Torre, like so many of the legends we have studied including his dear friend John Wooden, were masters of constant improvement because they were able to focus on what they could do now. They learned from the past but did not live in it. They were intense without being tense.
In his book Ground Rules for Winners, Torre expands on the idea:
"In your professional life you should follow this: Control what you can, let go of the rest. When you control what you can, you know you've done everything possible to succeed. That means hard work, total commitment, painstaking preparation, and squeezing every ounce of ability from yourself.
When you let go of the rest, you stop torturing yourself over every defeat. (People in sports or business who assume they have absolute control over their professional lives will doubt their abilities the moment things don't work out as planned.) Reality check: You don't control all of the conditions that make it possible for you to be a winner. Every time you experience a failure, ask yourself two sets of questions:
- Did the failure involve some lapse of judgment, concentration, or hard work on my part? If so, how can I improve next time?
- Did the failure involve a factor over which I have no control? If so, can I recognize this and quit blaming myself?
Use the first set of questions to take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them. Use the second set of questions to identify areas where you have no control, and to stop wrestling with yourself over them. I recommend that as an executive, manager, or employee, you create your own lists of factors you can control and ones you cannot.
Let me illustrate with a partial list of things I cannot control as manager of the Yankees: how my players actually perform once they're on the field; what my players are paid; when or how severely my players are injured; what the media says about me or my players; what my boss, George Steinbrenner, says or does regarding the team.
Here's what I can control: all strategic decisions during ball games; how I relate to and teach my players; how I utilize my coaches and support staff; how prepared I am for every ball game; how I speak to the media and react to their stories; how I relate to George Steinbrenner and others in our front office; how I react to what George says or does regarding the Yankees; my input regarding player personnel decisions, though I have no final say over those decisions."
Do you have your own lists of factors you can control and ones you cannot?