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Derek Jeter

“When All Else Fails…”
The truly Great know how — and when — to adjust their game plan.

So this is why you should never ask me for sports betting tips — and why I’m not making a living in Las Vegas! A couple of months ago as I was planning this month’s Greatness newsletter, I wanted it to coincide with last night’s opening game of the World Series. And I was SURE that, given the way they were playing heading into the playoffs, the New York Yankees would be in the Fall Classic representing the American League [please forgive me fans of the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers!].

Well, I hope you enjoyed watching last night’s game along with me…and the Yankees!

The glue for this year’s Yankee team — as it has been for 17 years — was shortstop Derek Jeter, one of the most intriguing people, at least to me, in today’s world of sports. Jeter. Just the name conjures images of packed stadiums and cheering crowds. He’s got star power as well as bat power. Throw in that he’s a genuinely nice guy and you’ve got a larger-than-life Great One who is still going strong nearly two decades after signing with the Yankees.

Jeter, like many of those I profile in my new book Greatness (available this week!), is a true example of Greatness on many levels.

So after a long and productive career (and the expectation that he has at least a couple of good playing years left in him), how does Jeter stay on top of his game? How is he able to continue to deliver Hall of Fame numbers even as his body changes and the expectations on him grow?
He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality. -Anwar Sadat, former President of EgyptThat issue was the source of a lot of buzz during Spring Training this past year. Since Jeter’s batting average had been down in 2010, he was said to be eyeing some key changes to his signature batting stance in the hopes of boosting his numbers again. All the attention on his decision to alter his approach surprised Jeter, the longtime Captain of the Yankees.

Jeter remarked to the New York Post in March: “This isn’t the first time I’ve made a change. This isn’t the first time I’ve introduced myself to [Yankees hitting coach] Kevin Long and said, ‘How you doing? I’m Derek. Let’s go to work.’ That’s not the case. To be successful long-term, you’re always constantly making changes.”
jeter3But then, there was an interesting twist to the story: About six weeks after the makeover, Jeter make yet another change to the way he positioned himself at the plate — this time going back to his original stance with his front foot slightly more forward. After experimenting with the newer, more open stance, Jeter found that his old stance just suited him better; however, he took with him some of the tips and training he gained in the meantime.

And, of course, we all know how the season turned out for him: Jeter knocked in his 3,000th hit and the Yankees made it to the post season…again.
jeter4Over the summer, I had a chance to spend an afternoon with Jeter talking about his life on and off the field, including his Turn2 Foundation, which encourages children and teens to make healthy and productive lifestyle choices. The article, which ran in SUCCESS Magazine, highlighted the various leadership programs he has sponsored in New York City, Tampa, and southwest Michigan. Both in talking to me and in talking with the students involved, one of the points that Jeter stressed most strongly was the importance of always adjusting your path to help get you closer to your goals. And the way to do that is by keeping an open mind so that you can learn more quickly what works and what doesn’t as you move through life.

“You can learn from your mistakes, you can learn from other people’s mistakes,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”

I thought this was a fascinating point for him to emphasize to the students. Jeter has, indeed, embraced this willingness to change throughout his career. Sometimes, those changes are lasting improvements for the better; sometimes they are ideas he puts aside after a little while, but better for the experience and education. The point is, we must be open to change if we want to grow.

Tips from the Great Ones

Even someone as successful with a bat as Jeter is constantly making adjustments to his swing in an effort to realize improvement. That should be a pretty powerful lesson to all of us.
jeter5Is there anything in your professional or personal life that you’ve done for years that might need a makeover? Are there any old habits or comfortable ways of doing things that might not be as productive as you’d like? If you are willing to adjust your game plan, even slightly, you may find yourself tapping into a whole new source of power and effectiveness that you never realized you had.

The key is a willingness to change. By refusing to even consider the possibility of doing something differently, you shut yourself off from the possibility of doing something Greater.
Apply this Characteristic: Can you point to one area of your life or career that is not as effective as it once was? Is there somewhere you can turn to look for a change in your approach? Write out a short challenge to yourself that outlines the specific steps you feel you need to take in order to adapt a new approach. Then, talk to a friend about what you are trying to do so that he or she can help hold you accountable to those changes.As Jeter emphasized to the teens in his program, adaptation is an important part of our character, too. If you want to change to be a better person, you must be willing to change your behavior, your choices, the company you keep — whatever it takes to keep yourself on the right path. We must keep an open mind towards change.

We must be honest about those areas that need adjustment, and flexible enough to take the steps that will redirect us toward our goals. An openness to change — like the willingness to embrace the pursuit Greatness itself — can be the beginning of a whole new direction.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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