…as long as you put your best foot forward!
All of us do things in our youth that, upon reflection, might not have been a great idea. I am no exception. It started out innocently enough… A friend of mine and I (who will remain anonymous, but you know who you are) would go to a local, country club golf course during our summer off and reclaim golf balls from ponds and resell them—probably to the same golfers who hit them there in the first place. It was a fun and profitable way to spend hot summer months in Tennessee. You could call it a swim that paid a dividend.
One day, we found a putter in the pond and practiced on a nearby green. No one objected; so, when we found a driver in the same pond that a dissatisfied golfer discarded in a fit of despondency, we started playing. It was just a couple of holes at first. Over time, we found irons, drivers, woods, and putters. Enough clubs to complete a couple basic sets. One of our satisfied customers brought us a couple of his old bags and we were ready to play. We continued to find clubs in the woods and in the water—and I suspect they weren’t misplaced! One golfer’s displeasure was a poor kid’s treasure.
So we played! We played everyday—hundreds of rounds over the years. Later, as a teenager, my wife’s dad (my girlfriend then) asked me if I liked to play golf. He eventually took me to the same golf course. After a couple of rounds, Sam asked me if I’d played the course before or if I was a member. “You sure know this course!” “Yes, sir,” was all I said, because I didn’t want to admit having slipped on the course illegally. After he kept pressing, I said, “Mr. Field, I have played this course hundreds of times. I’ve just never played holes one or 18.” He looked perplexed. “Why on earth would you never play the first or last hole?” Then he started to laugh. “I get it, son.”
I felt so badly that I ended up going to the clubhouse and telling the management that I had slipped on to the course hundreds of times as a kid. The course pro just laughed and said, “We know, Dale!” I offered to make financial retribution; but the pro just laughed and said, “Dale, you gave us hours of unintended entertainment, and supplied a much-needed service to our members by retrieving golf balls from our ponds, and not one member ever complained. Come back and play anytime you wish as my guest.” That simple act of kindness taught me a valuable lesson:
It is never too late to make things right. Intended results are never an accident. They require purposeful execution.
What looks like something that happens by chance just might be an opportunity to prove dedication to a intended result. A Southwestern tribe of Indians once gained a reputation for getting 100% results when they did their ceremonial rain dance. Every dance yielded rain! In disbelief, their chief was asked how they were able to get this 100% percent result? He looked confused, “We dance ’til it rains!” We get an opportunity everyday to do the right thing, so when we fail—because we will fail—just don’t stop until that wrong is made right. Purposeful execution is a perfect way to guarantee positive results.
Here are some tips for staying true to your self:
1. Be honest.
I have heard it said that if you want to go into business with someone, play golf with them. It is the tiny things we do in life that betray our true nature.
2. Keep your word.
Your professional reputation is damaged when you don’t deliver on a promise. Michelle and I developed a business model, and we have never betrayed it: if a customer has a problem, our fall-back position is that it is our fault. No exceptions.
3. Admit your mistakes.
Why is it so difficult to say we were wrong? There is no statute of limitations on this solution. Years may come and go, but doing the right thing always clears the air.
4. Be punctual.
I call this front logs. It is a lot easier to be early and wait than to be late and miss an opportunity. We all have back logs! Missed opportunities, missed appointments, missed responsibilities, and missed objectives happen when we fail to be on time.
5. Don’t use foul language.
Oh come on Dale, really! We have an awesome language full of amazing words. I am a speaker and humorist and I see my brothers and sisters take this dark path to get shock laughter. It is a character reflection. A small glimpse into a shortcut when a little effort might gain the same result. Find new words. They will challenge your vocabulary and improve your reputation.
6. Handle conflict gracefully.
We live in a time when it is easier to demean than to discuss, easier to blame that to find accord, and easier to shut down than to reason together. Find middle ground, because when you throw dirt, you end up loosing your footing.
7. Don’t burn bridges.
Just as we all drink from wells we did not dig, we will all need to return on paths we did not navigate. Leave relationships, even bruised ones, with your integrity. Be the better person and just walk away instead of torching the turnpike.
As my father in law always said, “We all fall. Graceful people help others up! Put your best foot forward—it keeps you from back tracking.”