[Jerry Rice] The (Simple) Secret to Your Success

There is a secret to your success.

It’s on page 9 of the Sunday, February 9, 2010 print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle’s article about American professional football player Jerry Rice.

It’s the same secret that Malcolm Gladwell covered in Outliers, when he reported on the work of K. Anders Ericsson.

It’s the same secret that the research that Stanford professor Carol Dweck uncovered and reported on in her book MindSet in which she identifies two types of approaches: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” The former is ineffective to spurring better performance, the latter spurs, nurtures and develops better performance.

And it’s the same secret that the work of Angela Duckworth is uncovering in her “Grit Study” at the University of Pennsylannia.

Last, it’s the same secret you can have as well.

Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver (somebody who catches passes in the position parlance of American football) of all time, and arguably one of the greatest players ever. He was not the fastest, or strongest, (don’t know one way or the other if he was the smartest). He says he was a nerd in high school. He did not have the most talent. He was just the best.

Here’s his secret as told to the San Francisco Chronicle: “My father just taught me hard work and to just get out there and put time in. He taught me about discipline and responsibility.

So the simple secret is in the doing, the trying, and the discipline. Rice’s teammate Steve Young (no slouch as a player and someone who worked hard) notes, “He (Jerry Rice) outworked the work-ethic guys.

So the secret to your success is in the trying and the doing. Here’s Carol Dweck’s research findings distilled into a nutshell (read MindSet to get the full skinny and better benefit) :

  • Learn, learn, and learn. It’s good to be growing and learning: you don’t have to have it down pat all the time.
  • Work and effort is the key. You get better by doing, trying, learning.
  • Capitalize on mistakes. Confront deficiencies because they give you a chance to learn more.

What can supervisors, colleagues (and parents) do? Avoid telling people they’re “great” so people think they’re in a “fixed” position and mindset. Instead praise the doing and the trying by praising the following:

  • Effort
  • Struggle
  • Persistence despite any setbacks
  • Strategies, choice
  • Choosing difficult tasks
  • Learning, improving

Jerry Rice has more catches, more receiving yards, and more touchdowns than anyone in the game of American professional football. He is now being admitted to the Football Hall of Fame, the highest honor a retired player can receive.

And the same secret to his success is now yours.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.