What are those elusive secrets to success? Let me tell two very different stories, one fictional and one real, as they offer some good answers.

Ben Braddock (the title character in 1967’s The Graduate) walks into his parents’ kitchen and confidently announces to them: “I’m going to marry Elaine Robinson”. Following the classic squeals of his delighted Mother, they ask for details – the date, how he asked her … but he explains that she doesn’t know it yet – in fact, she doesn’t currently even like him.

Ben’s incredulous Father then says, “…well Ben, this all seems rather half-baked”, but Ben declares, “no, it’s completely baked, and I’m leaving right now to see her”. No, he didn’t have all the details in place (well, actually none of them), but what he did have was the first secret to success – a world of faith and resolve – he was certain it would happen.

Now, to reality – a few weeks ago I went on my annual major-league ballpark tour with my fellow baseball fanatic buddies – 5 games, 5 cities, 5 days. Late in the game with the Phillies under the shadow of the Gateway Arch, Cardinals Centerfielder Rick Ankiel raced back and stretched for a would-be triple as he crashed headlong into the wall and crumpled to the ground.

The jam-packed ballpark was hushed for 10 minutes as Ankiel was carefully placed on a stretcher and taken away to help. Well, the good news was that he only had whiplash and would be ok, but it was really scary – and he even made the catch!

In Hollywood, this would have been the last out of the championship and Ankiel would be a legendary hero. But, in reality, it was just game #26 of 162 in the season. Also, it was the 8th inning with the Cards behind 6-1 – they would not recover – it was a loss, just another loss in a long season. No Hollywood ending by any means, however, there was nothing half-baked about Ankiel’s committed effort – another secret to success.

I was struck by this as an excellent example of what it really takes to be successful in our business world full of challenges, competition, and changing circumstances.

First, just like Ben Braddock, we truly have to believe that things will turn out great – the ultimate test of our faith and resolve. But also, like Rick Ankiel’s heroic catch, half-baked efforts will never get us to the Promised Land. We have to dive for would-be triples every time, even when we’re losing, and even early in a long season.

Success in our business world, just like Major League Baseball, requires that we hold nothing back – nothing but our best and most creative efforts will get the job done. And especially during the strange times we have all been through recently, it becomes increasingly apparent to us all … it’s a long season. I wish you your best season ever.

Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback and please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.


Jeff Black
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618
black@mbsearch.net www.mbsearch.net http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffblackmcdermottbull http://www.jeffblackmcdermottbull.blogspot.com/