“He hustles, Boy.”

Lessons can come at any time in life. They come in all forms and from many different people. Oftentimes, they come from those who possess the wisdom of life’s experiences. One of the most important challenges we face is to take the lessons we receive and apply them to our lives. What lessons have you applied to improve yourself or help someone else?

If anyone knew baseball, it was my grandfather. When I was eight years old, on April 3, 1963, he took me to my very first Cincinnati Reds baseball game at the old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. As we watched, my grandfather went down the roster, telling me about each player on the team. One player, in particular, was the new second baseman.

My grandfather said that even though he was 0–11 as a Red, he had performed pretty well in the minor leagues.

Granddad said that the guy wasn’t very fast, didn’t hit for power, and didn’t have a particularly strong arm. Even still, Granddad thought he was special in some way — that he would have a great career and become a star. That guy’s name was Pete Rose. With the less-than-stellar thing my Granddad told me about him, I asked why he thought Rose would be any good.

“He hustles, Boy,” Granddad said. (He always called me “Boy.” We shared the same name, so I guess that was his way of not sounding like he was talking to himself.)

“He is determined.”

“He’s got a focus on being successful that you have to have in order to be successful.”

Later in the game, Pete Rose tripled off Bob Friend of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the very first hit of a record-breaking career. Rose went on to be the all-time MLB leader in hits with 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five positions.

All this from a guy who wasn’t fast, didn’t hit for power, didn’t have a great arm, and started out 0–11.

That first Reds ball game we watched together was viewed from a seat in a third base box right on the field. It was there in later years, and perhaps another story, that I caught a foul ball and had it signed by every member of the Reds team, including Frank Robinson, who I once shook hands with from my seat in that box. I still have that ball and will always treasure it.

A long line of hard workers

My grandfather was a very accomplished businessman working in the steel industry. I always admired him, and he was a model of the professional life that I wanted for myself. His career culminated as the head of industrial relations at Empire-Detroit Steel Corporation.

I come from a long line of steelworkers. My paternal grandfather was a General Foreman at the same steel mill. My father and his brother spent their lives at that mill, and I even spent a summer working there during my college years. It was a great experience, and I heard many great stories about my family.

Granddad and I went to many Reds games over the years. We would board a passenger train in Portsmouth, Ohio, travel to Cincinnati for the game, and then ride the train home. In those days, it took about 3 ½ hours to drive to Cincinnati and another 3 ½ or more to get home with the after-game traffic. The train was the way to go. It also allowed for my Granddad and me to have some great conversations.

On one of those trips, we returned to the discussion of Pete Rose and how my grandfather looked at his potential. I found out that Granddad started his career in the steel industry by playing baseball in the industrial leagues. I was shocked to find out that he had turned down a contract to play professionally for the Chicago White Sox organization. Apparently, the White Sox didn’t pay as well as the industrial league he was already playing for. So, Granddad really did know what he was talking about when he talked baseball! (Knowing this may have haunted me a few times as I was playing baseball as a school kid.)

Granddad’s Secret

My grandfather’s secret to success was a hustle. That’s what he understood when looking at the potential of Pete Rose, well before he was proving it. Once his baseball days were over and Granddad began working at the steel mill as a typical union employee, he found himself asked by his fellow workers to help in forging the first union at the mill in Portsmouth.

In those days, it wasn’t as easy as a vote. It was a fight. He persevered and prevailed, and the new union was adopted, and he became its first president. Granddad came from a very poor family, but through his perseverance, he rose to the executive level of a major corporation, becoming the company’s head of industrial relations. Under his leadership, the mill enjoyed a strike-free period lasting almost 20 years.

My grandfather taught me that focus, hustle, and determination are critical to achieving your pinnacle of success. I was always a better athlete than my God-given skills allowed. I started out life as a blue-collar worker at a steel mill, the railroad, and an assembly line, before joining the US Air Force where I was a non-commissioned officer. I learned how to sell going door-to-door with pre-issue accident insurance policies. I always focused, hustled, and was determined. I eventually worked my way to the CEO role at a small software company. I’d have never made it that far if it weren’t for that education on the value of focus, hustle, and determination given to me by my grandfather so many years ago.

Thanks, Granddad.

Written by Al Ferguson

They said it, I learned from it is a compilation of lessons learned from the things we’ve heard people say over the course of many lifetimes. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. Watch for They Said it, I learned from it every Friday in The Weekly Hodl. It’s perfect reading while you enjoy your second breakfast. Sign up today.




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