The year was 1985 and I was a regional sales manager for BP Coal USA living in Lexington, Kentucky, the smallest bastion of coal capitalism in North America.
The closest professional sports team to Lexington was the Cincinnati Reds, just up I-75 about an hour, where River Front Stadium was smartly nestled on the north bank of the Ohio River putting the stadium in Ohio, whereas the Cincinnati airport was on the South side of the Ohio River putting it in Kentucky. The Reds were my team and Pete Rose was my baseball hero. When the season began, Pete Rose was 78 hits behind the legendary Ty Cobb, and 1985 was going to be the year that Pete Rose would do the unbelievable, break Ty Cobb’s fifty-seven year record of 4,191 major league career hits. I had taken my family to the game between Cincinnati and the San Diego Padres on Tuesday evening, September 10th. We were hoping against hope to witness baseball history. It proved to be a long ride home with Pete going 0 hits for 4 at bats. To add a twist to our disappointment, Cincinnati also lost the game by one run.
The next day I was traveling on business and spent the night in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In my absence, Pete Rose, playing his usual position at first base, during his first at bat, hit a 2 and 1 pitch off of right-hander Eric Show for a single to left-center field. As I listened on the radio, the crowd erupted with a standing ovation that lasted more than seven minutes. A crowd of 47,237 screaming and cheering fans witnessed history, and I had been a day too early to be part of the celebrating crowd. Pete Rose went 2 for 3 that night to convincingly put his name in the history books forever.
During spring training earlier that year, Pete was being interviewed after practice. One reporter blurted out, "Pete, you only need 78 hits to break the record. How many at-bats do you think you'll need to get the 78 hits?" Without hesitation, Pete just stared at the reporter and very matter-of-factly said, "78." The reporter yelled back, "Ah, come on Pete, you don't expect to get 78 hits in 78 at-bats do you?" Mr. Rose calmly shared his philosophy with the throngs of reporters who were anxiously awaiting his reply to this seemingly boastful claim. "Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit! If I don't expect to get a hit, I have no right to step in the batter's box in the first place!" "If I go up hoping to get a hit," he continued, "then I probably don't have a prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all of the hits in the first place."
Let me repeat again what Pete Rose said. “Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit! If I don't expect to get a hit, I have no right to step in the batter's box in the first place! If I go up hoping to get a hit, then I probably don't have a prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all of the hits in the first place."
How many of us go through life hoping to do well? We hope to be great salespeople, hope to be good parents, spouses, neighbors, citizens, etc. Pete Rose understood, as a baseball player, what most salespeople never learn, and that is, you must expect to be successful to be successful. If you hope, you will never achieve success. You must believe and expect you will reach your goals or you never will. You must expect of yourself nothing less than success, than greatness, than reaching the pinnacle of performance, than leading the team in performance, than receiving top sales awards, than achieving your potential. You have the right to be great, but greatness never comes with just hope. Greatness comes with that inner confidence and expectation seen in the dedication and commitment of all men and women who have achieved what most people only hope for.
My life changed significantly that baseball season of 1985. My hopes became expectations and my expectations became successes, not only in my selling career, but also in all aspects of my life. My challenge to every salesperson hoping to find success is to change your hope to a positive expectation and then put forth the effort each day to make your success a reality.