Released: April 3, 2009
Preparation: Be a Mattingly, Not a Mantle
The will to prepare is key to success, says speaker pro/business development expert in new book, 'Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way' - Excerpt #7
By Ron Karr
A few years ago, I was working with Bud Howard, the then vice president of sales for Hertz Equipment Rental. Bud asked me the following question: “Ron, which do you think is most important: the will to win or the will to prepare?” I told him that I believed the will to prepare was far more critical to an individual's success. You may want to win, but if you don't do what is necessary to win, it will never happen. Both of us were on the same page; we both knew that preparation is the key to success in life.
This belief applies to almost any aspect of one's personal or professional life. It is especially obvious in the world of sports. As a lifetime Yankees fan and a long-term season ticket holder, I've been privileged to see some of the most gifted and exciting baseball players of the past 30 years. There have been a lot of great players over the years who have worn the pinstripes, including the Yankee that long-term fans are most likely to idolize: Mickey Mantle. This Hall of Famer was truly a phenomenal player; as a kid, I used to get excited every time Number Seven came up to bat. Watching him hit those trademark mammoth home runs is something I will never forget. And of course, Mantle did become one of the leading home run hitters in baseball history. Yet when I think about Mickey Mantle today, I do so with a feeling of melancholy; I can't escape the conclusion that Mickey Mantle never lived up to his true potential.
Yes, he was unlucky; he tripped in center field in the 1951World Series and sustained a serious injury to his leg. But he had God-given talent on a baseball field--the kind that most mortals can only dream about. His strength, his ability to hit home runs of extraordinary dimensions, his speed -- all of these things were off the charts. One in
10,000 major league prospects have Mantle's kind of ability.
Unfortunately, that extraordinary level of talent provided Mantle with an excuse to avoid preparation. Since he could outperform most of his opponents without much of an effort, he rarely made any. So the stories go, all too often his method of preparation consisted of a long night out partying and drinking and arriving at the ballpark just in time for the game.
== “Don't be like me,” he said, addressing himself especially to children. “God gave me a body and the ability to play baseball. I had everything and I just . . . ” Mickey Mantle in a press conference after his liver transplant, as quoted in The New York Times, July 12, 1995.
Now, consider another player in pinstripes -- Don Mattingly -- as an example of a completely different approach to the game. As a young prospect, Mattingly was someone whom most major league scouts would have assessed as having only average talent. He wasn't born with great baseball potential, and he didn't inspire the comparisons with legends like Babe Ruth or Jimmie Foxx during his rookie year in the majors that Mickey Mantle did. In fact, Mattingly had to work hard in his early years to make the very most of his potential if he hoped to make it to the big leagues. Instead of taking his ability for granted, he made every effort to improve and expand on the talents that he was fortunate enough to possess.
In reality, most of us are Don Mattinglys -- not Mickey Mantles. Despite the fact that Mantle set more records and had more impressive numbers, Mattingly managed to get more from his skills than Mantle did; he had a better work ethic and did a much better job preparing for a game. He was more invested in the process of expanding his talent, and he was less likely to coast.
As someone who saw both men play, the skill that each displayed was incredibly impressive; but skill will only get you so far. Before every game, Don Mattingly would take a tee and hone his batting skills by hitting the ball into the net behind home plate. He did this every day, no matter how hot or tired he was -- even when he was hitting well over .300 on the season. He knew that daily preparation was the reason he was hitting so well. I never saw Mantle do that on a regular basis, and I doubt that anyone else did.
Imagine what Mickey Mantle could have achieved if he prepared as well as Don Mattingly. It seems possible that Mantle could have been the first to break Babe Ruth's career home run record -- and perhaps even extended his own career. I run into a lot of Mickey Mantle types in the organizations I work with. When I meet a high achiever who has not yet learned the value of getting the most out of his or her talents, I feel like giving the person a Don Mattingly baseball card and telling him or her to take a cue from this professional preparer!
Top producers need to do more of what Don Mattingly did -- practice. They need to hone their skills in order to achieve their true potential in terms of creating revenue, and they also need to practice to help the other members of their team. Their true value lies not just in the hard numbers they generate, but also in their ability to mentor others and enhance the skills of the team as a whole. That is true sales leadership.
A truly positive outcome depends on the whole package: skills, mindset, and preparation. I have known senior executives whose organization was better off once they fired these top producers. Although these executives might have experienced short-term setbacks as a result of the lost business, they felt that they would lose more in the long run as a result of actions and attitudes from the superstar that negatively affected the team as a whole. Time after time, I have witnessed the wisdom of such decisions pay off for companies.
Which kind of superstar do you want to be? Whether you are a Mickey Mantle with born talent or a Don Mattingly who's had to practice relentlessly and develop a fierce work ethic to deliver MVP results, my message to you is simple: You shouldn't put off practice and wait until you are in the batter's box, facing your first pitch of a real, live game to begin to develop your skills. Practice must happen -- and happen often -- before the game.
When the clock starts ticking, and you are in front of the client, it is game time! Are you truly prepared for the one -- and possibly only -- chance you may have with this person?
Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (www.wiley.com) from Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way: The 7 Traits of Great Sellers by Ron Karr. Copyright © 2009 by Ron Karr.
To order the book on line at one of your favorite retailers, go to http://LeadSellorGetOutofTheWay.com
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