Career Calling

April 24, 2013

Career Management Lessons from 42

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing 42, the new film about Jackie Robinson.  I love baseball and have read much about Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues.  The film also had some interesting things to say about work and career.

1.  Listen to the boss

To be successful, Robinson had to follow Branch Rickey’s strategy of not fighting back.  In turn, Rickey had to understand Robinson’s situation and keep him motivated in standing against racist taunts and physical abuse.  The films also shows two other great examples of bosses in control.  Rickey tells Robinson’s first manager to treat his new player as he would white players.  He then warns the manager that he will be fired if he doesn’t do so.  Later in the film, Phillies manager Ben Chapman rained vulgar slurs at Robinson.  His team’s executive orders the racist Chapman to pose for a picture with Robinson.  Wanting to keep his job, the bigoted manager posed with Jackie Robinson.  Moral of the story:  want to keep the job?  Listen to the boss – or find a new job with a better boss.

2.  Be willing to take risks

Both Rickey and Robinson took great risks in going against the long established color code.  Rickey bucked the system.  Robinson literally put his life on the line.  In the end, their risks changed the game and did much to open the eyes of a country.  There is still racism in America, but men like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey changed the game because they were willing to challenge accept wisdom and customs. To achieve our professional goals, we need to be ready to take risks and face our inner fears.

3.  Be willing to change

A few of Robinson’s teammates welcomed him.  Most did not.  However, the film shows them learning to accept him and, more importantly, respect him.  From what I’ve read, the transition wasn’t as fast or smooth as the film depicts.  But, as Robinson endured, his teammates accepted him.  In many work experiences, accepting change is the first step to being successful.

4.  Don’t quit

If I were only given one word to describe Jackie Robinson, it would be strength.  He faced hate from all angles.  His life was threatened.  Still, he did not quit.  Robinson knew what kind of treatment he would face, and his determination opened the door for other African American players.  It made baseball a better game and America a more equal nation.  In the end, Robinson’s fame is as much a matter of his mental strength as it is his great accomplishments on the field.  Again, he is a role model for any worker who faces obstacles and still achieves a goal.

I don’t mean to make 42 into a simplistic story.  It’s not.  I strongly recommend the movie as a great biography and as source of inspiration.

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