I just learned a lot I didn’t know about recently-retired baseball legend Derek Jeter, from a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Daniel Henninger.  One of the things I gleaned is that by today’s standards Jeter wasn’t typical.  He didn’t seek to get himself on the front pages of the tabloids with his latest personal drama.  He didn’t use his notoriety to peddle influence, or his fame to air his social or political views.  As unusual as this may be in today’s world, it seems that despite his superstar status, Jeter played ball with “dignity, composure, equanimity and silence”, and basically minded his own business.


Jeter’s approach runs counter to our current culture.  Today, folks without any claim to true fame will do anything to have their moment in the sun, be it on YouTube, Facebook or other social media.  Values such as humility, anonymity and hard work seem to have been replaced by brazen self-promotion.  The desire to be noticed appears to have trumped all.


As a seasoned psychotherapist, coach and consultant, I see that what builds a resilient self and a meaningful life is plain, old-fashioned values.  So I was heartened by Henninger’s last couple of sentences:  “Derek Jeter came from a steady mom-and-pop world in Kalamazoo, Mich.  Maybe the American heartland has something to offer after all.  The Jeter era is over, but the compass that got him through the storms may be ready for a comeback.”


If you’ve lost your compass, it’s never too late to reconsider your values and priorities.  And although they aren’t as exciting as the constant search for instant attention, fame and success, here are some basic tenants that may return a sense of inner peace and quiet purpose to your day-to-day existence:


• Humility:  No matter how accomplished, rich or famous you may be, 

never forget where you came from.  You were once a rookie at something, and you’re never too important to make time for someone else coming up through the ranks.  Additionally you’ll always make mistakes and have something to learn, often in unexpected places.  While quiet self-confidence is appealing, cockiness isn’t. It will come back to kick you in the teeth, for when the chips are down – which at some point they inevitably will be – no one will have your back.


• Hard Work:  One of life’s toughest lessons is learning to set goals and stick with them.  And in order to sustain hard work we must also learn to delay gratification, a tall order in an instant-gratification world.  The old adage “you must eat your dinner before you can have your dessert” applies here.  I’m amazed at how many people have never learned to connect the dots between hard work, follow-through and results; a formula which has stood the test of time.


• Putting the Larger Good Ahead of Self:  We live in an “it’s all about me” culture.  In fairness, we’re all so overwhelmed by a constant barrage of input that it’s sometimes difficult to stay in touch with the bigger picture.  Remember, however, that when you put the needs of the family, team or organization ahead of your own, you get what you give.  Further, there’s deep personal satisfaction that comes from some good old-fashioned self-sacrifice.


• Keeping your Private Life Private:  I know this is a foreign concept in a culture where people think the fact that they’ve just taken the dog for a walk is newsworthy, but frankly, no one’s interested.  Furthermore we’re all faced with life’s difficulties, and the world doesn’t need to be burdened with yours.  It’s not too late to become a class act by keeping your personal life just that – personal.


These are just a few of the many old-fashioned principles which, if integrated back into our lives, will make the world a kinder, gentler and safer place to be.  Given the poor behavior of many of today’s athletic super-heroes, Derek Jeter serves as a refreshing anachronism, and a wonderful role model for young and old to follow.


Lessons Learned from a Baseball Icon

by Maud Purcell

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