Pep talk from Cal

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken recently gave a keynote to nearly 2,000 IT management professionals at the ITSMF USA Fusion 2007 conference in Charlotte, N.C., relating some of the steps he took to become baseball’s famed ‘Iron Man’, a title he earned by playing 2,632 consecutive games – valuable advice for anyone hoping to become an IT ‘Iron Man’.

Here are some of the key elements Ripken said helped him achieve success in baseball and beyond.

1. The right approach. Ripken said he attacked the challenges of his job head-on each day, despite whatever issues he was experiencing. And he worked to meet the expectations of managers regardless of their requests. “My job was to come ready to play and to put myself in the hands of my manager,” he said.

2. A strong will to succeed. This element is part genetic and part learned, Ripken said, but in order to succeed he had to have a fire burning within and a strong desire to meet his goals. While he thinks this drive is hard-wired into some people, he said he learned that it’s not always about having that drive, it’s about putting it to use to make positive changes.

3. Passion. Simply put, Ripken said everyone has to love what they do for work to truly persevere and achieve the longevity he did with his career. “Money is a nice thing, but it doesn’t bypass happiness or problems,” he said. “You’ve got to love what you do.”

4. Competitiveness. Another trait that kept Ripken moving forward in his career was a healthy external and internal competitive attitude. He listed several types of competition: the “collective drive to beat the Yankees” his team shared; the face-off with young players itching to move him out of his shortstop position; and the internal goals he set for himself to remain driven and avoid complacency.

5. Consistency. Ripken says it’s not the highlights on ESPN that make a successful career. “You can’t always get the game-winning catch or make the game-winning hit. It’s everything you do in between – all the ways you can make contributions on a daily basis – that defines your value.”

6. Conviction. Sometimes confused with stubbornness, Ripken said conviction requires a thick skin and an ability to stand up for your beliefs when you know you are right. He added the ability to “see things through to the end” to his definition of conviction, a trait he learned from his father.

7. Strength. Ripken said it took him retiring from baseball to realize the need to maintain both physical and mental strength to achieve goals. “I quickly gained weight, I had no energy and was never more tired than I had been in my entire life,” he explained. “You can’t forget about yourself, taking care of your physical and mental health, to reduce stress and keep driving you forward.”

8. The ability to manage life. Throughout his career, Ripken said the way he managed relationships in his life, both professional and personal, helped keep his momentum going forward. When a new manager would take over the team, Ripken would tell him how he envisioned, say, his spring training schedule. By doing that, Ripken said he simplified the manager’s job and kept himself happy with his schedule. “I encourage others to take this level of control with their managers, without being combative. I helped my managers better manage me and they appreciated that,” he said.

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