Derek Jeter #2 – Michelle V. Agins-/NY Times
You would expect that a blog from an artist would focus on the influence and lessons learned from other artists. Sure. I have done that many times. But some of the greatest lessons that I have learned and actions that I have emulated have come from sources far afield from the world of art.
Take, for instance, Derek Jeter.
As we fans of Derek Jeter struggle this weekend with the end of a glorious era as he retires as the legendary shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, we are left with memories and a few lessons.
The first lesson that I took from the Captain is: Give total effort all of the time. Watching him come to bat thousands of time, I cannot recall a single instant when he didn’t bust out of the batter’s box and run with his greatest effort on what appeared to be an easy out for the opposing team. He knew, as the great Joe Dimaggio had pointed out before, that there were people in the stand who might never get to see him again, who had traveled to see him play and to not give his total effort would be robbing those people of seeing him at his best. And besides that, good and unexpected things often came from this effort– often making the other team hurry, causing mistakes on their part, and spurring his teammates to follow suit and give that same effort.
Total effort becomes routine for players like Derek Jeter, acting like a rehearsal. In the big moments, they simply focus and do that same thing they have done every time before.
The second lesson is to : Make the most of what you have. This is an extension of the first lesson. Over the last year or so, I have Derek Jeter point out , when asked what he thought separated him from other players, that he knew he was not the most talented player in the game or at his position. But his desire to excel, his dedication to working hard and his willingness to give total effort with each attempt multiplied his talent level. How many times have you seen those with great amounts of talent in just about any field flounder simply because they cannot find the focus or dedication to fully use their talent?
Lesson three is: Know who and what you are. This is kind of an extension of lesson two. Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses, while at the same time trying to make your weaknesses into a strength. Derek had vulnerabilities in his swing early in his career, susceptible to inside pitches. A definite weakness that would be exploited throughout his career if he didn’t do something to change. So he worked and developed an ability to fight off those pitches with a contorted, inside out swing that became a tremendous strength for him. He also never tried to be a slugger or home run hitter because he knew that was not who he was, knew that was not his role on the team. This translates to the art world easily as you often see artists who feel they must be something that they clearly are not and in attempting to do this take away from their real strength.
Lesson four: Control your image. Derek Jeter is a master at controlling his own actions and image, on and off the field. On the field, he does not make wild claims or attack other players, doesn’t need to build himself up by tearing others down. He never overreacts, never disrespects other players, umpires or the fans. You never hear wild rumors about him or hear silly comments coming from him. He has used his fame to create goodwill. He began his foundation to aid and educate underprivileged kids when he was 21 years old. Think about that– 21 years old. How many of us would be thinking about ways to help others when we were that age, especially with a million dollars in our pockets and the free run of NYC? He has stated that the foundation will be his primary focus in this post-baseball life. As a result, he has built a reputation based on respect, both for his abilities and his image.
Lesson five : Do not be afraid to fail. While Derek Jeter has always seemed to succeed, those who watch the game regularly know this is not the case. Like most players, he fails to get a it 7 out of 10 times at bat. Yankee fans often grimace when he hits into double plays, a result of him always seeming to make contact with the pitch. I have seen him fail numerous times, often striking out to end a game. But the beauty of it is that he puts it aside and instead of dwelling on that failure, looks forward to the next chance to redeem himself. You must be willing to go to the plate and swing that bat. For artists, that means putting your work out into the world, showing it at every opportunity, knocking on every door and dealing with possible rejections. Because you struck out once does not mean that you won’t have hit next time up.
That brings us to lesson six: Embrace the moment. This is sort of a culmination of all of the other lessons. Be ready for opportunity and when it appears, step up and take your best swing. Be confident in who you are, in that you have the ability and that this moment is not greater than you. Derek Jeter has done this countless times. In the biggest moments, he seems to make the play, get the hit, score the run– whatever is required in the moment. Last night, in his last at bat ever in Yankee Stadium, he delivered a storybook ending, stroking a game-winning hit with that swing that is oh so recognizable to his fans. You don’t get a lot of opportunities in this life so be prepared and do what you must to score that run.
There are more things I could surely say about Derek Jeter. He said that he has achieved his greatest wishes and beyond, more than he had dreamed possible. So maybe I should have said something about creating a vision of what you want to be. Perhaps you too will achieve more than you initially thought possible.
It’s going to be hard to not see that number 2 jersey on the field after this weekend. I already miss him but will not complain because Derek Jeter has given me 20 years of baseball that I have loved along with those lessons I have learned. Thanks, Captain.
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