Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


Never give up

Q: In his first six days in the major leagues, the Nationals' Danny Espinosa blasted three home runs, including a grand slam. Do you find that your biggest successes come in big bursts, or as the result of slow and steady progress? Is success more about "base hits," or "home runs"?

Professional athletes are such amazing people. These big-boned mesomorphic and endomorphic body types are genetically pre-programmed for success in kicking, hitting and/or catching round or football-shaped objects. They have an aptitude for games.

A small person (ectomorphic body type) cannot hit a grand slam or even make the team in high school -- forget the major leagues. The average salary of the Detroit Tigers is $1.5 million annually in a city that is watching its neighborhoods and way of life essentially disintegrate. A Detroit Tiger, to be fair, is paid far less than the average $3.3 million for the major leagues. They earn what the market will bear in the lucrative industry of professional sports.

I do love watching sports on TV or, better, at the stadium! Yet athletes entertain rather than inspire me. People who make other contributions unrelated to their muscles or bone mass tend to make impact people's lives in significant ways. Let me give you an example. In 2001, one person who saw the twin towers being destroyed was a man named Paul Rieckhoff, who was enjoying a good life on Wall Street.

Paul actually hit a grand slam for America. He joined the Army and risked life and limb for our country as a rifle platoon leader in Iraq. How many people do you know who did that? He saw combat in 2003. He returned home highly critical of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

Rieckhoff did something very important upon coming back to civilian life. He formed "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America" (IAVA). There are now over 100,000 members. He is a tireless advocate for the people who serve today and the many issues affecting troops, military families and veterans. While you are reading this, there is a Marine somewhere in Afghanistan probably being loaded -- bleeding and injured -- onto a helicopter. IAVA is there to help him and the other men and women who will one day rejoin civilian life to seek jobs and education.

Paul is a fellow who lives to hit home runs. He, and people like him, hit home runs for other people. That is the difference.

Is success based on the cumulative impact of slow and steady hits, or home runs? I can only answer that question with a quote from a surgeon who served in the English Army during World War One, Dr. Charles Moran Wilson.

"Courage is a moral quality -- it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games, but a cold hard choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit which must be made not once, but many times by the power of the will." Courage, he wrote, " is will power."

As it is with courage so it is with success. Slow and steady -- getting back onto the field after a setback and grinding, always grinding, down the field.

By Jan Scruggs  |  September 13, 2010; 12:38 AM ET  | Category:  Success: fast or slow? Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: One brick at a time | Next: Sustaining success


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Big splashy things like home runs, things where everyone can see that you excelled, are fun - but they can be seductive and lead you in the wrong direction. For me it was when I was in college, I was (and am) a great test-taker. At least in some of the early courses, I could ace a big test with little study and be the star. Which led me to feel that tests were where it's at, doing homework (the incremental stuff that got you no glory) was not worth doing. That kind of attitude left me ill-prepared for the real working world, where most progress is slow and does not get you kudos. It's much better to learn that the slow steady progress is what you should be most proud of, not so much the flashy quick accomplishments.

Posted by: catherine3 | September 13, 2010 11:29 AM
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