A Better Way to Run the Race

Author: John O'Leary

“Leaders are frequently limited by their vision, rather than by their abilities.” R.T. Bennett

Are you driven by what’s pursuing you or by what you’re pursuing?

It’s an important distinction. When we’re motivated by what pursues us, we have fear: of failing, of losing what we’ve achieved or that someone may take what’s ours. It’s like running an entire race with your head turned to see who is behind you.

But, my friends, there is a better way to run the race of life.

We’re invited to be inspired leaders sprinting forward, fueled by love of what we do, driven by what’s possible and motivated by the lives we can impact.

I was reminded of this truth during a recent conversation. Let me explain.

By all measures, Mike Matheny is a successful man. He is happily married, delights in his five children and enjoys an active faith life. He flourished during 19 years as a Major League Baseball player, was an All Star player, won gold gloves and made a financial fortune from baseball.

Mike recently joined me on the Live Inspired podcast to share his story, mistakes made, lessons learned and what they mean for us. He shared that the highlight of his career was the night he was called to the Big Leagues.

After incalculable hours playing catch, practicing, playing for his high school team and then for Michigan, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. After being drafted, Mike spent years playing in the minors, away from home, missing his wife, enduring overnight bus rides, before he got “the call.”

The evening he made his Major League debut, Mike walked onto the field and looked into the crowd. Among the tens of thousands of fans, he saw his brothers (who played catch with him even when they didn’t want to), parents (who invested countless hours and dollars guiding him) and wife (who believed in him through the months of absence and lean financial years).

And yet, as magnificent as the evening was, there was a voice whispering to Mike that he didn’t belong; suggesting he might not be good enough; there might be someone better for the job.

The voice stayed with him that first game, season and several seasons after. It was so powerful that he feels he missed out on the full experience, the real joy of playing baseball out of fear he might lose it.

As Mike grew as a player and man, he shifted from looking behind him for who might be taking his place and started looking forward, embracing the joy of being a Major League ballplayer.

It was a critical shift that permitted him to fully enjoy his success and – years later – to not be devastated when it was all taken from him. Upon retirement, Mike invested in real estate and, during the downturn, lost everything. Rather than look back at all he’d lost, he grew in his faith, leaned into his family and remained unwavering in his hope for tomorrow and running the good race today.

Mike’s pursuit led him to write on authentic leadership, mentorship and coaching. That opened a door to him becoming a roving instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals, which led to an unlikely interview for the role of manager of the club. Today, he’s had one of the most successful five-year runs for any manager beginning their career in the history of baseball.

As head coach and manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, Mike offers encouragement to his young players. He implores them to work tirelessly, believe in themselves and be outstanding teammates. He also reminds them – and each of us – that looking backwards is not an effective way to move forward.

As you take the field today at your office, school or home, remember that leaders are frequently limited by their vision, not their abilities. Pursue your goals with dogged persistence and do so with your eyes, heart and dreams looking forward, celebrating this moment. You’ll never again have this view.


This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O’Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching 50,000+ people around the world each year how to live inspired. John’s first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016 and was an instant #1 National Bestseller. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold.

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