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Life Will Give You What You Ask Of It

Great players and great teams are willing to work hard. Average players and average teams want it easy.

Higgins vs. Lyle- Golf I have a friend, who is still a good golfer at age 65, who always regretted that he didn’t try out for the golf team in college. His excuses were that he was from a small town of 2000 people and the local golf course was only 9 holes with sand greens. My friend went to the most prestigious and largest University in the state. He felt that coming from the small town that his high school education was inferior to that of the students from large cities and that he would have to outwork these students in order to achieve success in college and life, thus might not have time to devote to golf and make the golf team. He also worried that his golf course was inferior to those golfers coming from country clubs, taking lessons from professionals and playing tournaments in the summer.

He later became friends with someone on the golf team who was a 2-time college all American. There was no question that the all American was a better player than my friend who made a telling remark to me. He said that when they played together that if he(my friend) got 1 or 2 under par during the round that he would become “protective” and try to make pars and save his round and keep it right around par for the total round. Whereas his friend if he was 2 or 3 under par after 5 holes he would want to know what the course record was. In other words he became even more aggressive, while my friend became more conservative. In Hind sight, my friend knows that if he would have gone to a smaller school, he wouldn’t have worried about his ability to do well in school and is confident he could have made the golf team. While he is proud of his degree from the more prestigious University, he has always regretted not trying to make the golf team.

The morale of this story is that there are different goals or levels of success in life. My friend went on to have a successful career in banking, but never quite got to where he maybe should have gotten to; i.e. the president or a senior level of management in the bank. His friend on the other hand, had a good golf career, playing in 2 U.S Opens and 2 British Opens, but lacked the “mental edge” needed to become a household name in the world of golf. My take on this is that there are many variables in the race for success. One must decide and set goals for where they want to go. I don’t think it matters what size town you grew up in, what school you went to, or what kind of golf course you started on. There are numerous stories of great success in politics, business, and life that have grown up in these environments. The old saying is “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of fight in the dog that counts.” So, by being aggressive isn’t the only answer. You can be too aggressive, hit the ball out of bounds and into the lake, make a triple bogie, and instead of being 3 under par, you are now 1 over par. In life, by being over aggressive in your job, you have exceeded your authority to lend or to purchase or whatever by 30% because you just knew that it was a great deal and would make your company lots more money; A good example of this would be in 2006 when the real estate market was a feeding frenzy and then suddenly fell in 2007 and progressively continued to spiral down. So now, you get fired or at least demoted with more supervision, restrictions, ect.

One way to avoid this trap is by having a mentor, but it doesn’t have to be someone in your company. It may be someone close to the top of the ladder or a rising young star who is only a couple of levels above you. It’s obvious that you don’t want to be so closely tied to that individual that if his star burns out that you crash with him or her. This choice is very important, kind of like choosing your life partner. You should be able to talk to your mentor about trivial things as well as important things. Remember that his or her time is not limitless, so pick your spots and don’t become a burden.

Another golf story from my banker friend. His golfing ability was an asset to his career. He said that every interview he went to he ultimately got the subject around to golf and his 2 handicap was a big plus. Of course all jobs don’t involve entertaining and building customer relationships like banking. The story is that at the bank employee’s annual golf tournament the bright rising star way oversold his golf ability to get paired with the Chairman of The Board. Needless to say, his status went downhill when he shot a 140, let loose several four letter words, and drank too many beers. Your job and your reputation are 24 hour days. Your social life, your hobbies, ect. as they all get interwoven into your career. It’s not a big plus, but to get picked up for a DWI after leaving the strip club like the friend of Mr. Lyle, it should be a given, and also the actions of your spouse and even your children can have a major impact on your career.

It takes such a small act of kindness to enhance your career like simply being nice to people you work with. It takes such a small amount of your most valuable commodity, time, to speak to the security guard you see every morning instead of passing by without even looking at him or her. Sure he/she probably doesn’t advise the CEO as to who gets promoted, but just maybe his neighbor or cousin becomes your best customer or the lawsuit you win as his attorney because of the security guards recommendation. To me, it’s very obvious to succeed in life and your career that you have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Sure some people take shortcuts and cheat and get away with it, but the odds are against you.

Never be ashamed to ask for help. There are people who have thought about and done the thing or project you are involved with. To follow up on the earlier mention of being nice to people, also praise those that helped you complete projects and goals. A little praise goes a long ways. Be a team player. I saw a quote recently I liked “Great players and great teams are willing to work hard, while average players and average teams want it easy.”

In summary, the old saying “you have to play the cards you are dealt” is true, but not really. We don’t control who our parents are, our environment we grow up in, but we can control how much effort we put into our education, be it a Jr. college or Harvard. We can control our progression after our former education learning by always striving to learn more be it by reading some of the many great “self-help” books available learning from those we work with, those we network with, our mentor, and our experiences. If you ever get to the point where you are not striving to learn more or better yourself you are in deep do-do. Always remember one thing, we cannot control others nor can we control life circumstances but we can control how we respond. We can choose to be the author of our own lives and every day we get a new opportunity to make new choices. Choose and be happy.

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