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Updated Nov 08, 2023

8 ‘Yogi-isms’ on Business and Life

The great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra can teach us about business and life through his humorous quotes.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
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Yogi Berra may have been a great baseball player, but he’s also remembered as a philosopher. His most famous sayings, or “Yogi-isms,” have become part of American popular culture. Here are eight of his famous sayings translated by us into advice on work and business.

How Yogi Berra’s common sense shines through

Yogi-isms, the offhand quips of Berra’s career, are known in part because of their apparent disregard for grammar and logic. But given their staying power, those endearing imperfections can now be seen as a kind of branding, since they make the expressions more memorable and humorous, even more so for generally being grounded in common sense. 

These quotes aren’t just about baseball or life in general; they can also apply to the business challenges entrepreneurs face as they attempt to found and build their companies. Here are eight of our favorites and how they apply to the business world.

1. Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.

The meaning of this quote doesn’t have anything to do with travel. Rather, it highlights the need to be thrifty and not waste money on things that are not crucial to your success.

For business owners, the value is obvious. Every dollar of your budget, especially when you’re starting up and trying to establish a consistent revenue stream, needs to be directed toward something that supports a return on investment. Throwing money away on flashy marketing campaigns that don’t reach your target customers, for example, amounts to good luggage that doesn’t really get you anywhere.

2. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Legend has it that this gem from Yogi came when he was giving directions to a friend. While it may not always be the best driving instruction, it does say something about trusting your gut. When faced with a decision and several options, don’t be afraid to go with your gut.

For business owners, opportunity is king. Sometimes, the fork in the road may represent a decision to leave behind a career with a predictable salary to spend time building your business. And while there is risk in pursuing the unknown, a path fraught with uncertainty may also lead to great payoff. 

3. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.

In other words, have a plan. Whether in life or in business, things rarely work out the way you want them to when there is no planning. Whether your goal is navigating a career path, ensuring employee health and wellness, or saving for a comfortable retirement, having a plan greatly increases your odds of success. Plan out all the foreseeable details, and then try to figure out how to deal with the rest.

4. You can observe a lot by just watching.

This one is simple enough. Don’t overlook all the things you can learn from colleagues and even competition. When you’re trying to get a promotion or otherwise advance, keep your eyes open to learn as much as you can.

Business owners who want to observe and analyze to make better business decisions have a lot of tools at their disposal. Consider using a SWOT analysis or employing strategies like Porter’s Five Forces when creating business strategies. After all, better understanding the internal and external factors influencing your business can help you navigate your way to success.

5. It ain’t over till it’s over.

Quite possibly the most famous Yogi-ism, this often quoted phrase is rooted in the truism that persistence will be rewarded. This saying is as applicable to business owners as baseball players.

Especially in tough economies, a down quarter or cash flow challenges can seem daunting and potentially fatal. But creative business owners can overcome these challenges by remaining resilient, adapting to changing conditions and fostering employee morale even when things seem bleak. 

6. The future ain’t what it used to be.

The future is always uncertain, especially in business. Now more than ever, things change quickly and you can’t anticipate things to stay the same. This Yogi-ism highlights the importance of planning while remaining dynamic and flexible for business owners, even if it’s just a skinny plan that doesn’t account for all contingencies. Sometimes, creating a plan that has adaptability built in is the best recipe for continued success.

7. Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.

This saying is said to have originated when Yogi was asked why he stopped going to a St. Louis restaurant. The meaning, however, is very applicable to business. Don’t enter a crowded marketplace just because it seems popular. If you do and people have too many options available to them, your success may be at stake unless you can differentiate yourself meaningfully. A variation on this is that marketers need to know who their customers are since no one can successfully market to everyone

8. Think! How the hell are you going to think and hit at the same time?

In business, regular thinking and planning is key. Creating a strategy and sticking to it is important, but conditions in the marketplace may look different than they did last year, last quarter or even last week. Establishing an organization in which ongoing planning, reassessment and pivoting your strategy is celebrated offers business owners a way to change with the times and ensure their business can survive for the long haul, no matter what the world throws at them.

What business owners can learn from Yogi

Business is full of sports analogies, and rightly so. They’re both forms of competition. Like many consultants and gurus, Yogi Berra’s wit and wisdom captures the essence of what it takes to win: an understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses, self-awareness, persistence, reliable data, and knowledge of the rules. This was all true over the two decades of Berra’s legendary career, and it remains true today across business, baseball and most other pursuits. 

Yogi-isms memorably capture realities that are as true today as when Berra was catching for the New York Yankees. Most successful athletes and businesspeople have learned the same things through experience. Berra’s unique ability to make himself understood while entertaining listeners, paired with his success, means he’s a voice who’s still worth listening to.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
Adam Uzialko, senior editor of Business News Daily, is not just a professional writer and editor — he’s also an entrepreneur who knows firsthand what it’s like building a business from scratch. His experience as co-founder and managing editor of a digital marketing company imbues his work at Business News Daily with a perspective grounded in the realities of running a small business. Since 2015, Adam has reviewed hundreds of small business products and services, including contact center solutions, email marketing software and text message marketing software. Adam uses the products, interviews users and talks directly to the companies that make the products and services he covers. He specializes in digital marketing topics, with a focus on content marketing, editorial strategy and managing a team.
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