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The Power of Making a "Qualifying Decision": Lessons from the Softball Field to the Corner Office

The Power of Making a

In life, setting goals is often the easy part; it's committing to them that presents a challenge. A "qualifying decision," as I define it, is the act of not just setting a goal, but also committing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. This blog will delve into how this concept has played a pivotal role in my daughter Em's journey in softball, and how its principles can be equally applied to the realm of sales.

What Is a Qualifying Decision? 

A "qualifying decision" is not just the mere commitment to achieve a particular goal. It's a momentous declaration to do whatever it takes to bring that goal to fruition. You're not just stepping into the ring; you're stepping in ready to go 12 rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime. Oh, and by the way, it also the decision to the 7,800 hours of training leading up to the fight. This is a distinction often missed, and it's the very reason many pursuits plateau at mediocrity.

Now, let's move to the softball diamond, shall we?

From Sidelines to Center Field: When Goals Aren't Just Wishes

Two years ago, Em decided she wanted to play a team sport. She didn't just wish for it; she made a qualifying decision to make it happen. 

To that point in her life she had largely road horses as a form of activity.  Recently remarried, my step-daughter was an avid and very talented volleyball player.  We would go to her games, and travel for tournaments.  Em would notice her passion for the game, how much she enjoyed playing, but also the fun she had with her team as they set out to compete.  Recognizing this was something she valued and wanted for her life.  The feeling of accomplishment that comes playing a sport and competing against someone else and the camaraderie of a team.  In recognition of all that, a truly inspiring event occurred, she made a qualifying decision.  A decision not only to do something, but do everything that was necessary to accomplish her goal.

Many professionals tout ambitious goals, such as aspiring to become a department leader or to grow a startup into a Fortune 500 company. While these goals are noteworthy, they often remain unfulfilled wishes unless they are anchored by a compelling 'why.'

For example, someone might aim to become a department lead not just for the title, but because they are deeply passionate about mentoring young talent and driving innovative projects that could revolutionize their industry. This 'why' transforms their aspiration from a mere wish into a qualifying decision, empowering them to take the necessary steps to achieve their goal. They'll commit to additional responsibilities, navigate office politics skillfully, or even return to school for advanced degrees or specialized training—all because they have a reason that resonates at a deeper level.

In both Em's and the aspiring corporate leader's cases, a motivation capturing 'why' can be the difference between making a mere decision and a qualifying decision—one that brings you ever closer to your goals.

Whatever it takes!

That's what Em did.  She decided to do whatever it takes.  But first-what would she play.  She ultimately decided that she liked softball (never having picked up a bat or thrown a ball).  Then she got to work!  Every day she worked on the fundamentals of the game: throwing, running, hitting, and watched video after video about the game was played.  She darkened my home office door constantly so I could come and train with her, I would eagerly every chance I could, and when I couldn't she would find her siblings, her grandfather, or a wall to practice against.  She had made a decision that she was going to play softball and was relentless in her pursuit of it.  She practiced as much as she could, but now it was time to actually play.

This is akin to a salesperson who talks about wanting to be at the top, but puts only a portion of the effort to get there.  They don't seek help of others, the are quiet or unengaged in training, they won't make the cold calls needed to get to the target number of meetings.  Sound familiar?  While it is common to hear someone say they want to be successful, making a "qualifying decision" is anything but.  Every day people wade in mediocrity because they aren't willing to do whatever it takes and take the risk that comes with it.

Tryouts:  Litmus Test

Unfortunately, at 14 in our area, there are no "rec" teams.  So she had to tryout for a 14U select team.  The idea of this was terrifying for me, as a protective father, but as nervous as she was-she was determined.  On a chilly night in September, she tried out with a bunch of other girls, looking raw in her skills, played really hard.  The coaches came and told me that because of her coachable demeanor, hustle, and natural athletic ability she was going to "get a shot."  They warned she had a long way to go and playing time would be a challenge.

In a parallel universe—many professionals express a desire for career advancement but seldom pursue it with tenacity. Why? Fear of failure often plays the villain. Imagine a qualified individual with the potential to climb higher up the corporate ladder. They've been eyeing a managerial role but, much like those rec teams Em had no access to, the path seems elusive and fraught with risk. So, instead of seeking out challenges and presenting their case for promotion, they stay within their comfort zone, perpetually preparing but never actually stepping into the "tryout" that could change their career trajectory. Their hesitance stems from a reluctance to risk failing, and that's perhaps because they never made a qualifying decision. They never committed to doing "whatever it takes" to achieve their professional aspirations, missing the chance to turn possibility into reality.

Evolution and Elevation:

When Em stepped on the field for the first time in a game, the results were not immediate. Her first season was filled with a series of humbling experiences at the plate. Each timid at-bat seemed to underscore her novice status, yet Em never lost sight of her journey. With each swing and miss, she was building the resilience and the skills necessary to climb the ranks within her team. By season's end, her dedication had paid off—not only in her batting average but in her growth from a fledgling player to a solid contributor. This progression wasn't just about a vision of where she wanted to be; it was about embracing and conquering each step along the way.

In the cutthroat realm of sales, professionals often enter the field with eyes fixed on the end goal: the prestigious accounts, the accolades, the peak of the sales leaderboard. However, this vision is merely the destination without the map. Just as Em had to focus on each practice, each game, and each at-bat, a salesperson must commit to the process that leads to grand results. It's not the occasional big wins but the consistent small victories and learned resilience from losses that forge a top-tier sales professional. Committing to mastering the nuances of one's craft, understanding each client's unique challenges, and building a portfolio of success stories brick by brick—that's the substance behind a career marked by qualifying decisions. It's the granular attention to each step of the journey that elevates a salesperson from dreaming about success to actually living it.

The Varsity Diaries: The Pinnacle of Commitment

Em's journey through softball is not just a story of athletic pursuit, but a metaphor for the relentless quest toward a pinnacle. After seasons of growth, training, and tenacity, she found herself at the threshold of her ultimate goal: making the high school varsity team. This was no small feat, considering her school's singularly high-level team. Em's relentless summer of training with upperclassmen, her unwavering presence at every possible practice, and her palpable determination to not just join but excel on the team all crystallized in that triumphant moment of making the team.  But she didn't stop there, because not only was her goal to make the high school varsity, but it was to play.  And her drive and hard work quickly moved into playing a significant role. Starting 85% of the games, playing CF/RF, with a batting average surpassing .400! She even pitched, achieving a 1-2 record. Her rise to a starting position and impressive statistics were not just a testament to her skill but the culmination of her unwavering commitment to do whatever it took to succeed.

In the professional arena, particularly within the high-stakes world of business, the journey to reaching your zenith has striking parallels to Em's story. The pinnacle of a career—perhaps a coveted leadership role or the realization of an entrepreneurial vision—demands more than just ambition. It requires a mosaic of skills, experiences, and, importantly, the tenacity to apply them effectively when the opportunity arises.

For the professional who has made the qualifying decision to reach the apogee of their potential, the approach to this zenith is the culmination of many learned lessons, strategic decisions, and refined skills. When you finally step into that role or take on a project that has been the target of many years of work, it's the deep-seated knowledge, the honed instincts, and the strategic acumen that empower you to maximize your impact.

The ability to synthesize and leverage your accrued wisdom at this apex is not serendipitous—it's the product of a career-long series of qualifying decisions. Decisions that dictated early mornings and late nights, that chose resilience in the face of setbacks, that valued consistent growth over immediate gratification. This conscious journey of professional mastery ensures that when you do approach your ultimate goal, you're not just arriving; you're equipped to conquer it.

The Lasting Impact of a Qualifying Decision

Em’s odyssey from a beginner to a standout player on her varsity softball team is a compelling testament to the lasting impact of a qualifying decision. The ripple effects of such a decision extend far beyond the immediate goals; they forge a mindset equipped for future successes and challenges. Em has not only improved her athletic prowess but has also cultivated a mental fortitude that will empower her in all walks of life. This is a narrative that goes beyond the diamond; it's a life lesson in perseverance and dedication.

In the realm of professional development, making a qualifying decision acts as the cornerstone for sustained success. The journey—laden with strategic choices, continuous learning, and relentless effort—sculpts not only a career but also a professional character resilient in the face of adversity.

Just as Em’s story inspires us, it serves as a microcosm for the transformative power of such decisions in the corporate world. Whether it's committing to pursue further education, stepping into a leadership role, or launching an innovative venture, the decision to go all-in is pivotal. It emboldens professionals to face uncertainties and leap beyond comfort zones, fostering an environment where growth and innovation thrive.

For those who embrace this ethos, like Em, the future is not a question of if they will accomplish their goals, but when and to what magnifying extent.


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