Here is an inconvenient truth: talent wanes.
There comes a point in everyones’ lives when your talents can no longer sustain your progress. Some recognize this earlier in life, others realize this later, and some realize this after they can longer adapt.
Lawrence Peter Berra faced this inconvenient truth too, but he didn’t make the mistake of building his game on talent.
Berra — who was given the nickname “Yogi” in his early teens — is an American folkhero. From being the backbone of baseball’s greatest dynasty to being the originator of quips like, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” Berra’s legacy stretches beyond the confines of America’s pastime.
In 1942, a 16-year-old Yogi Berra signed to the New York Yankees for $500. Four years later he found himself on the cusp of making the Yankee’s major league roster. Bobby Brown — a Yankee third baseman and Berra’s roommate on road games — recalls an incident which exemplifies Berra’s determined attitude:
“One of my favourite Yogi stories is when I first met him in 1946 at Newark. I was already there when the Yankees sent Monk Dubiel, a pitcher who’d been with them during the war years, down to Triple-A. We were in Rochester and Dubiel shows up with this short little squat guy. Our trainer, Jimmy Mack, says to Dubiel: ‘Who’s he? What does he do?’
And Dubiel says: ‘I think he’s a catcher.’ Now Mack asks Yogi: ‘What are you doing here?’ And Yogi says: ‘This is where they sent me,’ and Mack says, ‘Does the manager know?’
Yogi says: ‘I dunno?’ Yogi then went in to report to our manager, George Selkirk, who took one look at him and told him: ‘Look, I don’t want you taking up time in the batting cage from the rest of regulars, so for the rest of this road trip, you just shag flies in the outfield.’ And that’s the way it went. At one point, Yogi said to me: ‘I don’t think I’m gonna be around here very long. Probably going down to Binghamton at the end of the road trip.’ But when we got home to Newark, I told Yogi just to get out at the ballpark early, at 1 o’clock, so he could at least get some batting practice. I got there at 4 and went into Selkirk’s office, where George was just sitting there looking off in the distance. I asked him if Yogi took batting practice. ‘He did,’ Selkirk said. ‘Well what happened?’ I asked. At that, Selkirk, leaped up and exclaimed: ‘He hit ball after ball over the damn light towers!’ That was the end of the questions about this little, squat guy. At the end of the season, Yogi, me and (pitcher) Vic Raschi all got called up to the Yankees.”
Standing only five feet eight inches tall and being a member of a team which boasted elite players like Joe DiMagio and Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra realized early in his career that his talents alone could not support his progress and that he would have to compensate.
Yogi Berra built his playing style on hitting balls most hitters deemed “unhittable” and simply out hustling his competition.
“There has never been a Yankee that I can think of that has said more times to him ‘oh, you can’t do that’, ‘you can’t do that’, who then turned around and did it. If I was in the trench, I would sure want Yogi Berra with me.” — George Steinbrenner , former owner of the New York Yankees
Always remember that talent isn’t an excuse for a mediocre work ethic. If you don’t work harder and smarter than your peers, they will eventually surpass you. Every day is an opportunity to get ahead.
Build your game on grit, not talent. Talent dies, grit doesn’t.
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