"Life is not all easy and it’s not all hard. It’s what we make of it.” -Jim Morris

Adversity is a part of life and our failures shouldn’t define us. Too often, people allow their minor stumbles to become full-on obstacles. This is the intriguing topic of a discussion on a recent Banking on Digital Growth Podcast.

James Robert speaks with Jim Morris about his success story, which was captured in the Disney movie, “The Rookie.” Jim is also a motivational speaker, teacher, coach, and author of the book Dream Makers: Surround Yourself with the Best to Be Your Best.

Behind the Movie Magic

You might recognize Jim Morris from “The Rookie,” a Disney movie based on his life story. In the movie, Jim transforms from a 35-year-old Texas high school teacher to a famous fast pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers.

While the movie told Jim’s story wonderfully, it couldn’t possibly capture the deeper lessons Jim learned and now shares with eager audiences in his motivational speeches. These are the life-changing lessons of transformative growth and accessing one’s full human potential.

James Robert relates this to the story of modern financial brands, where financial professionals are struggling to cope with a fast-changing digital landscape. Today’s financial sales, marketing, and leadership teams are trying to maximize their potential while avoiding rookie mistakes.

The Hero’s Journey

To understand Jim’s message, you have to understand his story. He was a child who was never allowed to play outdoors or roll around on the grass. He was also an intensely introverted child with an abusive father, so athletics became his only emotional release.

Jim found that he loved the camaraderie of playing baseball and working together with other people as a team. As he grew older and developed a dream of being in the big leagues, he also struggled with physical challenges that included six childhood surgeries.

Instead of being part of a baseball team, he joined the teaching team. He gained his teaching degree and also became a kids’ baseball coach. He continued to experience health challenges and surgeries, but with the encouragement of the kids on his baseball teams, he was able to maintain his physical fitness and stay in “baseball shape.”

The teenagers on his teams gave him a huge amount of confidence and kept his morale up during tough times. Eventually, he took the chance of trying out for the big leagues, and the rest is history.

Today, he credits the good sportsmanship and encouragement of his youth ballplayers for the successful change in his career.

Lessons Learned On and Off the Field

One of the most important lessons Jim has learned is that hard times come and go, but life is what you make of it. For example, chronic illness is something that can either be completely devastating to your entire life or can motivate you to keep fighting and moving forward.

Jim’s grandfather used to say, “If you dig ditches or you're the president, number one, enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it, find something else to do.” Jim has taken this advice to heart and views it as a life motto for shaking things up when you’re not happy.

Jim also encourages people to look for dream-makers in life. Dream-makers are people who want to see you succeed for no reason other than they want to see you succeed. They have no ulterior or selfish motive. They just love to see others succeed and succeed themselves.

Also, be willing to find your own version of success. In a band, not everyone needs to be the lead singer. Some people play an instrument or help find gigs. Together, everyone can create beautiful music and make the world a more beautiful place.

The Successes of Our Failures

During times of transition and transformation, failures are almost inevitable. When we try new things, we’re going to fail along the way.

In the financial industry, there’s an enormous amount of fear of failure. Failing is viewed as letting ourselves and our customers down. Negative consequences are associated with failure.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Failure is one of life’s biggest teachers. A single failure can spark years or decades of success that wouldn’t have happened with that initial “failure,” which turned out to be a success.

When people are struggling with the concept of failing at something or being a failure in life, Jim recommends taking a mental inventory of the things at which you’ve already succeeded. He overcame an abusive father, a high school football coach who tried to squelch his dreams, and many other people who believed that he didn’t have the physical or mental capacity to achieve great things.

What have you already succeeded at?

Assume you’re a success and start naming your successes mentally. Allow these previous wins to nourish you when you feel frustrated about the present or the future. You’re already a success.

Words of Advice for Financial Brands

When it comes to working together on teams, adults could stand to learn some lessons from kids’ sports teams. Kids are great at cheering each other on and giving each other a pat on the back when needed. Kids are also good at leaving the past behind and charging boldly toward the future.

Kids and adults alike should remember their “school colors,” or the team they represent. At work, remember whose uniform you wear or whose logo you represent and set a good example for others. “And remember this,” Jim says, “There’s always somebody watching.”

James Robert agrees with this concept and says for financial brands, it’s important to keep in mind that the customer is always aware of what you’re doing. Each employee is responsible for their role in writing the story of the company’s journey.

Jim shares a final reminder: He switched his career from teaching to professional sports at the age of 35 when most people were telling him he was already too old and too physically limited.

Nobody is ever too old to change, adapt, and try something new.