Cubs Prove Transformation is Possible

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I will admit I am not a baseball fan. I find the game slow, too long and otherwise boring. Except for attending the Yankee Playoff games in the 70’s and then partying in a Duke frat house when the Met’s Mookie Wilson’s dribbler somehow got passed Bill Buckner in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the game never really stuck for me (see previous blog on “I met the Strikeout King”).

But last night it was different, it was the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. Each team with the longest futility of baseball’s coveted world series championships. I was torn, as my wife is from Ohio, but those Cubbies are, make that “were”, lovable losers.

The Chicago Cubs lost 101 games only 4 years ago – let me repeat that 101 games! They hadn’t won the world series in 108 years. 1908 to be exact. Heck, Mark Twain was 72 years old in 1908, and Babe Ruth was only 13. That’s a lot of losing over a long time. But it all changed last night. By why, but how?

The transformation of the Cubs, and even the Cleveland Indians are based on three principles, and it is these principles that are common in many transformations, including those in commercial real estate.

Understand the futility of the Cubs World Series Championship was longer than those of any of the four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). So, what did they do to transform their past failures into the highest pinnacle of success? It comes down to three basic principles.

3 Principles of Transformation

1) They changed their mindset.

One’s future is not directly correlated to their past. Yes, we learn from our past, but it does not define us, and it certainly does not mandate our future success. Mindset is also impacted by the organization’s culture. Culture can be changed by leadership, which brings us to point number 2.

2) They changed their leadership.

First in 2011 the Cubs retained Theo Epstein, the wiz-kid general manager who exorcised the Curse of the Bambino from the Boston Red Sox and brought them 2 World Championships in 2007 and 2013. Then they hired the player-oriented coach in Joe Maddon, who is best exemplified by some of his famous sayings, such as “Try Not to Suck” and “Embrace the Target”. I love this latter one by the way. Setting a target, saturating yourself with your vision and going after it. This is exactly what the Cubs did in 2016. Make no mistake, last night was the culmination of a longer process. But they needed some help, which brings us to principle number 3.

3) They improved within.

The Cubs were purposeful in building their culture and their players. They integrated young superstars such as Chris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with season veterans like John Lackey and David Ross. For the record, this was David Ross’ final game of his career. He hit a home run and won a championship – cool ending if I may say so.

Transformation is possible. Regardless of your level of experience or success. All you need to do is change your mindset, surround yourself with positive leadership, coaches and/or mentors and commit yourself to personal improvement.

As Joe Maddon would say, focus less on the “Try Not to Suck” and more on the “Embrace The Target”.

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