2,632. That’s how many games in a row that Cal Ripken played.

Cal Ripken AKA Iron Man of Baseball

He is known as baseball’s “Iron Man,” a well-deserved nickname indeed. In case you missed it above, Cal Ripken, Jr. played 2,632 consecutive games. That’s every game on the schedule for more than 16 seasons.

If you aren’t a baseball fan, you might not know how long and grueling a baseball season is. It’s 162 games, played in less than 180 days. Across all four time zones, often with night games followed by day games or a three game series in Seattle immediately followed with a three game series in Chicago and then a series in Baltimore. And he played 2,632 of those games in a row.

No days off

Ripken played when he was sick. He played when he was injured. He played when he was tired. He played when others were resting.

He was dependable to his team.

I listened to an interview with him and Bob Costas, in which Ripken shared what it was like to show up every day ready to play.

Costas: “Was there ever a time, maybe you weren’t hurt, but it’s late in the season, your team is out of the pennant race, it’s a day game after a night game on the road, you didn’t sleep the night before, aches and pains, you come to the ballpark tired, and you say ‘you know what, I just don’t feel like playing baseball today.'”

Ripken: “There were a lot of those moments, when I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to play today.’ Then there is sort of a guilt feeling, that I was doing something wrong. And I’d pushed it a little bit further and say ‘let’s see what happens.’ And normally when I’d say ‘let’s see what happens’ and go out, something good would happen. And when I felt the worst, I associated that good things were on the horizon. And by and large, they happened that way. So I thought it was a good indication that the worse I felt, the better game I was going to have.

How about you? Do you show up when you don’t feel like it? Do you push through exhaustion, pain, and lack of desire to give it your all in everything you do?

Do you show up for work every day that you are supposed to?

Do you show up for your spouse every day?

Do you show up for your children every day?

Do you show up for your friends every day?

How You Can be an Iron Man

Show up.

That is it. That is the secret to being like Cal Ripken.

OK, if you want more than that, here are two practical tips:

  1. Take care of your body and your mind.
  2. Surround yourself with supporters.

But it still comes down to showing up. If you show up ready to play, ready to give it everything you’ve got, every single day, there is no way to fail.

It’s not about talent

Cal Ripken was not the greatest athlete or most talented player to ever play the game, but he was dependable and got results because he always showed up. That made him more valuable than almost any player to ever play the game.

How are you like an Iron Man (or Woman)? How can you be more like one?

23 thoughts on “How to be an Iron Man

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    I agree with Eric, showing up is important, but how we show up is even more vital. P.S. I am from Baltimore, so we are big Ripken fans around here.

  2. Carol Dublin says:

    I love this post. I’m a firm believer in showing up – and not just showing up – showing up ready to go. Sometimes it takes telling myself “It’s showtime” – but it’s important to keep pushing. It’s so frustrating when you have those team members who are present but have checked out – or who you can’t depend on to even be present (you know the ones – oh, they’re out sick again? what is it this time?). Thanks for the reminder to push a little harder!

  3. Wade_Thorson says:

    It reminds me of those days when you come to work but don’t want to talk to anyone, lead that indepth team meeting, or have those development talks with a team member. But yes as Cal Ripken did, and looking back when I pushed through at times you would reap the benefits on the other side and have that sense of accomplishment.

    1. Steve Pate says:

      So maybe instead of saying the “ox is in the ditch” we could say, “Well its a Ripken kind of day! what good will come form it?”

  4. Matt McWilliams says:

    That is a big part Eric. “Ready to play” doesn’t mean you have to be 100%. It does mean you have to GIVE 100% and not drag others down. Ripken exemplified this. He was always encouraging his teammates, not sucking the life out of them.

  5. Wade_Thorson says:

    Great point, I am sure Ripken didn’t just show up to play in those games. You have to show up, and have the attitude that you are ready. Changing the mindset to being ready can make all the difference.

  6. Lily Kreitinger says:

    I’d say show up and make that day count. Do at least one thing you are proud of. Then you’ll want to do it again.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Do one thing…always good advice. Take one step, write one word, thank one person…

  7. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    I read the beginning and you said he played 2.632 games, and I was like….ummm Matt, I think it was a few more than 2 and 2/3 games….hahaha.
    But you’re right, the secret is showing up! Thats about all there is to it. When I was on my mission, one of the other missionaries used to always say everytime we had to do something that we thought was hard, “There’s nothing to it, but to do it!”
    That’s always stuck with me, because if we keep that in mind, we will accomplish more than probably a majority of people do in their lives–just by showing up!
    Great post Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I like that Mark:

      “There’s nothing to it, but to do it!”

  8. Steve Pate says:

    well I keep showing up to read your blogs does that count for something?lol

    great post and I also agree with Eric on showing up ready to play. For me, I live where I work and work were I live, its easy just to show up, but ready to play takes great planning and discipline.

    As for showing up for my wife, kids, ect. The hard part is some times, is shutting off work because of “working where I live”. I can just “show up” but not be in the game sometimes.

    By the way, I love Cal Ripken Jr, in fact I’m coaching in a Cal Ripken league. Thanks for time into these blogs Matt

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I agree on the working where you live part…when the lines are blurred, it’s hard. I work from home in the early mornings, but when our daughter wakes up, it’s family time for a little but. It’s not easy to suddenly disengage, but I get a little better each time I do it.

  9. Dan Black says:

    WOW, what a great post!!! To win in life and leadership requires consistently showing up.

  10. Kathy Leicester says:

    Show up, and then give yourself credit for showing up. Don’t beat yourself up because of the goals you haven’t set, the passion you can’t find, or the bitterness that bubbles up at your current job.
    Just show up and do your best.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      “Give yourself credit for showing up.” That is a great point Kathy. Very important!

  11. Jon Stolpe says:

    Show up, and make the most of every opportunity. You can’t have the 2nd part without the 1st part.

  12. Tom Dixon says:

    I like the reminder that over half the battle is just showing up (someone famous said that but can’t remember who) – that is encouraging when you start feeling like you can slack off.

  13. Kirsty Coetzee says:

    Great thoughts!
    I would very much like to be an ‘Iron Woman’. 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:


      Took me a second to get the picture…I don’t think the humor / sarcasm side of my brain has woken up yet.

      Thanks for sharing that…great way to start off the day!

  14. Kirsty Coetzee says:

    Great thoughts!
    I’d like very much to be an Iron Woman.

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