Shortcuts

While I was walking a path cut through the woods earlier this week, I noticed more than a few shortcuts that would save several steps. Since I am out for a nice walk, who is served by taking the shortcuts? In fact, I would be cheating myself.

It reminded of golfers who mentally shave strokes off their score. If alone, they are only cheating themselves. If playing an opponent, they are cheating an opposition and harming their reputation, as your opponent is not blind and can count.

I have written about good bosses, but one of the worst bosses I have ever had took credit for almost every success and distanced himself from failures. Not surprisingly, he was a notorious cheater at golf.

Does this boss sound like anyone in the public domain? Cheating at golf is not the worst of the US president’s attributes. But, like my boss, it is not surprising he does.

Shortcuts are good when someone needs to shave time or avoid heavy traffic. Shortcuts are great for busy cooks at home to cut a few steps and not sacrifice too much quality. Pre-preparing rice or sauces for the week with Sunday night’s dinner is a Sandra Lee suggestion, whose “Semi-homemade” cooking show was devoted to easier quality cooking.

Yet, some shortcuts are more harmful than good. Not vetting candidates or possible solutions with others will result in poor choices. This especially true if the shortcutter is known for his impatience as that cheating golfer is. Think my doctor is a good choice to run the VA, even though he has no managerial experience, e.g.

The devil is in the details. We must do our best to do our homework and only take shortcuts that will serve us without suffering quality.

Monday Maxims

Our philosopher friend Hugh spawned this post citing a maxim. While unattributed, it bears repeating: those who are the least tolerant require more tolerance from others.

So, on this Monday in late October, let me mention a few maxims. Where I can, I will cite the source.

I have found the more I practice, the luckier I get – Gary Player, legendary golfer

It is better to be thought the fool, than to speak and remove all doubt – attributed to Mark Twain

It gets dark early out there – Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame baseball player

Wise men say, only fools fall in love, but I can’t help falling in love with you – sung by Elvis Presley in “Blue Hawaii

Those who shout the loudest usually have the worst argument – author unknown

I can’t wait ’til tomorrow, because I get better looking everyday – Broadway Joe Namath, Hall of Fame football quarterback

A good plan today will beat a perfect plan tomorrow – General Patton

When walking through hell, it is better to keep walking – Winston Churchill

Sleep is a weapon – Robert Ludlum in “The Bourne Supremacy”

Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck – Kenny Loggins in “Danny’s Song

The longest journey begins with a short step – author unknown

There are many who talk about doing things, but few who actually get up out of their chair and go do them – author unknown

You have two ears and one mouth, it is better to use them in that proportion – recounted by an old CEO

Please feel free to amend or add your sayings.

Sometimes you have to go for it

Yesterday, golfer Gary Woodland won the US Open at Pebble Beach. For non-golf fans, I will be brief on the golf part. What was most memorable, Woodland decided on a key moment to not play it safe, but be aggressive and play to win. He hit an absolutely brilliant shot that led to a birdie on a par five and put him two shots ahead of the two-time defending champion.

As a former athlete who was limited in talent to playing on high school teams, the act of “going for it,” is an act of courage. You may fall on your face, but by taking a risk, even if it is a measured one, it may make all the difference. Why does the best basketball player usually take the key final shot when the other team is expecting him to do so? Because if you don’t and fail, you may regret not going with your best.

And, as one star basketball player said, I try to take the last shot because I can handle failure better than others. That last statement is vital. Taking a risk is a lot easier if you know you can handle a negative outcome.

There is a great line from the movie “We bought a zoo,” with Matt Damon. His older brother taught him “all you need is twenty seconds of courage.” I think that is priceless advice. In the movie Damon’s character summoned the courage to speak with an enchanting woman he had never met. And, she eventually became his wife. What if we don’t take that chance?

Again, the risk need not be foolish, but sometimes it is more than OK to go for broke. A measured risk is worth the chance. Yet, we often overstate the risk and perceived embarassment of failure, when the actual risk is more measured. As I told my kids, “What if the person says no? No, is just an answer, but it at least it is one.” Without asking, you will never know if there is interest in your company, your resume, your idea, etc.?

So, find that twenty seconds of courage and go for it. The answer may be no, but at least you gave it a shot.

 

Alcoholism – Feherty, Watson and me

I am an alcoholic, yet I am approaching the twelfth anniversary of my last drink. I bring this up today as I learned in an interview yesterday that David Feherty, a retired golfer, golf announcer and truly comical person, is also an alcoholic, along with some other demons he has to manage.

Several things about Feherty’s interview with Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel are worth noting. First, he credits his second wife for her tough love – after a final straw, she said you have 30 days to get clean or I am gone.

He also credits Tom Watson, one of golf’s greatest players, whose own career was almost derailed by alcoholism. As Feherty was interviewing Watson, the latter asked Feherty if he was alright. Feherty said he was not, but asked how could he tell? Watson said “I saw it in your eyes.” He then answered Feherty’s question of what did he see? Watson said bluntly, “I saw myself.”

Watson invited Feherty to his home and helped him through managing his demons. Feherty was sober for ten years, but fell off the wagon when his son took his own life after fighting a losing battle with the same demons his father faced. It should be noted Feherty’s alcoholism masked that he was clinically depressed and bipolar. His son inherited the problems. After renewing the fight, Feherty has returned to being sober.

Alcoholism or any addiction are tough enemies. You never fully defeat them. You put a lid on them, but they still simmer on the back of the stove. Over time, the heat is turned down, but it never is fully extinguished. In my case, I still want to have a drink, but it is a fainter flame today.

The key lesson I learned from a colleague, whose husband fought alcoholism, is to say this mantra – I am not going to drink today. This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know how many days they have been sober. The other piece of advice is to find a substitute for the alcohol. It may be green tea, fruit, fruit juice, near-beer, tonic or soda water or a piece of candy. Now, for me, it is hot tea and all kinds of fruit, dried or fresh.

Life is hard. It is not uncommon for some people to use some form of anesthetic to sand the edges off difficulty. If you think you may have a problem, you do. Be honest with yourself, first, but be honest with your spouse or partner and your doctor. Most addicts lie to all of the above.

People ask me what was my trigger to change? Another colleague’s wife, who was as vivacious and funny as David Feherty, died from complications due to alcoholism. She was only 59, one year less than I am today. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. So, I got off the train. It was and still is hard. But, remember the mantra, I am not going to drink today. Then, don’t and say it again tomorrow.

Good faith dealings

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing in his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

 

Sunday seasoning

Sunday is a good day to simmer something slowly in the crock pot. With judicious seasoning, the aroma permeates the house until dinner time. Now that I made you hungry for pot roast or stew, here are a few seasonings to sample.

It is nice to see Tiger Woods competing for The Open Championship at the northern most venue in the world at Carnoustie in Scotland. For more than a decade, Woods was more successful than any other golfer in history. Unfortunately, injuries and personal issues derailed him from more major victories that would help him overtake the impressive record of Jack Nicklaus. It is good to see him back on the leaderboard.

The unraveling continues with the US President. Not only did he bully his allies, he appeared very weak in the face of Vladimir Putin. What should not be lost is by throwing his intelligence people and country under the bus, he has made even more Americans believe he may be compromised by the Russians. It has been reported that we may see some more departures from his White House, as it is quite apparent, he will throw anyone under the bus to save face.

The best feel good story of the year has been the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team. What should not be understated is the significant amount of cross country collaboration and reliance on people who had expertise to figure out the best path forward. To me, this is an exemplar as the antithesis of Donald Trump’s “go-it-alone and I-know-best” approach. Collaboration is hard work, but when nurtured and seasoned can do wondrous things.

In this same vein, another large ego, Elon Musk, showed his disappointment that the Thai rescue crew did not use Musk’s expensive technology based idea. To his credit, Musk has done wonderful things for the world and wanted to help. Yet, I mention this as the most elegant solution is not always the most sophisticated one. The term “elegant” is used in computer programming to mean the easiest and most effective solution. In this case, the safest solution was arrived at after much debate by people on the ground who were more knowledgeable of the risks.

This reminds me of the story of the child who solved a problem with a delivery truck that was just a tad to tall for an overpass it tried to go under. Everyone was stymied at what to do. After much discussion, a child who had been watching opined that they should let enough air out of the tires to lower the truck and they could drive it out. Now, that is elegant. It also worked.

Four true stories per my friend Bobby

This weekend, I was reminded of an old friend Bobby. I was a client and friend of Bobby and his team. Four poignant stories come to mind about him or his team. I should mention Bobby was a good golfer. I once witnessed him make five birdies in a row en route to a seven under par 65. But, that is not one of the stories.

Bobby told me of the time he was playing in his club championship. Telling the story, he was down two holes heading into the 16th hole. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie and then stood on the 18th tee. He then proceeded ls to top his shot into the lake. One friend shouts and accepts money from another saying “I knew he was going to do that.” Yet, the story becomes funnier when he over heard his caddy relate the story about how  “we birdied the 16th and 17th to tie, then ‘he’ hits it into the lake.”

On a more serious note, a tragedy ended well for his friend and colleague. Bobby received a call at night that his colleague’s 54 seat plane had crashed and there were only four survivors. Bobby got the call as the ticket was purchased by his firm. He called all of the hospitals and learned his friend was one of the four. He called his friend’s wife to let her know there had been a crash, but her husband had survived, was hurt but OK.

The friend said he survived because he was calm and followed instruction while others went beserk. Although not an overly religious man, he made his peace. He said the crash was more violent than he could possibly describe and afterward he smelled jet fuel and crawled toward the cold January breeze. He said he felt like he crawled 100 feet, when it turned out to be only twenty.

Then, there is the story about another colleague who was driving along I-85, when a car veered across the median and hit him head on. This was before the wired fence-like structures were erected in the median to prevent such occurrences. They both walked away from the accident as both cars had driver side air bags. Bobby’s colleague suffered only broken knee caps.

Finally, on a more humorous note, another  colleague was working in their office in Greensboro. A friend called him and asked him what he was doing that day. He said he was working and his friend said he needed to play golf. To his “no” response, his friend said you need to play because you are the only member of this club and I have someone who wants to play with you. It turned out to be Michael Jordan. Jordan, eventually played 54 holes of golf, but Bobby’s friend begged off after a very tiring 36 holes.

Thanks for indulging my memories. I actually have a few more Bobby stories, but this will give you a good taste. These remembrances made me smile.

 

Hillary should have heeded Arnold Palmer’s Example

Today, unless thirty-seven electoral college members decide not to vote for the President-elect, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. We will likely never know officially the extent of the influence of the Russian hacking on the election results, but it had to have some impact at least in my opinion. But, to me there was a key failure by the Democrat candidate that should be noted – Hillary Clinton wanted to win big and took her precious time away from where it was needed most and tried to run up the score.

Arnold Palmer, who passed away this year, could have told her not to follow his example back in 1966, when he was well-positioned to win his second US Open and eighth major golf championship. Palmer is remembered as one of the greatest golfers in history, but also for his go-for-broke style. Because of this style, while he won often, he also fell short when playing it smart would have been the better course of action.

In 1966, at the Olympic golf course in San Francisco, Palmer came to the back nine of the final day of the US Open with a seven shot lead. That number is correct. Standing on the tee, he decided to go for a record victory and continued to go-for-broke. Now, if you do not follow golf, note that rough off the fairway is grown higher than normal for the US Open, so it is very unforgiving if your ball misses the shorter fairway grass. I have actually played this course and can attest it is not an easy one to play, but even more difficult from the rough.

So, Palmer’s swashbuckling style caused him to bleed strokes off his lead at the same time one of the most underrated players ever, Billy Casper started making a few birdies. By the end of the nine holes, Palmer had lost all of his lead and ended the day tied with Casper. The next day Casper was able to be beat Palmer in a playoff denying the latter another crowning achievement.

Why do I bring this up? Clinton decided she had a slim chance to win Arizona and decided to spend more time there than she should have. Where she should have spent her time was in states she should have won, but lost – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She did not visit Wisconsin at all after the convention, while many snickered at Trump going there. Flying to Arizona is a long flight, so she lost at least a day each time she went, a day that could have been invested in states nearer to each other.

Truth be told, she had a good story to tell for helping the middle class get jobs, a well thought at plan which included investing in our infrastructure and renewable energy industries which are growing at a fast pace. But, she was not there to tell it. So, she gave the mike to Trump, who knows what to do in front of people wanting to be told what they want to hear.

People talk about what a flawed candidate she was and is, but she still won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. She just did not have enough of those votes in states where it mattered to the electoral college. I feel that she could have run a better campaign from the get go. I realize it is easy to say that now, but many said that before the election was long over. The drip-drip-drip of the constant email leaks did not help her at all, as it distracted us from issues and her opponents spotty business record and poor treatment of others along the way. Yet, half of success is showing up and she missed a few places to tell her story.

I am also quite perturbed by those who on November 9th saw that not voting at all and voting for a third-party candidate did a disservice to her efforts to give us some rational governance. Jill Stein’s voters wanted clean energy, so by voting for her instead of a candidate who could have moved us further down the path, we will have a new President whose cabinet is filled with fossil fuel protagonists. As I have said before, if you did not vote or voted for someone else, your voice is less compelling to complain about Trump winning.

So, unless something significant happens in the next 24 hours, we will have a President who will scare the hell out of most of the citizens on our planet and in our country. I hope he does some good, because I anticipate many things that will lead us down the wrong paths. Arnie could have told you Hillary – you should have played it smart.

 

The most important distance

A famous golfer once said the most important distance in golf is the six inches between your ears. I was reminded of this yesterday, as I watched defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth play so beautifully to take a five shot lead going into the final nine holes of The Masters only to get in his own way for three holes – numbers 10 – 12. This is to take nothing away from the winner Danny Willett who played brilliantly and was his own story deciding to play after his first child (a son) was born early and not on the due date which was the day Willett won the tournament.

Spieth made a few bad swings to start the back nine bogey and bogey and then walked to the 12th tee box, a tantalizing short par three hole over water with the water angled back to consume right fading shots. With the frustration from two consecutive bogeys lingering in his head, he proceeded to hit the one golf shot he shouldn’t, fading it too much into the water. That was the first mistake, but was compounded when he dropped closer to the hole rather than in a designated drop area, which was his choice.

From there, he did what many of us less talented golfers do and hit it short into the water again. The next shot wound up in a sand trap and eventually he putted out for a quadruple bogey seven. To his credit, he birdied two of the next three holes, and almost another, which would have made it more interesting had it fallen in the hole. But, when it missed, what little momentum he had regained had ebbed. Willett made five birdies and no bogeys (or worse) on this fine day of golf to win.

The space between our ears is where things are accomplished or not. We all make mistakes and get knocked down. How we react is what matters. In most cases, Spieth has and will again react well. A more famous and equally talented golfer has had this issue haunt him more than others – Greg Norman. On this same course, Norman let a six shot lead slip away and lose to Nick Faldo, one of the announcers in the booth yesterday.  He also has lost in several playoffs, with others making wonderful shots to beat him or his letting his inner voice get the better of him. To Norman’s credit, he has won two British Open titles and numerous other tournaments, but he could have won more major titles except for this albatross.

It should be noted Nick Faldo had this albatross early in his career, but overcame it. The British press can be cruel and called him Nick “Fold-o” as he collapsed under pressure in key tournaments. He later learned how to perform his swing better under pressure and won six major tournaments, evenly divided between three Masters and British Open titles. Like Norman did in other tournaments, Faldo found a way to win when the mistakes were magnified in big tournaments.

I once read an autobiography by the famous Dodger pitcher Orel Hershisher, who was renowned for pitching under pressure. When asked, he said he deals with perfection of the moment. He starts out wanting to throw a no-hitter, and when they get a hit, he tries to throw a one-hitter. He would shake off mistakes better than anyone and concentrate on the next batter. This sounds easier to do than it is. I can attest I found it hard to do this growing up as an athlete. I did find the more I had practiced, the calmer and more confident I felt. So, I was able to handle stress better in those occasions.

But, the real key is how do you respond when you mess up, be it golf, sports or life? Like life, golf is managing your mistakes. Even for the best of pros. Spieth will win more major championships, because he is talented and tenacious. He will also learn from his “thirty minutes of bad shots” as he called it. We must do the same in life. We must be accountable for our mistakes as Spieth did after the round. Because they will happen to all of us, even one of the best golfers in the world.

You have a “towards problem”

Sports competition often provides us with comic relief. The more down time between shots or plays gives more time for one liners and jokes. Golf is ideal for comedy for this reason, especially when you fail more in golf than you succeed which offers fodder.

While golfing with an elderly couple with whom we were paired, my wife was apprised by the gentleman late in the round that he had diagnosed her swing  problem. On the 17th fairway, he quietly said she had a “towards problem.” A “towards problem” she exclaimed. “What is that?” He said, “Your are hitting the ball towards the wrong direction.”

On another occasion, yet another elderly couple played with us. I think we attract them when we play, but now we are the elderly couple. Again, the man said to my wife on the infamous 17th hole he also had diagnosed her problem. As she was all ears, he said, “You are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.”

I used to golf with my boss, who had many one liners, some courtesy of TV evangelist Reverend Ernest Angley. If he hit into the woods, he would say, “Out Satan” or “Be healed” using his best Ernest drawl. If a tree knocked it back into the fairway, he would say “I played it off the tree.” Or, if he hit a ball into the water and it splashed out, he would say, “This game is easier when you know where all the rocks are.”

One of my favorite golfing buddies loved to offer his sayings. When he had a nice swing pattern going, he would say, “That swing was smoother than a prom queen’s thigh.” Another friend when he pulled the ball left, would call it a “Babe Ruth.” When we asked what a Babe Ruth was, he said “Yeh. A dead yank.” Another popular golf saying I think is traced to Lee Trevino, the very funny pro. He routinely hit a nice fade shot, not unlike Ben Hogan. Lee would say, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.”

Some of the sayings are not very flattering, so I will leave those behind. It should not be a surprise when a guy says something that could be offensive. Much teasing can go on when your fellow foursome member tops it, hits it into the woods, does not hit past the ladies’ tee box, hits it out-of-bounds or misses an easy putt. It should be noted, my golf swing created many a comment like this.

But, the funniest line I ever heard on a golf course was by a sassy beverage cart woman. She did not take guff from anyone. One day, she had a stone hanging from a necklace. When our group inquired about it, she said “It is a sex stone.”   We asked what it did to deserve such a name. After sufficient baiting and time, she said “You don’t get it. It is just a f**king rock.”

On that note, I will say sayonara. May you find your golf balls in bounds and on the green ground. Please share some of your favorites, whether they are golf or another sport.