…the third part is the golden rule when it comes to high-stress moments, and something that we’d emphasize in all situations, not just pressurized ones: when you’re in a position to perform, getting distracted by the possible result creates more pressure than anything else. If you’re focused on the result, you feel the anxiety. Instead, concentrate on the process, not the result. Win through process.
~One Last Strike, Tony LaRussa
Tony LaRussa knows a little bit about winning on the baseball field. Mostly known for his time in Oakland and St. Louis, LaRussa has been a manager in Major League Baseball since 1979. He took a 10-year hiatus from 2011 to 2021 to do some charitable work, as well as some jobs in the front office. During that 10-year break, he was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, alongside two other legendary managers, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.
In his 2021 comeback with the White Sox (his second go-around with the team), he jumped into 2nd place all time for wins by a manager. Now, he only trails Connie Mack by 910 wins, and, to be fair, Mack managed the Athletics for 50 years and was part-owner of the team. So, despite actually having a sub-.500 winning percentage, his job was never really in jeopardy. Consequently, Mack is both the winningest and the “losingest” manager in baseball history. Kind of like how Cy Young won more games than anybody… but also lost more. Funny how that works out.
In the book One Last Strike, LaRussa recounts the end of the 2011 season, his final year with the St. Louis Cardinals before he decided to retire the first time. The Cardinals overcame a large deficit in the final month of the season to win the Wild Card on the last day that year. And they rode that momentum to a World Series championship.
It wasn’t easy. In Game 6, the Rangers had the lead — both in the game and in the Series — and the Cardinals were down to their last strike, more than once. In my Cardinal-fandom biased experience, it was the greatest World Series game ever played.
But what LaRussa is talking about here goes beyond the results. He is talking about the process. When we focus on the results we want, we start to get anxious about it. What happens if I fail? What if I can’t hit the ball where I want it to go? What if I don’t land this deal? Those are results questions. We don’t always control the results.
For example, let’s say you place a perfect hit on the ball, and the fielder makes an incredible play. You did all you could do. You can’t control that outcome. Let’s say you make the perfect presentation, and the client goes with another firm. You can’t make them change their minds.
What we have to focus on is the process by which our results come. If we do the process correctly, then we can accept the results. We did our part. We did all we could do.
We all have a process. Sometimes, that process gets us the results we want. Other times, we fall short. Either way, we have to be willing to trust the process. The results will be what they will be, but if we do the right things the right way, then we can hold our head high.