The Power of Accountability

A timeless lesson from a legend

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3 lessons from The Captain

Derek Jeter’s first contract was worth $0.

It was a contract with his parents.

He signed it every year as a kid.

Before each school year, his parents would outline their expectations.

They’d put them in a contract with clauses such as:

  • No drugs

  • No alcohol

  • No arguing

  • Respect girls

  • Meet curfew

And Derek would have to sign it.

If he violated the contract, there’d be no baseball.

Jeter would go on to become “The Captain,” a New York Yankees legend and MLB Hall of Famer.

These contracts are how it started.

There are a few timeless lessons we can learn here:

Lesson: Success isn’t an accident

As a kid, Jeter didn’t understand the contracts.

They were a hokey thing his parents did.

But over time, he saw the intention behind them.

“It built the framework for success,” he said.

He learned that successful people aren’t that way on accident.

Lesson: Accountability is nurtured

Everyone would agree accountability is essential.

But you’re not born with it.

It’s a character trait that’s taught and nurtured.

This was the primary purpose of the contracts, Jeter said.

Accountable people become successful people.

Lesson: Stay grounded

Jeter quickly blossomed in baseball.

By 18 years old, he was one of the best prospects in the country.

The Yankees drafted him No. 6 overall in the 1992 draft.

But his parents didn’t let that get to him.

Even as a high school senior, he had to obey the contract or he wouldn’t play.

“It taught us to stay grounded,” Jeter said.

The Power of Accountability

All three of the above lessons are grounded in a common theme:


There are two primary types of accountability:

  • Accountability to yourself

  • Accountability to others

Let’s briefly discuss each and how you can develop them.

Being accountable to yourself

Our goals are meaningless without a commitment to do the work.

That commitment is built on personal accountability.

So, how do you develop personal accountability?

A few common strategies:

I like to use a concept behavioral psychologists call stimulus control.

My unscientific description of it: your environment influences your behavior.

If I want to be more accountable to my goal of exercise, I need to manage my physical (and digital) environment to remind me of that goal and hold myself accountable.

  • Scheduling time on my calendar to exercise

  • Staging my workout area in my home gym

  • Setting an alarm on my phone to remind me

Whatever strategies you use, being accountable to yourself is essential.

Do what you say you will do, and do that consistently.

Being accountable to others

Being accountable to others creates trust.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships.

  • In a team, you’re accountable to your teammates

  • In a family, you’re accountable to your spouse and kids

  • At work, you’re accountable to colleagues and customers

Specifically, you’re accountable to fulfilling your responsibilities.

When you do this, you become dependable.

Jeter’s contract is an example of him being accountable to his parents (although I’m sure their goal was to develop personal accountability, too).

  • Training hard during summer conditioning is you being accountable to your teammates

  • Doing high-quality, detailed and professional work is you being accountable to your customers

  • Following through on projects is you being accountable to your colleagues

Nobody becomes their best without a team.

Uphold your commitments to others.


Let’s quickly recap.

3 timeless lessons from Derek Jeter:

  • Build a framework for success

  • Hold yourself accountable to it

  • And stay grounded

These are rooted in personal accountability and being accountable to others.

Build the discipline of being accountable.

Accountable people become successful people.

Teddy’s Recommendations

My favorite biography is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.

It won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1980.

I’m reading it again right now, and it’s reminding me of how great it is.

Roosevelt is one of history’s most fascinating people — can you imagine a sitting president going on hunting trips to the Badlands, and nobody being sure where he is or if he’s alive? — and this book makes him come to life.

It’s a biography that reads like fiction.

If you like reading or learning from world-class people, get this book.

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See you next Sunday.

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