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Bob Cialdini dreamt of playing baseball, but a scout told him to follow a new dream

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Time now for "My Unsung Hero," our series from the team at Hidden Brain. "My Unsung Hero" tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. And today's story comes from Bob Cialdini. When Cialdini was a senior in high school, he was really good at baseball, good enough that 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.

BOB CIALDINI: I was a center fielder, and I wanted - all my life, I wanted to be Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, the big center fielders at the time. And his pen wouldn't work. So he said, well, I've got another one in the car. So we walked to the car, and along the way he said to me, so tell me something. Are you any good at school? I said, yes, I am. He said, good enough to get into college? Yes, I am. Good enough to finish college? Yes. Do you like it? Do you like thinking about academics things? I love it. And he put the contract away, and 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.

The truth is he was right. I mean, I was pretty good, but I couldn't hit a slider, a good slider. And I was going to be seeing a lot more good sliders if I went into professional baseball. And he, I think, understood that and gave me advice I've always been thankful for him for providing to me. Don't just go where your dream is. Go where your dream is that you're good at, where you have the skills to realize the dream.

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CIALDINI: He did something that was generous, and I will always be indebted to him.

CHANG: Cialdini took the scout's advice, and instead of going to the minor leagues, he headed off to college. He's now an author and psychology researcher at Arizona State University. You can find more stories from "My Unsung Hero" wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone, and email it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.