Inside Pitch Magazine, May/June 2022

Coaches' Corner: Defining Success

By Joe Jordano, head coach at IMG Academy (FL)
Joe Jordano headshot in blue IMG Academy polo shirt Webster’s definition of “success” is: a: degree or measure of succeeding b: favorable or desired outcome

As I reflect on the definition above, I know each day we can peruse so many “success” and motivational posts on various platforms. From inspirational authors to quotes of the day, to social media influencers, to life coaches as well as many others. I enjoy reading them. As a positive leader, I enjoy seeing how other successful coaches motivate and communicate with their teams. However, as I contemplate these messages, I often ask myself, “how will an individual apply the information in these messages as individual team members?”

As we all know, success—by any definition—is not easy. If it were, all would achieve it! The challenge is simply asking ourselves; how do I define “success?” In business, is it bottom-line profitability? In sports, is it a championship season? Is it hitting above .300 or having a sub-3.00 ERA? In school, is it a 4.0-grade point average? How is it defined, how is it measured, and who defines it? Is success achieved daily, monthly, periodically, or a culmination of a high school, collegiate or professional career? Is success defined by a number? Or is it defined in one's soul? 

Regardless of the answers to any of these questions— and to a degree all are true in some form—the fact remains: it needs to be defined by you! Every individual can define what success means to them. Depending on where you are in your life’s journey today, your definition of success will be different today from what it is as you enter a different stage. This definition evolves and will be amended and redefined throughout your life. My definition will be different from yours. 

Success is undoubtedly a relative term. According to the Oxford dictionary, “relative” is defined as “in relation or in proportion to something else.” Hence, success will represent something different to each of us. Don’t be forced to adhere to a definition that strictly emphasizes results or those defined by others. Keep in mind, as a part of a team, there is a measurement of goals for each applicable specified time. Whether it be a fall season, a completed season, a semester in school, or whatever the defined time. However, within those team goals, every individual must embrace a definition that empowers them to grow and celebrate each positive personal step that brings you closer to your definition of success. We all know the acronym T.E.A.M. = Together Everyone Achieves More. This quote is spot on! The emphasis is that each member must contribute to the process as an individual to achieve the goal, but the critical piece is that each team member is at their best every day. When each member is at their best, the team will make positive steps to accomplish its definition of success! 

Other fundamental elements of this defining process are experience and self-discipline. Experience is something that cannot be taught. It must be lived. It is through these experiences, both positive and negative, and the subsequent adjustments we make after assessing these experiences are essential. This process will identify our strengths and weaknesses. Adjusting daily priorities will result in solidifying our strengths and improving our weaknesses. Self-discipline is having the intestinal fortitude to execute passionately regardless of the task at hand, even when things are not going well. 

The formula for success for me is very fundamental and is applicable at any stage of a life’s journey. It is as follows: 

Be your best every day + Learn from all experiences + Be passionate every day + Be grateful for every opportunity + Be kind to others + Embrace the process + Be self-disciplined = My (personal) definition of success. 

The bottom line: the definition is up to you. Will you allow others to decide your definition of success, or will you define it and own it? We all, at many times in our lives, come to the fabled fork in the road when tough decisions need to be made. Which path will you choose? As Yogi Berra once quipped, “when you come to a fork in the road...take it!” I wish it were that easy. 

From my perspective, and having many years of experiencing success and failure, I would recommend considering the words that Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

For some, “the road” that is oft traveled and chosen by many is much easier, less stressful, not as challenging or demanding. It is the proverbial “path of least resistance.” Choosing the “road less traveled” is made by confident, disciplined, passionate individuals who want to create their own road. They are creating opportunities. They are embracing the process. They are forging innovative ideas and new thoughts. They are learning from their experience along this “road.” There is no doubt this road is more difficult, tougher to navigate, will be more challenging and the result may not be clear. But those who choose this tougher road are those that will be prepared to lead others and achieve impressive results because they have earned it, they lived it and have written their own personal definition of success. Ultimately, choosing the tougher road will create inspiring opportunities and elevate even higher levels of achievement which may not have felt even possible when this journey began. 

With that said, what is your definition of “success,” and which "road" are you going to choose? Think about it! 

“Accept the challenge, so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” — General George Patton 

“With self-discipline, most anything is possible.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

Joe Jordano was among the top 25 winningest active coaches in NCAA DI baseball following his 21-year stretch as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He left as the all-time winningest coach (588 wins) in any sport in school history. Jordano's teams rewrote the Panther record books, developed over 70 professional baseball players and he led the Pitt transition into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Prior to Pitt, Jordano was the head coach at Mercyhurst College in his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. He guided the Lakers for 10 seasons and left as the winningest coach (283 wins) in Mercyhurst College history. Jordano has earned six Coach of the Year awards in his career. Jordano has been inducted into the Mercyhurst College Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (Erie Chapter) and the Italian/American Sports Hall of Fame (Pittsburgh Chapter). The Lifetime ABCA Member is now a coach at IMG Academy (Florida).


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