The New York Mets are fresh off their latest failure: the worst collapse in baseball history. On September 7th they held a 7 game lead with 17 left to play. Statistically, they had a 98.5% chance of making the playoffs - 1 out of 500 that they would not.
Then it happened.
The bullpen collapsed, the offense went missing and manager Willie Randolph pressed all the wrong buttons. After sitting comfortably in first place for virtually the entire season, the Mets fell dreadfully short on the last game of the season, disappointing the fans, the city and themselves. It's amazing how quickly success can be turned on its head.
Just like your career.
Things can be moving along beautifully and then BOOM! You show up on time, never miss a day and appear to be a shoo-in for that well-deserved promotion. Then you blink, and suddenly, you're stuck.
Don't choke like the Mets. Here are a few ways to make sure you cross the career finish line successfully:
Play Consistently. Easier said then done on the baseball field, but at work, you need to make a concerted effort to be steady. Most bosses want to know what they are going to get out of you on a regular basis as far as productivity, attendance and emotions. Your goal should be to pull a Jeter. In essence, be a somewhat predictable rock. You might not be the flashiest player on the team, but you are reliable, and will become the go-to person. Conversely, a good manager needs to know when to shake things up - something Mets manager Willie Randolph didn't recognize until it was too late. The Yankees on the other hand (and yes, I am a Yankees fan, though I do not root against the Mets. Ok, maybe a little...) sensed trouble and made adjustments that deviated from their recent formula of success. They've been rewarded with a playoff berth.
Play With Heart. This is very different then allowing your career actions to be driven by emotion. You must believe deeply in what you do and put forth pride and passion in every step along the way. You must be driven by desire. And while fundamentally it was poor pitching that did the Metropolitans in, it was clear that certain players recognized that at the end of the day they'd still be receiving a big check. No one should root for players like that.
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Play Until the End. I'll hold back on the typical Yogi-ism, but you must treat your career like a series of baseball seasons - playing every single one as hard as you can until the very end. Even when things appear to be going well - you must never ease up. New opportunities are arising all the time, and just because you recently received a handsome raise and nifty promotion, doesn't mean there's not something even bigger waiting for you around the corner. Unlike baseball players, you might not know when your season begins and ends - making it even more important to be at your best at all times.
Play Loose. Your breath goes shallow and your heart starts to pump on overdrive. The result? You grip the bat tighter, throw off the fluidity of your swing and end up grounding out to second base. It's the same deal when you're carrying out tasks at work. You will perform better if you keep things in perspective and take care of tasks as they arise. Take enough breaks, make sure you laugh and don't take yourself (or the task at hand) too seriously.
Challenge Your Co-Workers. Did any of the Mets players in the clubhouse call out the players who lacked hustle or execution? There are positive ways to motivate your colleagues without being a dick. During the final 17 games of the season, I watched night after night as the Mets team delivered the same canned responses. Even after the complete of the collapse, no one had an answer for why the team lost. Hmmmm. How about pathetic relief pitching, a slumping Jose Reyes, a lack of heart, cockiness, etc. There are many reasons - but no one could utter a single one. If the core of the team stays the same, fans shouldn't expect anything to go down differently next year.
Baseball might only be a game, but when teams fail and succeed on such a large scale, there are lessons for all of us to learn.
Now tell me what you learned from the Mets meltdown and qualify for some free stuff.