can persevere. Positive people tend to focus on the opportunities before them and see possibilities; positive people seem to be able to overlook barriers or constraints.

    Yet pessimism reigns supreme in our society despite the increasing evidence that optimistic people get rewarded with longevity, wealth, success, and happiness. Negative people tend to focus on life’s problems, only see limitations, and barriers; negative people tend think of their resources as limited.

    Martin Seligman, author of the book LEARNED OPTIMISM, defines the two personality groups as follows:

    • Optimists tend to believe that failure is only temporary. It is their perspective that defeat or adversity it not their fault. They feel that these circumstances are just bad luck. They are unfazed by defeat and will react by trying harder to do better.
    • Pessimists tend to believe that bad happenings are their fault and that the future is dark and uncertain. They think that the dark days will continue, despite everything they might do to correct it.

    Successful entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic and have high levels of job satisfaction. The same applies to successful salespeople; a sunny attitude tends carry them through the tough times, while the same attitude propels them to even more success. Successful entrepreneurs and salespeople tend to believe what they want to believe, which generally is that best is yet to come.

    My recommendation is to turn off the evening news and watch Seinfeld reruns instead. Read the funny pages and skip the headlines. Hang out with positive people and avoid people with negative attitudes. Take on the behavior of positive people. Use positive expressions, words, and clichés while eliminating negative expressions, words, and clichés. Eliminate “no”, “can’t”, and “but” from your vocabulary; substitute a positive vision with bountiful resources. I have yet to see a barrier so big that I could not walk around it and continue my journey.

    Don’t worry. Be happy. It pays better.

    Self improvement: Read books that inspire you. As a start, check out FIFTY SELF-HELP CLASSICS: FIFTY INSPIRATIONAL BOOKS TO TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE by Tom Butler-Bowdon.

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