I was visiting the HQ of the awesome company I work for shortly after the recent Astros-Dodgers World Series, when an impromptu office conversation about the series turned to the amazing play of the Houston Astros’ second baseman, 5 foot 6 inch dynamo Jose Altuve. His story is one of those amazing stories of perseverance. Due to his small stature, every stop in his baseball journey was supposed to be his last. He was constantly belittled (get it?) and told he had no future.
But as the saying goes, it’s not the “size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Altuve used every inch of his small frame to slug seven home runs (including three in one game) during the 2017 playoffs as the Astros won it all.
Since Altuve is a model of a small guy persevering and overcoming obstacles in pursuit of athletic glory, it was perhaps natural for someone during the conversation to say “he’s just like Rudy”, to which I replied “No – Rudy sucked.”
Many of you recall the movie Rudy – the story of the undersized Notre Dame football worshipper who insinuated himself into the program as an undersized student, and eventually was allowed to suit up and be on the field for a play or two. The movie portrayed Rudy as someone with grit, perseverance and determination. The climatic play in the movie – a play that was meaningless in the context of the actual game – was accompanied by stirring orchestral music. When I first saw it, I thought it was great.
My wife thought differently. She thought it was pathetic.
And Dan Sullivan agrees with her. Dan is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach, Inc, and has a podcast called The Multiplier Mindset (each podcast a short thought for entreprenuers). In this episode, Dan talks with Hollywood Talent Agent Joel Zadak about the importance of focusing on one’s “unique ability” (something Dan talks a lot about), when the subject of “Rudy” comes up:
“It would be funny if it weren’t so sad….I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people who are really good at something and who really could create great break-throughs if they would just focus their attention on it because it’s where their unique ability actually is, but instead they’ve spent their whole life trying to be some fantasy of being really good at something where they’re really terrible, really mediocre. It’s funny when you think of it, you can make a highly entertaining movie out of somebody’s life like Rudy….I’d say to Rudy..why don’t you find out what you’re really really good at, and then devote as much passion and devote as much interest and throw yourself into what you’re really great at?…You would the star athlete, instead of scrounging to get into one game for one play. ….Think of the millions of people who do exactly what Rudy tries to do in the movie, and no movie is made about them and nobody thinks its significant that they wasted part, half, or all of their life doing what they not any good at.”
I’ve written about something similar in the past, which I refer to as the “Willie Loman problem” (named after the title character from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”) but could just as easily be called the Rudy problem. Aside from the positive vibe that the movie delivers to the audience, the truth is that my wife was right. Rudy is pathetic – a young man who worships something that doesn’t need his worship and feeds an unrealistic dream while starving his deeper gifts.
Dreams without the ability to execute are just that: dreams. It reminds me of another old adage, “vision without execution is hallucination”.
Want to get ahead? Focus on your unique ability.