I had the privilege of hosting a breakfast this morning for fifty-five executives at a local hotel. The main speaker for the morning was Jeff Nelson, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. It was a very enjoyable morning as I was able to eat with Jeff and get to know this fine gentleman who is a major part of the Mariners’ success this year, a year in which they are on pace to have the best season of any Major League baseball team ever.
Before I tell you about some of the things Jeff spoke about, I want to give you a little background on him to bring you up to speed. Jeff is thirty-four years old and this is his tenth year in the Majors after seven years in the minor leagues. He spent the last five years with the New York Yankees and has four World Series rings to show for it. His hope is to get his fifth with the M’s this year!
The topic I gave Jeff for the morning was “Living Like a Champion.” Here are the main points he shared with the group on how to do so (I think they are great for us to chew on too):
Don’t quit, because if you do, you may never achieve your dreams. After seven years in minors, Jeff was brought up to the Majors but considered quitting baseball because it had been a long, hard road. After long discussions with his wife they decided that he better stick it out because they would always wonder what could have been. Imagine what he would have missed if he would have called it a career! Four World Series Championships with the Yankees – the pinnacle of any baseball players’ dreams, and the chance to do it again this year. Not to mention they pay him pretty well to do it!
Everybody is normal, no matter how high up the success ladder they get. Jeff spoke of his wife and four little girls (all under the age of 6!) and the day-to-day life of driving them to school and Gymboree practice etc. We tend to think that everybody who is successful has chauffeurs and maids and never has any “normal” stresses. If this is why you pursue success – give up now!
When things are going great, you should focus on them getting better, not on being fearful that they may get worse. The Mariners are now an astounding thirty-four games above .500 after just forty-eight games. When Jeff was asked during the Q and A whether or not he thought they would drop back to “normal,” he responded that actually the team was focusing on getting to forty games over .500. Now that is the mind of a champion, and a championship team. Don’t worry about what bad could happen; worry about what good will happen!
Success is relative, so be content. Someone asked if relief pitchers (those who only pitch shortly late in the game) really wished they could be starting pitchers. Jeff replied that most accepted their role but jokingly said that many wanted to be starting pitchers only because the starters make “tons of money.” I corrected him, saying that Starters make “tons and tons” of money while relievers were relegated to simply the “Tons of Money” category! But the fact is, no matter where you get, if you aren’t content, then you will always see someone with more.
Faith in God is the foundation from which you give your hard work. Through all of the ups and downs and the many trials that present themselves as a person pursuing their dream, Jeff worked as hard as he could but maintained a strong faith that kept him going when he wondered if his hard work would pay off. Through it all, his faith gave him the grounding he needed that kept him in his values – values that have made him a great husband, father, and pitcher.
These are thoughts we can all spend some time thinking about and to the degree that we embody them ourselves, we too can “Live Like Champions!”