How a Commitment to Positive Thinking Fueled Derek Jeter’s Career

Derek JeterDerek Jeter is a 14-time MLB All-Star and a five-time World Series champion. He owns the MLB record for most hits ever by a shortstop (3,465) and he has a lifetime batting average above .300. His 20-year career with the New York Yankees was one of the greatest in baseball history.

Jeter is also a case study in the power of positive thinking.

Baseball is a “sport of failure.” Even the greatest hitters of all-time—players like Derek Jeter—fail at the plate roughly 70 percent of the time. Each season, the very best teams in baseball must endure around 60 losses or more throughout the year. To overcome so much failure and to ultimately succeed at a high level for a long period of time is a lesson in perseverance.

And, as Derek Jeter points out, it’s also a lesson in positive thinking

Every day is another challenge, no matter who you are and no matter how successful you are. Each day we are faced with different obstacles and questions and we define ourselves as people by how we make those decisions.

One of the best ways for dealing with any challenge is by always being positive.

It might sound simple, but it’s hard for some people to simply focus on the positives. Too many people focus on negative things and what’s gone wrong or what could go wrong. They worry more about what they don’t have instead of focusing on what they do have.

People who are faced with obstacles should focus on the good things they can do and the positive way they can get around the obstacles. Don’t focus on what the negatives might be and what you think the negatives could do to you, because you can always find a positive in any situation.

If someone closes a door, work hard at finding another door.

I (did) that all the time with the Yankees. The second after we (lost) a game, (I’d) tell myself to forget about it. The circumstances could be dire, but I didn’t dwell in the past.

— Derek Jeter, from his book The Life You Imagine

The concept of “positive thinking” is often misunderstood. Well-intentioned self-help gurus sometimes imply that if you just “think positive thoughts” then everything will be okay and you’ll never encounter any problems.

But that’s wishful thinking, not positive thinking.

Positive thinking is all about responding to the problems that will surely come your way with a positive, can-do, find-a-way, optimistic attitude.

No matter how optimistic you are, there’s no way to fully shelter yourself from encountering adversity. (And life would be pretty boring if we never had to face challenges or solve new problems). It’s how you respond to adversity that determines your eventual outcome.

Optimists like Derek Jeter teach us the power of consistently responding to adversity with a positive attitude.

It’s not always easy to be an optimist—it requires discipline and commitment. But the long-term outcomes are worth the effort.