Leadership & Professional Development

Whether You Win or Lose, Don’t Lose the Lessons

January 16, 2017 2:40 pm

Have you ever heard of Cy Young? The award for being an outstanding pitcher in Major League Baseball’s American and National leagues is named after him. It’s a fitting tribute to Cy Young, who pitched 22 years in the big leagues and won 511 games, making him the winningest pitcher of all time. His career-winning record is likely to never be broken. Did you know that Cy Young also holds the record for most career pitching losses, with 316? That’s also a record likely never to be broken.  

Denton was Young’s real name. His teammates dubbed him “Cy,” a popular nickname for an uneducated country boy (he was a farm boy who was educated through the sixth grade). Young did things his own uneducated way. He refused to warm up and wouldn’t sit in the bull pen. If he was called on to relieve, he walked from his seat on the bench to the pitcher’s mound. His way took him to the Hall of Fame. His way provides some interesting career lessons: 

Have resilience and resolve: Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity. Young lost nearly 40 percent of the games he pitched. “A pitcher’s got to be good and he’s got to be lucky,” he famously said after a game. Resilience, or “bouncing back,” is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed by anyone. 

Make connections: During his two-year stint with St. Louis in the early 20th century, Young met Lou Criger, his favorite catcher and confidant. Criger moved on to Boston with Young and was the catcher for most of Young’s 511 victories (and 316 losses!).  

Accept that change is a part of a career: Young pitched in the era when baseball fixed the distance between home plate and the pitcher’s mound at the current 60 ft., 6 in. This moved the pitcher back away from the batter and was done to generate more offense. This change ruined many pitching careers. Young’s response? He developed two types of curve balls and marched on to the Hall of Fame. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter. 

Move toward your goals: Ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” Young wanted to pitch, and he let that be known. The result? He threw more than 7,000 innings, the most ever by a pitcher. 

Take decisive actions: Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away. Remember the curve ball pitches Young developed? That required him to develop more control of his pitches. This likely prolonged his career and propelled it to Hall of Fame level. 

Nurture a positive view of yourself: Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. Young worked with the “Cy” nickname that his teammates gave him. He claimed it was the shortened form of his real nickname, “Cyclone,” which he claimed he earned because of the power in his pitches. 

Maintain a hopeful outlook: An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Remember how history remembers Young: as the winningest pitcher, not the one with the most losses. Young built that reputation for himself because he refused to dwell on losses or discuss them in detail. 

Take care of yourself: Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience. Young returned to his farm in Nebraska after each season. He found farming as exhilarating as pitching in the major leagues. 

Cy Young’s life may seem like an odd choice in examining contemporary careers. However, win or lose, his career provides Hall of Fame status insights into obtaining career fulfillment.

Joe Abel, CPCC, ACC, PhD, is HFMA’s director of career strategies. He is certified as a professional career coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Coaches Training Institute (CTI).


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