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Why People Succeed/Fail

No subject interests me as much as how and why people improve.

Just now on TV, hockey expert Stan Fischler did a piece on “Diamonds in the Rough,” a look at the top five players who reached the National Hockey League despite not being drafted.

Each player represents a story that is hard to believe. NHL teams are so hungry for talent, and scout the amateur leagues so thoroughly, you can barely comprehend how any decent player could escape their eye.

And yet it happens. And how do these players zoom past others who are perceived to have more ability?

Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame baseball player, once said, “The ability to put everything together is itself an ability.” In other words, some people are better than others at getting better. One thing to keep in mind. The ability to get better, like any ability, is not innate. You can improve your improvement skills.

A noted motivational psychologist, Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, is author of “Success: How We Can Reach Our Goals.” She says that some people — no matter how smart they may be — are clueless on why they succeed or fail.

In an article titled “9 Things Successful People Do Differently,” Dr. Halvorson tries to take some of the mystery out of that question. My favorite of the nine is: Focus on getting better rather than being good.

This sounds very much like the advice of former LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman, who produced a video called “Winning the Big One.” Bertman says that winning the big one is the result of constant, daily improvement. If you find a way to improve every day, you will gain an edge on your competition.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” go here.


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