I really like minor league baseball and I arrived at a client’s city early enough to attend a game.  I got a ticket for the upper deck behind home plate.  The ballpark was packed, and the scoreboard stats showed that the pitcher was throwing at around 97 MPH.

A batter swung and fouled the ball back slightly to the left of where I was seated.  I don’t know the physics, but the ball still had to be traveling at about 75 MPH.  The flight path took it right into the hands of a fan that fortunately had seen it coming.  Not so fortunately… he dropped it.  The ball took two bounces and fell into the deck below.  The crowd around him booed as if an outfielder had just dropped a routine fly.  The boos quickly turned to laughter, including the guy who made the unofficial error.  But it was illustrative: A good try is, well, just not good enough.

We applaud winners and we forget about second place.  With the sole exception of the legendary race horse War Admiral, no one discusses any of the horses that finished second to the celebrated Sea Biscuit.  They’re not even footnotes in oral history.

After finishing eighth in an eight boat race in the Olympics one year, the coach of the Harvard 8-man scull said, “There’s nothing wrong with being the eighth best in the world.”

We don’t remember vice presidents, second-in-command or understudies to famous actors, unless they ascend to the top.  Yes, some of the American Idol runners-up go on to major careers, but I’ll also make a case that just appearing in the top ten means you’ve won a great deal already.

I understand and appreciate that not everyone can be first or the best scull team, racehorse, or human.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least be trying.  No one goes to the Olympics yelling, “Let’s go for the bronze!”  I don’t think that approach would have gained Mary Lou Retton a perfect score of “10″ in one of the most highly pressured single vaults of all time.

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to be an achiever, to ‘Build Your Career’.  A couple of quotes from one of my speeches; “Achievement is an accurate reflection of approach and desire”, and “You don’t get to the top and then become an achiever; it’s the other way around”.

So tomorrow on your way to work, regardless of your rank, position or economic status, approach your career like a winner – with the approach and desire to be the best, to be an achiever.  In no short order you will be widening the gap between your compensation and value.

The guy who almost caught the ball will probably tell the story a thousand times.  But wouldn’t it be better if, when he told the story to his grandchildren, he was then able to say, ‘I caught it, and here’s the ball for you to keep…’  A good try is, well, just not good enough.

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