October 24, 2020

Ten Life Lessons From A Record-Breaking Legend

Baseball legend Yogi Berra is as famous for his witticisms and non-sequiturs as he is for his Major League Baseball achievements.

That’s no meant feat considering, as a ten-time champion, he still holds the player record for the highest number of World Series wins.

While many of his famous quips appear to be little more than funny, off-the-cuff remarks, some contain timeless wisdom, serving as valuable life-lessons in the form of memorable one-liners.

Here are ten insightful yogi-isms that capture profound ideas with charm and humor, which you can apply to your life with positive effect:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Clarity is super-important. Especially when it comes to goals. The more you have, the easier it is to hit your target. It is also critical in communication, as so many problems are caused by miscommunication. Don’t make assumptions. Seek clarity by asking questions and repeating back what people say to you. Make sure when you finish a conversation, you are on the same page as the other person.

“How can you think and hit at the same time?”

You can’t be stuck in your head when you’re trying to perform at your best. High performance requires a flow state. Being able to perform well without thinking — knowing the right thing to do in the moment and executing it perfectly — requires a tremendous amount of preparation and practice. Prepare well and get your reps in so you can be in flow at crunch time.

“You can observe a lot by watching.

While I am a big believer in figuring things out by doing and tinkering, sometimes the best thing to do is to keep your eyes open and your mouth closed while you learn from the experience of others. 

“I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.”

Losers focus on winners. Winners focus on winning. Learn to be a good loser. Treat your losses as learning opportunities, put the work in, and you will do better next time. Success requires a growth mindset.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Not as daft as it sounds. You can’t progress by standing still. Even if you are at the top of your field, the world will pass you by if you don’t keep moving forward and trying new things. Apple wouldn’t be the powerhouse it is today if it stopped at selling iMacs instead of inventing the iPhone. Nor would Amazon if Jeff Bezos had stuck with just selling books. 

You won’t always take the right path, but taking a path creates optionality, which makes you more likely to succeed. The key is knowing when to continue down the road you’re on, or when to bail and take a different fork.

“There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.”

The best coaches help people by unlocking what is already inside them. Michael Bungay Stanier talks about how a good leader must learn to tame their “advice monster.”People rarely listen to or act on the advice they are given. No matter how good or well-meaning it is, it gets filed away and forgotten. 

Instead of telling people what to do, the best way to support them is to ask questions that help them reflect and come to realizations independently. The mental journey this takes them on will create deeper learning and give them a sense of ownership over the solutions they devise.

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Perfection is an idealistic concept. It doesn’t exist in reality, so don’t waste your time chasing it. Done is better than perfect. Chase perfect and you’ll never be done.

“If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”

Don’t act like you know things you don’t. Bluffing your way through life does nobody any good. It can make you look silly if you get found out, and can be harmful or dangerous in some circumstances. Understand your circle of competence. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. People will respect you for being honest rather than feeding them with BS.

“You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.”

Good preparation, getting your ducks in a row, removing friction, and knowing where to focus your efforts will make good results come more easily than endless grinding away. Set yourself up for success before you act. Working smart > working hard. Working smart and hard is unstoppable.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

The world is forever changing. You can’t rest on your laurels and stay ahead. If you only focus your attention on what you need to be successful now, you will always be playing catch-up. Instead, look at macro trends and concentrate on what will make you successful in the future. That way, you can get ahead and be ready to strike when the time is right. Instead of playing catch-up, you will have a head-start on everybody else.