I had the great fortune about 14 months ago to meet a childhood hero of mine, Cal Ripken, Jr. at a seminar in Baltimore, MD. I was a huge baseball fan growing up and was an avid collector of baseball cards. I have over 5,000 cards up in the attic and can’t wait to share them someday with Carson, my son. Most of you also know I’m a big sports fan, and often use sports analogies here, so this was a big deal for me.
I know what you’re thinking, “Where can I get a yellow shirt like that!” When we go to seminars with our 3D Mail Booth, we always wear those shirts so we’re sure to stand out, and it works great. If you’ve ever seen me at a show, you know I’m hard to miss. What you’re about to read was first published in my monthly newsletter, The Copywriter’s Corner, to get more information on it, visit this link.
For those of you who don’t know, Ripken is best known for breaking New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, a record many deemed unbreakable. He surpassed Gehrig’s mark of 2,130 and went on to play 2,632 consecutive games over 17 seasons. As you would guess his keynote speech centered on the streak and the 8 characteristics he says allowed him to amass such an amazing streak, and how they relate to people in the business world today.
The Right Approach
In the early 1990’s Cal was struggling badly and the media was calling him selfish for not pulling himself out of some games to give someone else a chance to help the team.
He was depressed about it and considered pulling himself until he spoke with a veteran pitcher. The pitcher told him that he only got to pitch every six days, and he wanted and deserved to have the very best players on the field with him. It would be selfish to give into the media critics who don’t play the game, he wanted Cal to play. That single talk saved Cal’s streak.
The critics went on criticizing. And interestingly enough, a few years later the same critics were upset that Cal may actually miss a game and break his streak because of the birth of his son. He didn’t end up needing to miss a game, but the lessons is that you can never be right in the eyes of critics so don’t even try.
A strong will to succeed
You need an internal drive and fire within to win. As a child growing up playing baseball, Cal would often get mad, throw bats and sulk when he wasn’t successful. His mom would ask him after those flare up, “What are you going to do with that energy to make it good?” So Cal would do push-ups, run a few miles, or take some swings in the batting cage to release that pent up energy. Over the years Cal took that advice and learned to focus his intense desire to win and it’s served him well.
You’ve got to LOVE what you do. Cal’ dad, Cal Sr. was also a ball player, and even managed his sonfor a short time in the late 80’s. A quote from Sr always stuck with the younger Ripken, “There are too many people doing things they hate – and that’s the cause of many problems. Do what you love and figure out the rest later.” Even when Cal was in the midst of horrible slumps or losing streaks, he never lost his passion because he loved the game so much and he truly loved what he did every day.
Love to Compete
You need to have competitive challenges, both internally and externally. In baseball, you’re always competing against your opponent, but it goes deeper than that. Success breeds complacency so you always need an edge. Internally, what are you doing to make yourselfbetter than you were yesterday? What competitive fire are you using internally to get you over the top?
Externally, it’s against both the opponent and even your own teammates. Cal always saw the “next up and comer” as a way to externally compete. He’d do everything he could to help the younger player succeed, give him tips and advice in practice. But once on the playing field, Cal would work harder and do everything to out-do the younger player just to show that “the old guy” wasn’t washed up.
You need the ability to perform each day at your highest level. While this may not sound “consistent’ you need to adjust and re-adjust every day. Consistency doesn’t mean doing the same thing every day, but adjusting to the different circumstances to make your results consistent, even if things outside of your control are not.
Cal was known for his many batting stances. If he got into a slump, he’d look for any little tweak to improve. Move his arm a certain way; hold the bat at a different angle. He did anything to adjust so he would get his consistent play, even with things may be outside of his control. In his words, “You want to make yourself irreplaceable.”
When you feel you’re right you have to stand up for yourself. You need thick skin. You need to be somewhat stubborn to see things through to the end. Too many people don’t believe what they tell themselves and let others talk them out of doing what they really want to. Don’t let it happen. You only live once.
Physical and Mental. Later in his career he realized there was a direct link between how well he took care of his body and his ability to concentrate and remain focused during games.
In baseball there are pages and pages of scouting reports that you read almost daily. Cal found the better physical shape he was in the better he was able to remember details about other team’s pitchers tendencies.
Cal spoke about achieving balance between professional and personal. One way he did this was to manage the media, a big aspect during his streak. Whenever the media, was on him negatively he made a point to talk to the TV and Radio people so his voice would be played on the air. This way the fans could hear him directly without mistaking his words through quotes in the paper.
He always approached the manager early in spring training and asked if he could make his own schedule for the 8 weeks of spring training. No manager ever said no. It allowed him to have control over his schedule. He could easily set priorities well in advance for both his personal and professional life during the spring.
He repeatedly gave this advice to other players, about designing their own life schedule and proactively talking to the media. As far as he knows ZERO teammates took him up on this. Instead most teammates complained about the unpredictable Spring Training schedule and hated the media.
He lives by these words from Theodore Roosevelt:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked with failure than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither suffer much nor enjoy much because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither Victory nor Defeat,”
Not a bad philosophy. He ended his talk by saying that his goal was never to break a record. It was just to be the best he could be. Hmm... That line alone is the most insightful isn’t it. Those are words to live by.
Blog Reader's Only Special
Do you play the craps table when you go to Vegas? I do, and I usually leave all my money there, too. But here’s a new 3D Mail product that will help keep your pockets full. This new 3D Mail item may be new to our catalog but it’s one I’ve seen before, and now I bring it to you. In the interest of full disclosure, I first saw this used by Dr. Gregg Nielsen about five months ago and completely swiped his idea of using the dice to “roll your price.” I’m certainly not above swiping (ethically), and neither should you! You can see an example of the letter I wrote here.
I used the dice entice the prospect with a game of chance, to roll their own price. Don’t fall into the, “Travis, I’m not an auto repair shop, I teach music lessons, so I can’t use the dice,” trap. Take the 90% of the ideas in the letter that are transferable to your business and use them. The remaining 10% is easy. Don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be.
If you have a brick and mortar business where it makes sense for them to come in and roll the dice for an introductory price, then use it. However, I can already hear you say it, “I don’t have a store front for clients to come in a play these types of games.” If price isn’t yourthing, than use the “Don’t Gamble With…” line. Visit the website and see more headline ideas for your business.
A 2-3 page letter, envelope and the dice comes in just over 1oz. making the 1st class postage $1.71. You can get that number down about 25-30% if you’re sending pre-sort standard (a.k.a. bulk) and sending at least 250 pieces. See the dice for direct mail here.