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Five Things We Learned from Tony La Russa's Commencement Address at Washington U.


3. "Bad fear" should take a hike.

It's OK to be afraid of something, but you can't let it prevent you from trying new things. To that end, La Russa offered these words:

You feel this anxiety, the expectation of pressure and you decide that you're going to dodge it. And you're just not going to participate. You will regret that the rest of your life and you're going to face a lot of opportunities where there's an uncertain outcome and you've been given the opportunity to try it. Bad fear means you call in sick.

La Russa admitted that he was nervous about accepting the invitation to give the commencement address, and that's why he had been up at 5:30 a.m. making daily changes to his speech. But he was more afraid of failing by not giving the speech at all. We hope he also won't fear the Arizona Diamondbacks' losing record as he takes over as the team's chief baseball officer.

Lesson: Good fear motivates you; bad fear paralyzes you.

4. Respect yourself. Know yourself.

The world won't just hand you a big-league coaching gig, a stack of hundred-dollar bills or even a job in fast food. La Russa said that to succeed in anything, you've got to know what's inside of yourself:

You act in a way that you earn your own respect. Don't ever fool yourself.

No matter what you attempt, always do your best. La Russa said that by knowing your own values and capabilities, you can always present yourself in a way that makes you proud, and it also will attract those types of employers and friends.

Lesson: Always respect yourself in the morning.

5. Frame of mind is everything.

"We need you. We need you to step forward and be as excellent as you can be," La Russa said. But you can only fulfill your potential if your brain is in the right place:

Your frame of mind is the key to the kingdom. You control your mind. Don't let anybody tell you what's right and wrong.

La Russa supported that thought with an anecdote about the 2011 Cardinals. After losing Game 5 of that year's World Series, the media and many fans assumed that the team was done and wouldn't be able to mount a comeback. But La Russa urged the Redbirds to ignore the distractions, take personal responsibility and continue to put out their best effort. Talent was important to the Cards' ensuing historic Series rally, La Russa said, but focus and grit played even greater roles:

We did it with frame of mind more than anything. Our team came together in a respectful, trusting, caring way. Our guts were outstanding. We refused to give in, refused to give up. That's exactly the message that you need to take forward.

Lesson: No distractions, and no excuses. Get it done.

For those attending Washington University's commencement exercises, LaRussa's words were home runs:

Watch KTVI-TV's report on LaRussa's address at Washington University below, or read the full speech here.

Follow Allison Babka on Twitter at @ambabka. Email the author at allison.babka@riverfronttimes.com.



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4 comments
fmmulholland
fmmulholland

"The importance of what you accomplish with your graduation and what you have going forward is more important than a baseball season."

Really?  Does that need to be said anywhere, let alone a graduation speech?  

fmmulholland
fmmulholland

yeesh.  Keep trying to make this guy some kind of hero outside of baseball, St. Louis.  I could have gotten all this advice from the coffee mugs at a new age gift shop.  

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