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The Performance Life

Secrets of Strength and Patience from Jim Rice

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Imagine retiring around the age of 40 after a successful career spanning two decades. After five years, you’re eligible for a distinguished honor that not only will validate your career in the minds of peers and the public but also boost your retirement income.

Once a year, a committee considers your name during a secret ballot. For fourteen years, you fall short of election, though each year you come a little closer. The frustrating thing is that there’s nothing more you can do to add to your career, which with each passing year fades a little further from public memory.

Finally, in your fifteenth and final year of eligibility, you receive the honor. How do you respond? How do you maintain a positive mindset during the long, exhaustive wait? During those years, how do you reconcile the value of your accomplishments on a personal level to the way they’re perceived?

Those questions have been posed in recent months to Jim Rice, the former Boston Red Sox outfielder who in January was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 15th and final year of eligibility. He’ll be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, this weekend.

Unlike many sports celebrities, Rice has long been guarded with his public remarks, which caused some media members, including those who vote for the Hall of Fame, to label him surly or at least standoffish. Rice, true to form, hasn’t exactly been loquacious in recent months. But he’s provided valuable insight any professional can appreciate when it comes to not getting recognized at the office.

1. Speak only about yourself.

Office gossip can damage a workplace. Rice was perceived as grouchy with the media because he refused to talk about teammates or employers—only himself.

“If you have a point to get across, you go to the individual; you can’t go to a person that’s not in that situation,” Rice said. “I wasn’t going to badmouth my teammates. If you want to talk about baseball, what I did at night, or if I screwed up, I was there. But when you start talking about teammates, I couldn’t do that.”

Rice, who does television and public relations work for the Red Sox, points out that he’s had just one employer in his professional life. It’s tough to argue with his strategy of staying away from office politics and gossip.

2. Stay patient.

Rice, 56, has not played since 1989. He’s now been out of baseball longer than he played in the Majors (16 seasons). Every year, around the time of Hall of Fame elections, he faced another round of questions on how he felt about falling short.

“You just have to be patient and wait until the last out,” he says. “I guess everything is just timing.”

3. Take the high road.

It’s always tempting to express vindication or I-told-you-so sentiment, especially after being overlooked for so long. It’s often harder to remain gracious.

Given the way baseball has changed since Rice’s retirement, it would have been understandable if he took a few shots at the steroid users who devalued his 382 career home runs, considered a lofty sum when he left the game.

Instead, he’s expressed nothing but gratitude and refused to engage in the steroid debate. He’s taken a cue from his late father, an imposing man who never raised his voice.

“My dad was a very strong man,” Rice says. “He reminds me of the story of Paul Bunyan. When he came into a room, you knew he was there. But he didn’t raise his voice. He just looked at you and you got the right idea of what he wanted you to do. And he only said it once, and that was it.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Goals, Attitude, Baseball