Why do some people make it and others not? How is it that sometimes gifted and talented people fail miserably?
These thoughts were in my mind when I recently traveled down one of those link by link internet rabbit trails. I do not even remember where I started but I know I ended up reading a list of past Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year winners. My eye was not drawn to the recent successes such as the Angel’s Mike Trout (who has a very good chance of being considered one of the greatest players ever), but to the names on the list that have been nearly forgotten.
There are many players who, after initial success, saw their careers quickly flame out. They were stars one moment and forgotten has-beens the next. I read about the careers of players like Bob Hamelin, who won the award for Kansas City in 1994 and was out of baseball within 5 years and Mark Fidrych, who won the award and 19 games as a starting pitcher for the Detroit tigers in 1976. Fidrych won only 10 more games in his entire career.
I reflected on the elusiveness of long term success. It is one thing to do something well for a while, it is an entirely different thing to do something well for a lifetime. I thought of my major roles in life, my roles as husband, father and physician (in that order), and how being really good for one or two years would be nearly meaningless.
I then asked myself- how do you maintain excellence over the long haul? The best answer I can come up with is, “You work at it every day, and you never, ever stop trying to do better.”
When I look at the people who were the all-time greats it seems they all shared this characteristic. They were never satisfied by past success. They were always working to get better, to strengthen their areas of weakness, to eliminate flaws and fortify their strengths. They accepted criticism and instruction and made themselves a little better every day.
I will never be paid millions of dollars to ply my trade in front of thousands of people but I have been given a job to do. When my life is over it is my prayer to find myself standing before Almighty God and hear Him say, “You did well.” I am pretty sure that hearing that will make my heart grateful for all eternity and make all of the hard work seem worth it. I am absolutely sure that I will not hear those words if I do not continue to work every day to be the best I can be in whatever situation God places me.