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John Smoltz: One Tough-Minded Hall of Famer

John Smoltz: One Tough-Minded Hall of Famer

While serving as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dr. Jason Selk helped the team win their first World Series in over 20 years, and in 2011 he assisted the Cardinals in the historic feat of winning their second World Championship in a six year period. Considered to be one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, Dr. Selk helps numerous well-known professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations develop the mental toughness necessary for high-level success. In this recent article for, Dr. Selk looks at the power of visualization to achieve success:

On January 6, 2015, John Smoltz was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He knocked Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell off the winning ballot, garnering more than double the votes of pitching icons Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens. How? He’s one tough-minded pitcher.

Smoltz was once called “the biggest of the Big Game pitchers.” In 1991, at 24 years old, he pitched a complete game win on the last day of the season to get the Braves into the playoffs. Then he pitched a complete game win in the seventh game of the NLCS against the Pirates. In the seventh game of the World Series, he pitched 7 1/3 innings of a scoreless tie against Jack Morris of the Twins. All told, he posted a playoff ERA of a sparkling 2.67 in 209 post-season innings. Talk about grace under pressure.

In truth Smoltz may not have been the fastest or mightiest, but his laser focus and cool head crumbled his opponents. He drew on that mental toughness to bounce back after reconstructive elbow surgery, too. So far, he’s the only pitcher who’s made it to Cooperstown after having that surgery.

The higher the stakes, the more tough-minded Smoltz got. Some players need years of training to think like that. But not this Hall of Famer. He’s been practicing to be a winner his whole life, and not just on the field.

Visualizing Success

As a boy, Smoltz visualized pitching a hundred game sevens, and he always won. He pictured himself in every possible ballgame scenario a pitcher could face, and then took himself through each situation to a winning outcome. What he did over 21 seasons in the majors, including 213 wins, was just the follow-through.

A lifetime of mental work gave Smoltz the confidence and calm to excel in the moment. Countless big league managers have said they wished they had him on their team for those big games. And his winning focus translates across the board. If you want to become that go-to player on your business team, try it. Visualize that win.

The following is the Five-Step Mental Workout, which I use in my own coaching program. All it takes is 100 seconds and consistent practice to become mentally tough.

Step 1. Centering Breath (15 seconds): Breathe in for 6 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds. Breathe out for 7 seconds.

Step 2. Identity Statement (5 seconds): Recite your own identity statement in your head, starting with the powerful words “I AM…” “…a tough-minded champion, destined to win.” “…confident and passionate about my work.” “…a great husband and father.” “…a leader in my field.”

Step 3. Vision and Integrity Highlight Reel (60 seconds): Run your 30-second self-image video in your head. This detailed movie shows how your life will turn out, where your success will take you in five years, and how you will get there. It should include reaching your career goals and fulfilling your purpose in life. Then run your 30-second integrity video clip, which includes the tasks you need to do the next day to make your vision become a reality.

Step 4. Identity Statement (5 seconds): Repeat your identity statement to yourself.

Step 5. Centering Breath (15 seconds): Breathe in for 6 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds. Breathe out for 7 seconds. Know that your mind is now focused, and you’re ready to perform.

There’s no Hall of Fame for living life, but always visualize yourself a winner. Someday, you may be your own field’s version of John Smoltz, the one people point to and say, “There goes one of the all-time greats!”

Jason Selk/Forbes/February, 2015