Friday, September 26, 2014

Derek Jeter: A Legacy of Greatness

Written by Don Yaeger, posted in Chasing Greatness Blog

As New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter completes his last home game this week, the void that he’ll leave behind will be impossible to fill.
Jeter has embodied Greatness in his poise, leadership and hard work throughout twenty seasons in Major League Baseball, and after his final game, professional sports will have lost an icon.

Jeter’s sendoff is bittersweet. With the sporting world currently saturated with one scandal after another, Jeter is a polar opposite to what we have come to expect from professional athletes. What are the odds that an athlete can play a sport at the highest level, starting at just nineteen years old–in the Greatest media market in the world–and have such a legendary career without scandal?

We can thank his parents for that.

Though Jeter’s accolades are many, he did not earn them alone. Over the years, Jeter has consistently referred to his parents as the cornerstone of his success—a fact that has always fascinated me. In the end, it’s not about his swing or how many bases he’s stolen, but what was taught to him over the dinner table at home. Clearly, Jeter’s parents set him up for success by raising him right. They also taught him the importance of charity, a subject I had the chance to talk to Jeter about for a story that ran in SUCCESS Magazine.

As we celebrate Jeter, we must also celebrate his parents for instilling in him his leadership skills, silent strength, and class—qualities that have tremendously impacted the culture of the Yankees.

Jeter, the child of two Army veterans, learned early the value of discipline. In his youth, Jeter’s parents would make him sign contracts every year on acceptable and unacceptable forms of behavior. (He was even forbidden from using the word “can’t”!) His mother and father would also encourage a can-do, positive attitude, and would consistently school their son on the realities of life and competition. Jeter was regularly reminded that no one was ever going to let him beat them, and that he would have to work hard for whatever he desired in life.

“People look at anyone successful—I’m not just talking about myself—but they think you just wake up and you’re in the NFL or Major League Baseball or have a published book. But there’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice and failure that goes along with it,” said Jeter.

It is safe to say that Jeter has far exceeded the expectations of his parents. During his farewell season, he remains a role-model that everyone—even a Red Sox fan—can respect.

“I think a lot of people look at their role models and assume their role models are perfect,” Jeter continued. “But no one’s perfect. You have to be accountable for your actions. That’s first and foremost. You make mistakes, you learn from mistakes. You have to be honest about them. You can’t say one thing and do the complete opposite. You can learn from your mistakes; you can learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”

Tonight, as Jeter dons the pinstripes for one final time at Yankee Stadium, I am reminded that his career is more than his five World Series rings or the all-time lists he’s made. In the world of sports, he has continued to stand out by never offering excuses or giving any less than his maximum effort. Even Major League Baseball used the word “Greatness” to describe him. Though he will no longer be in uniform, the extraordinary impact and culture that Jeter has helped create in his organization will live on.

As we give a final salute to the Captain, let us not forget to celebrate his parents as well, for shaping the mind and spirit of one of the Greatest athletes of our time. How have your parents prepared you for the world? Take a moment to write me a comment. I’d love to hear your story… and theirs!

Friday, September 12, 2014

How to Breathe Life into Your Team

Written by Don Yaeger,

Editor’s Note: I thought I’d share with you a story that ran in today’s Wall Street Journal that I had a chance to experience.

How do you get some of the world’s wealthiest athletes to perform—in peak form—during their summer vacation?

This is USA Basketball’s eternal quandary. It is a challenge that only got tougher last month, when Paul George gruesomely broke his right leg during a Team USA scrimmage.

But over in Spain, where the U.S. will play for the FIBA World Cup title on Sunday, Mike Krzyzewski believes he has the answer. It is a bit sentimental, but to this point, you can’t argue with the results. He calls it “feel-it” moments: team visits to cemeteries, trips to military bases, anything to drive home the significance of representing one’s country.

“When it’s time to change the culture of a team, your players have to hear it, see it and understand what you’re trying to do,” said Krzyzewski, the coach of the U.S. national team since 2005. “But to really make change stick”—and when he describes this, he drags out the word really—“they have to feel it.

“To do that,” he said, “you have to create moments.”

Those moments have led to a run of success—the U.S. has won the last two Olympics and the most recent World Cup—and have changed the way players feel about wearing the red, white and blue, Houston Rockets guard James Harden said.

“Coach has focused on reminding us what it means to wear USA on the front of the jersey, and not just in a way that sounds like a cliché,” Harden said during a USA Basketball workout this summer. “People ask why we give up time to be part of this team, to risk maybe getting hurt. This is why we play, the kind of passion we need to have not just for basketball but for others.”

Ten years ago, USA Basketball was at an all-time low. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the U.S. lost three games—it had lost only twice in Olympic history previously—and won bronze. Two years before that, in the 2002 World Championships, the U.S. finished sixth, its worst finish ever in international competition.

Worse, Team USA “had made people not like us,” USA Basketball executive director Jim Tooley said. “In 2002 and 2004 we just threw guys together, gave them 13 days to practice, explained a couple of rule changes for international basketball and expected it was their turn to win a gold. We didn’t show respect for other teams and what they were doing.”

Beyond hiring Krzyzewski as coach in the wake of the Athens debacle, USA Basketball also made a point of getting its players to buy into the meaning of international competition.

“We knew we had ask our players for a new level of commitment than was expected previously and we had to get them to realize we weren’t going to win international competitions doing things as we had,” said Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball. “We needed them to see themselves not as basketball players but as representatives of our country, doing our service, our piece. We had to get them to feel patriotism and selfless service.”

Who better to teach those traits to some of the wealthiest athletes in the world than members of the military, Colangelo said. So the “feel it” moments began.

As part of a collaboration between USA Basketball and branches of the military, Krzyzewski’s team stopped in Korea on its way to Japan for the 2006 World Championships. The team went to two military bases and held open practices, coming into the gym wearing fatigues instead of warm-ups. They met injured soldiers who shared a consistent theme: We have no regrets because we did what we did for our country.

The relationship between team and military grew through a continuing program since dubbed Hoops for Troops. Then, on the way to the 2012 Olympics in London, the team went to Arlington National Cemetery.

“When I think about feel-it moments, I go right to that moment in 2012,” Tooley said. “After our guys laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we went to Section 60, where the latest casualties are buried. The guys kept looking down and the birth dates were for soldiers younger than them.”

“That day,” Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant said this summer, “is one I’ll never forget.”

And yet, Durant wound up withdrawing from the team before the World Cup, citing fatigue—a move that highlights the difficulty of player recruitment for the U.S.

Durant’s decision came just days after George broke his tibia and fibula at the base of the basket stanchion during an intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas. Previously, other stars including Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kevin Love, now of the Cleveland Cavaliers, also had pulled out. In 2012, Ray Allen said players ought to be paid to play in the Olympics.

“In the weeks before the 2004 Olympics, we had three players withdraw and had to make last-second substitutions, which was a problem for the team,” Colangelo said. “We’re in a better place now because we have players in a pool of talent as part of a program—a program that they get much more than a medal from—rather than as just part of a team, which is what they had before.”

The team the U.S. is left with includes several international rookies, including the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried and the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins. But as it plays for the World Cup championship, the team will do so with an enhanced sense of pride, Colangelo said.

“I think we’ve helped our players become better people, better players and take this culture back to the teams they play for in the NBA,” the longtime NBA owner and executive said. “You leave these ‘moments’ feeling a lot different about life, about priorities and you’re just better for having felt that way.”

Do you have a “feel-it” moment that reminds you of what’s important in your life? Leave me a comment and let’s discuss your story.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Marilyn Sherman Earns her CSP

Immediate Release

Contact: Sarah Whitten
Partner, Standard Ovation
Professional Speaker Management
phone: 913.498.9775 | fax: 877.598.6962 

Personal Growth Expert, Marilyn Sherman, is Honored as a Certified Speaking Professional 

San Diego, CA – July 6, 2014 – During the National Speakers Association (NSA) Convention in San Diego, the association for the professional speaking industry, NSA recognized Marilyn Sherman as a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). It is the highest earned designation in the speaking profession.

A CSP is granted to professional speakers within the industry as a level of excellence once specific and strictly-measured criteria are met (based on a set number of engagements, list of clients, audience size, praised feedback, and dollar amount within a limited time-frame).

Sherman (local to Las Vegas, Nevada) is a Personal Power Expert encouraging her audiences and everyone around her to get a front-row seat in life. She teaches people the importance of having a positive ‘no more excuses’ mindset, which has lead to increased productivity and sales, business growth, and the improvement of internal communication. Sherman’s focus is pushing people out of their comfort zone in order to reach their goals, pursue their dreams, and become more productive and happier at work. Sherman is also an expert in managing change and has addressed issues on this topic for several Fortune 500 companies.

A past client has stated, "I have worked with many speakers over the years - none have been as creative, informative, easy to work with, clear on her message and engaging as Marilyn. I have watched her take an apathetic audience and turn them into believers - if you want a real professional to add to your meeting, conference or agenda - Marilyn is your go-to person!!”

Established in 1980 by the National Speakers Association, the CSP is earned by fewer than 10-percent of professional speakers. It is awarded to distinguish those who have conducted a high-standard of business as a Speaker, and not just a hobbyist.

In addition to speaking, Sherman has written and published three books, Whose Comfort Zone Are You In?, Why Settle for the Balcony? How to get a Front-Row Seat in Life!, and Front-Row Service. Each book is titled from a program and can be used as a continuous learning extension of her keynote.

For more information, visit Marilyn Sherman’s website at or contact her Speaker Management Company, Standard Ovation at or Sarah Whitten at 913-498-9775.