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What I Learned From Goldschmidt

“Back to school to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool.”— Billy Madison

Paul Goldschmidt after 3-run homer against the DodgersLos Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks
Paul Goldschmidt after 3-run homer against the Dodgers
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

“He’s a student at heart.” ― Brian Hommel, D-back chaplain.

Goldschmidt has a college degree. In 2009, the D-backs drafted Goldschmidt while he played baseball at Texas State University. While he was in the minors, his teammates showed him how they could do their homework on their phones, although laptops worked too. “Wow, if I can do it right here I might as well start. There’s no excuse.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

He completed ten online classes from University of Phoenix. He graduated in September 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in management. “His graduation is yet another example of how he prepares himself and prioritizes what is important in his life and for his future.” ― Derrick Hall

Goldschmidt is an avid reader.

Goldschmidt reads books about leadership and overcoming adversity. Three examples are The Carpenter by Gordon, Man’s Search for Meaning by Frankl, and The Happiness Advantage by Achor. Source: Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated 2015. ”I’m still early in my journey of reading, as I really didn’t do it much growing up.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt applies what he learns from books. In my opinion, the Happiness Advantage has most influenced him. In a few minutes, I will talk about exactly how it influenced him.

Goldschmidt is a student of baseball.

Goldschmidt studied baseball so he could improve his performance. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Victor Frankl

Goldschmidt’s swing is extraordinary for two reasons. He simplified it. He has the ability to make adjustments on-the-fly during an at-bat. (Source: Daniel Kramer,, 2017) “His mechanics allow him to make quick little adjustments on the fly, whereas maybe somebody else that’s got a lot more going on, it’s a little tougher for them to make that adjustment mid-at-bat,” ― Dave Magadan, hitting coach

And he knows what he wants to accomplish at the plate. “Just try to have good at-bats, hit the ball hard and find a way to score a few more runs and win some games.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt often made notes about the tendencies of opposing pitchers. “He also studies pitchers’ tells. If a lefthander refuses to glance at first base when he is planning a pickoff attempt, and stares a base runner down only when he intends to deliver a pitch, Goldschmidt notices.” ― Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated 2015.

Goldschmidt is not satisfied with the status quo.

Goldschmidt has two defining traits. Because of them, he is never satisfied with the status quo. Because of them, he is strongly driven to improve. The two traits are:

  • He loves to learn. Likely, he finds more joy in discovery of knowledge than he finds in fame and fortune. “The prize is in the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery,…” ― Richard Feynman
  • He applies his discoveries to improve his performance. Likely, the following attitude was instrumental: “No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.” ― Richard Feynman

”I remember him talking to the defensive coaches and saying, ‘I want to be a Gold Glove first baseman. This big, burly-looking lumberjack guy with not the quickest of feet, not the best glove. It’s almost like, Yeah, right.” ― Alan Zinter, hitting coach

And how did that turn out? “Goldschmidt has tremendous range at first base, affording him opportunities to make plays that no other fielders even have a chance at. ... He’s also great at fielding evidenced by his MLB-leading Scoop Runs Saved...” Fielding Bible Awards, 2017

“People who hit like him are usually content with getting on base, hitting a homer here, driving in a run there. But if there’s another element of the game out there, he’s looking to gain an edge on it.” ― AJ Pollock

One example of gaining an edge is base running. His stolen base percent was in the top ten of the National League in 2012, 2015, and 2016. ”A half step is going to help.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

The upside of not being satisfied with the status quo was constant improvement. For Diamondback fans, there were downsides:

  • The D-backs did not sign Goldschmidt to an extension. Perhaps he was no longer satisfied with the status quo of giving the D-backs a home-team discount. “Goldy was unwilling to sign for anything less than full market value.” ― Jack Sommers
  • After this season’s D-back collapse in September, I’m certain Goldschmidt was not satisfied with the status quo of a very good team that infrequently made the playoffs.

Goldschmidt has the power of a disciplined daily routine.

Paul Goldschmidt’s daily routine addresses physical performance, injury prevention, and mental performance.

Physical Performance.

Goldschmidt’s daily routine covers a wide set of skills. ”His well-rounded skill set – built upon a foundation of athleticism…” ― Jeff Wiser, The Athletic

A teammate noticed Paul Goldschmidt’s daily routine as beyond the norm. ”When your best player is also your hardest worker, well, it’s gold.” ― Cliff Pennington

Injury Prevention.

Goldschmidt has “A daily exercise regimen consisting of sophisticated pregame stretches and postgame weight-lifting, classified as more maintenance than strength-building during the season…” ― Daniel Kramer,

Goldschmidt’s daily routine has resulted in smooth, fluid and powerful movements. “Goldschmidt has avoided injuries well during his career and is rather athletic for a first baseman. He’s a smooth, fluid, powerful player, not some hulking blob capable of running into one here and there. ” ― Jeff Wiser

Mental Performance.

About 2014 Goldschmidt began using a mental coach. “Everything you do has a mental aspect. . . . We’re always training physically. Running, lifting, hitting, all that. We know the mental part of the game is just as important, so to not train in that way, to me, didn’t make sense.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

In July of 2016, James Attwood, AZ Snake Pit, interviewed Paul Goldschmidt. He talked about Peter Crone, mental skills coach. ”He finds a way to just get you happy and confident and just enjoying baseball and life and when you are in a better mood and you are confident, you are going to play better.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

Because being happy improves performance, “…20 minutes or so before games, he [Goldschmidt] sits in the dugout and recites quotes to himself from one of the things that makes him the happiest: Billy Madison, the 1995 Adam Sandler comedy that he has watched nearly 100 times.” ― Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated 2015

Because removing distractions and trivial decisions improves performance, Goldschmidt’s daily routine, is “detailed down to when he takes his coffee: He pours it before he takes his pregame shower, knowing that it will be at just the right temperature when he emerges.” ― Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated 2015

Happiness increases Goldschmidt’s success.

The Happiness Advantage greatly influenced Paul Goldschmidt. Let’s look at examples of how he has applied the seven principles. Because my over-simplified list of principles leaves out important explanations, if you have an interest I recommend reading the book.

The Happiness Advantage. “… study after study shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving.” ― Shawn Achor. He explained it with Barbara Fredrickson’s theory that negative emotions narrow actions to fight or flight, while positive emotions broaden the amount of possibilities that are considered for action. Those extra possibilities give an edge. That explains why Paul Goldschmidt recites quotes from Billy Madison before each game.

The Fulcrum and the Lever. Shawn Achor compared the mind to a fulcrum point and a lever. The fulcrum point changes depending on whether the mind focuses on gratitude/optimism/hope/resilience/meaning or pain/negativity/stress/uncertainty. The length of the lever is belief in potential power and possibilities.

When he had a slump in 2018, “He [Goldschmidt] said, ‘Just tell them that I suck.’ That ought to size it up for you perfectly. He knows he’s going to be OK.” ― Torey Lovullo. I bolded text that shows an attitude of resilience and a belief in his potential power, at the same time that he acknowledged his slump. Goldschmidt’s mind has a highly leveraged ability to succeed.

The Tetris Effect. Shawn Achor noted that after playing Tetris for hours, the brain continues to look for those patterns. He compared that game to real life, when people can get stuck in perception patterns. “…we need to know how exactly we can train our brains to let in these messages that make us more adaptive, more creative, and more motivated—messages that allow us to spot and pounce on more opportunities at work and at play.” ― Shawn Achor.

“For me, it was always just trying to recognize the pitches. Being ready to hit my pitch. And taking the pitcher’s pitches.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

Falling Up. Shawn Achor explained how to have a mindset that allows you to emerge from failure/misfortune as positive and motivated. He talked about “counterfacts” – ways of telling the story of what happened in a way that changes the event into a positive step on a better path.

In June of 2016, Robb Scott interviewed Paul Goldschmidt when he had broken out of a slump at the start of the season. Goldschmidt’s advice was:

  • The MLB season is 162 games long, and if you have a rough spot, you can always get through it. I bolded always because Goldschmidt had an optimistic attitude.
  • Don’t ever get too high on yourself. Stay humble and focus on continuing your successful streak. Likewise, if you are having a bad game, try not to put all the focus on you. Instead, become a better teammate and cheer your team on. I bolded how Goldschmidt focuses on a positive contribution to the team when in a slump.
  • You aren’t the only one who has dealt with failure. Ask around and listen to how other people dealt with their struggles. Maybe they have a technique you can try. I bolded how Goldschmidt has a “counterfact” that he has learning opportunities when in a slump.

The Zorro Circle. “By first limiting the scope of our efforts [to a small manageable circle], then watching those efforts have the intended effect, we accumulate the resources, knowledge, and confidence to expand the circle, gradually conquering a larger and larger area.” ― Shawn Achor. Also, that feeling of control reduces stress.

One example of a small manageable skill follows: ”Watch his turns on the corners [when running the bases]. He takes a lot of pride on his turns.” ― Dave McKay, D-backs first-base coach and base running savant .

Goldschmidt expanded his circles so far he has won 3 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers.

The 20-Second Rule. “The reason willpower is so ineffective at sustaining change is that the more we use it, the more worn-out is gets.” ― Shawn Achor

“…we are drawn - powerfully, magnetically – to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia.” ― Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor recommended putting the desired behavior on the path of least resistance, by lowering the time to start the task (maybe by 20 seconds).

One example is that because Goldschmidt poured his coffee early, he lowered his time to start drinking it by 20 seconds, thereby made drinking his coffee the path of least resistance.

Social Investment. “Studies show that the more team members are encouraged to socialize and interact face-to-face, the more engaged they feel, the more energy they have, and the longer they can stay focused on a task.” ― Shawn Achor.

“The people who actively invest in their relationships are the heart and sole of a thriving organization, the force that drives their teams forward.” ― Shawn Achor. He wrote that this principle especially applies to baseball.

What did Paul Goldschmidt say about being a good teammate?

  • “Number 1, you want a teammate to take care of himself and his job by performing to the best of his ability.” ― Paul Goldschmidt
  • “A good teammate brings energy every day…” ― Paul Goldschmidt
  • ”…and holds his teammates accountable for both their good and bad actions and is always looking for ways to stay positive and keep his teammates positive.” ― Paul Goldschmidt

How does he hold teammates accountable while keeping a good relationship? One way is that when he receives compliment, he immediately says how he noticed his teammates contribution. Perhaps he does this to keep the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions above 3 (the Losada line).

Goldschmidt loves to apply what he learns to improve upon the status quo, he has a disciplined daily routine, and he applied the seven happiness principles to achieve success.