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A baseball player was ready to go pro when a scout threw him a curveball

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Bob Cialdini was ready to sign a contract to play baseball professionally in the minor leagues, but he walked away from that chance after the agent gave him some advice that changed his life.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

When Bob Cialdini was a senior in high school, he was really good at baseball. Good enough that one day, a scout showed up at his last game of the year, and handed him a piece of paper. It was a contract: an offer to play in the minor leagues.

The only issue? The scout forgot his pen in his car. So they walked over to the parking lot together, and along the way, the scout asked him a question.

"'So tell me something. Are you any good at school?'" Cialdini recalled him asking. "I said, 'Yes, I am.' He said, 'Good enough to get into college?' 'Yes, I am.'"

Bob Cialdini was in high school when he turned down a contract to play baseball in the minor leagues.
/ Bob Cialdini

He pushed Cialdini about his interest in college, asking him if he enjoyed academic work. When Cialdini said he did, the scout put the contract away.

"He said, 'Go to school, kid. Because most likely, you won't get to the majors. But what you've told me is that you're good at something you really like. That should be where you go.'"

Cialdini followed the scout's advice. Instead of pursuing professional baseball, he headed off to college. It paid off: he became a well-known psychology researcher on the science of influence.

Decades later, Cialdini is still struck by the way the scout looked out for his best interests. Cialdini has shared the scout's advice with his students, as they make major decisions about what to do next in life.

"Don't just go where your dream is," he tells them. "Go where ... you have the skills to realize the dream."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday and Thursday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ryan Katz
Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]