To be successful we need to be enthusiastic in the face of adversity. It’s easy to be enthusiastic when everything is going well. But what about when things are going poorly? That’s when it’s more important than ever to be enthusiastic. Take it from one who knows. Take it from Tommy Lasorda.
The word “enthusiasm” first appeared in the English language in the year 1603, with a meaning derived from its Greek etymology • to be filled with God. Through four hundred years of use, the word has shifted to mean being filled with excitement for or interest in any subject or cause. Hence, enthusiasm has come to be associated with some of the greatest accomplishments as well as some of the greatest tragedies of history.
Understanding this irony full well, the very quotable Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” If you want to be truly successful at just about anything, you’re going to need to find enthusiasm for the task. That’s equally true whether it’s a solitary or group project. There’s just no way to successfully weather the ups and downs of life without enthusiasm. Because ups and downs there will inevitably be.
If anyone has understood and successfully worked this principle, it’s been Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976 to 1996 and of the gold-medal winning United States’ Olympic baseball team in 2000. “No matter how good you are,” Lasorda once said, “you are going to lose one third of your games. No matter how bad you are you are going to lose one third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”
Lasorda understood that to be successful one has to manage the impact of the results on yourself and on your people. From day to day, there will be victories and defeats. That’s the nature of the game. That’s the nature of life. How we handle those victories and defeats, especially the defeats, determines the outcome of “the other third” • the ones that can go either way.
“When we lose,” Lasorda observes, “the most important thing is that when I walk into the clubhouse the next day, no matter how dejected or tired or depressed I might be, I have to put on a new face. I have to put on a winning face. I have to put on an enthusiastic face. I’ve got to put on a self-confident face, because if I walk into the clubhouse dejected, tired, and depressed, the attitude and the atmosphere of the clubhouse and the club is going to be that way. But if I go in with enthusiasm and self-confidence, all of those things are contagious, and I can help spread them.”
“I want everyone on this team to believe that we will be the world champions of baseball. If you believe it, then you will practice like a number-one team, and if you practice like a number-one team, then you’ll play like a number-one team. And if you play like a number-one team, that’s exactly where you’ll finish.”
“Motivation is very, very important as far as the leader of the team is concerned. I classify a leader as someone who walks out in front of his people, but who doesn’t get so far out in front to where he cannot hear their footsteps.”
“I believe that everybody in this country, at some time or another, needs to be motivated. Because there are times when we think we’re doing the best we can when, in reality, we aren’t. Something has to motivate us. Something has to get us to a higher degree of competition and a higher degree of performance.”
That something, Lasorda concludes, is not always power or money. “Even the President of the United States or guys making six million dollars a year sometimes need to be motivated.” That something is rather “love, respect, and a good personal relationship.” When things aren’t going well, that something is “an understanding heart.” In defeat, every manager or coach needs to understand that the players probably feel worse than anybody. If they don’t understand that, they will just make matters worse.
Lasorda takes his cue here from the biblical story of King Solomon, the paragon of truth, who asked God for “an understanding heart” when he could have had anything in the world. “An understanding heart” was the key to everything else. With that, nothing was beyond his reach. Without that, nothing was attainable.
Such understanding can only come from a place of deep wisdom and maturity. It is enthusiasm in the original and best sense of the word, of “being filled with God.” This is not a shallow backslap saying, “Hey, kid, things will get better.” Because they may get worse. This is a deep understanding of life, to know that it’s always worth getting up again and brushing yourself off after being knocked down.
Sometimes we get knocked down in our own individual pursuits. We set out to accomplish something, all by ourselves, and it just doesn’t work out. Only enthusiasm can help us hang in and overcome in the face of such discouragement. Sometimes we get knocked down in our group endeavors. Tasks and relationships get mired in politics, egos, and hostility. Only enthusiasm can see the silver lining behind such ominous storm clouds.
Are you enthusiastic? I hope so, because it holds the key to success. It’s easy to be enthusiastic when things are going well. We can hardly wait to face the day. Entire cities get swept up when a favorite sports team is winning. The same is true at work, when everything is purring along, or in our personal lives when everything seems right with the world.
But there’s more to enthusiasm than being optimistic and happy in the wake of success. That’s why I think the root meaning of the word is so important. No one is successful all of the time. In the real world, no one has the Midas touch forever. We need enthusiasm to carry us through those tough times, to motivate us, to pick us back up, and to generate that higher level of competition and performance. Tommy Lasorda knows how it works. And now I hope you do too.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Thank you for the use of your Bridge Line. It worked great. I appreciate what you’re doing, and what you’re modeling.
Hmmm, I need some help understanding why someone who runs marathons and advocates healthy eating choices would be taking a “handful of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements” on a daily basis. Care to share more detail? (Ed. Note: My research and experience indicate that supplemental vitamins, minerals, and herbs can optimize health. Athletes are in special need of antioxidants. In addition, certain health conditions suggest certain supplemental protocols. Watch these Wellness Pathways to learn more over time.)
“Read Your People” was an excellent provision!!! I keep in my PDA the likes, preferences and family members of people I’m interested in. The Chinese horoscope is also an alternative to understand the people around us. I never believed it until I tried • Argentina
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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