05/10/2010 05:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Even Legendary NFL Quarterback Steve Young Has to Try, Try Again


I remember thinking that sports celebrities had it made. They somehow didn't fail like the rest of us. I, on the other hand, had a slew of failures. My parents would remind me that it wasn't a failure, but a "life experience." I wrote in my diary, "I wish I would stop having so many 'life experiences' and finally just find some successes."

A few years later, I came across a book that talked about athletes' failures and commitment. I couldn't put the book down, and quickly discovered that everyone has setbacks and challenges. The most successful people just kept seeing them as life experiences, and kept at them until they finally turned the tide. I decided that no matter how long it took me, I would learn from my life lessons and welcome them again and again until I found success.

The book I read missed on one count: it didn't include my friend Steve Young, an athlete who truly understood the meaning of commitment and took it to a whole new level....

Steve Young


(Story excerpt from When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out)

I pulled my Clam Box baseball cap snug over my ears and slowly walked to the rack of bats. I looked over my shoulder in hopes that the crowds behind me had somehow disappeared to chase down a fallen meteor or search out a leprechaun's pot of gold. I knew it was an absurd thought, but then again, so was my record at bat. I had gone the entire season without even one hit.

I had been a standout athlete in Greenwich, Connecticut, and at the beginning of the Little League season, many locals wanted to see where exactly this thirteen-year-old would land. The locally sponsored Clam Box team, coached by Peter and Paul Perry, was the "lucky" recipient.

"Lucky" to have a kid on their hands who would go 0 for 4 in one game, 0 for 3 in the next, and back to 0 for 4 after that. Game after game, after game, after game, getting a piece of that white-stitched leather ball seemed to continually escape me.

I began to dread game day. It was humiliating to step up to bat, hearing the snickering of teammates and feeling all the spectators' eyes boring into the back of my head. Kids started teasing me that maybe I should give tennis or some other sport a try. And though the coaches were encouraging, I knew that they, too, didn't hold much optimism. This, however, didn't prevent them from letting me take another swing.

Eventually, I became horrified at the thought of going to the next game. I went to my dad and told him how embarrassed I was to strike out all the time. I asked him to please not make me go. I pleaded for him to get me out of this repetitive torment. My dad wasn't going to let me just give up, though. No matter how humiliated I felt, he told me that I couldn't quit. And as much as I dreaded it, I knew he was right. Not going just wasn't an option.

So I kept showing up, and my record kept going down. By the end of the season, I was 0 for 42. I had struck out forty-two times at bat. Forty-two times! Even if I had played blindfolded, you'd think I would have hit the ball at least once by chance. But here I was, sheepishly dragging myself over to home plate to take my last swing at bat for the year, and wishing everyone in the ballpark would just disappear.

Looking back, I don't know if I could really put my finger on what worked that final day. What I do know is that I loved the feeling of the ball connecting with the wood, and I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure that wasn't the last time I felt it. I committed myself to an off-season full of training.

My father pitched to me every day--regardless of rain, sleet or snow--to make sure I would never have a 1 and 42 season again. And the commitment paid off. I came back the next summer and had one of the best years of any fourteen-year-old.

There have, obviously, been some profoundly life-altering events I've experienced since my first teenage year as a Little Leaguer, but I truly don't think I've had any that were so formative. That year helped shape my perspective. I learned that if you really want something, you have to fully commit to the hard work to get it. I learned that you can't just show up and hope to hit the ball. I, unfortunately, had to learn all this the hard way. A hard way that made an impression. I don't think I've ever felt as much pressure in my entire life as I did as a thirteen-year-old stepping up to bat.

It was this pressure and difficult lesson that kept me committed to hard work for the rest of my life. This commitment has helped build a hard shell that I will never lose. Even with the natural talent I had, I learned never to rest on my laurels, because a 1 for 42 season could always be lurking around the corner. I took every game seriously; I studied, I prepared and I trained--because I was not going back to that humiliation. Even in my seventeenth year in the pros, I didn't want to embarrass myself. That 1 for 42 season has pushed me my whole life.

And I will always appreciate how important persistent effort is in reaching our goals. I owe the Clam Box for that lesson.

Nikki's Motivational Weight Management Tip

My experience of working with the Biggest Loser contestants and Symtrimics has inspired me to leave motivational diet, health, and wellness tips at the end of all of my blogs. These tools will be driven from the actual advice shared in my weekly motivational Transformation Talks. This week's tip: Do you really want to wait until some life threatening event to manage your weight? It is so easy to put something off until tomorrow. Think of all the people who are dealing with health issues because they thought they'd wait until tomorrow to deal with their health and wellness issues. Pick this moment to put your health first. Besides your family's health, there is nothing else more important!