Stop! From this moment on I want us all to quit trying.
I had an epiphany recently about “try” and how we use its various forms as a sort of mental crutch. Actually, all too often “try” is the excuse my 8-year-old daughter, Ella, gives for abandoning a project or failing to complete a routine task.
“But daddy, I triiieeeed!” Sure, I sound like a heartless (rhymes with shmastard), but we’re talking about Ella’s inability to pick up her dirty clothes off the bedroom floor and get them into a clothes basket. But I digress...
For a long time now I’ve been brewing some contempt for this word. It’s so often used to placate anxiety, stress and fears: “Stop worrying, we’ve got a fifth option we can try...” But it’s also a precursor to an eventual epic fail. For example, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “gonna give it the old college try.” And how does that ultimately work out? Fail. Or, how often have you heard: “Today, we’re proud to announce that we’re going to go in a different direction and try something new...” Let me enter this into the “BS-9000 phrase discombobulator…. “We’ve failed… Have no real idea what we’re doing… and will most likely fail again.”
You see, that’s the problem. Instead, I advocate a position with a wee bit more weight behind it... Let’s not try. Let’s be bold and unafraid and actually do something new.
So what does all of this have to do with providing optimal course conditions in a budget conscious, sustainable and environmentally responsible fashion? A lot, I’d argue. Let me explain.
Let me enter this into the “BS-9000 phrase discombobulator: “We’ve failed... Have no real idea what we’re doing... and will most likely fail again.”
Here’s a great example. When a crisis rears its ugly head at your facility, who do people often turn to first? You, the superintendent. Why? Because the superintendent has all of the answers, or at least your colleagues and members believe that to be true. I’m certain this confidence stems from the fact that you’ve built a reputation as a professional troubleshooter. Give him a stick of chewing gum, a paperclip and 20 minutes, and he’ll MacGyver a solution as to why the clubhouse fryer is broken. Heck, just look at those greens in this summer heat. That guy is a miracle worker… do whatever he says.
From a broader turf industry position, consider these three major issues facing golf that have consumed time and resources but, from all of the trying, produced few real results.
Water. How many times has “try” been associated with any number of proposed actions and programs bandied about as solutions to the water question that haunts the golf industry. Here’s the sad but real truth: If the industry maintains its focus on trying to find a solution to the water question, and instead of better promoting the best practices already in play that show tangible results, then someone will legislate a remedy without regard to whether it’s good for golf.
Labor. I often hear superintendents talk about how they’re trying to better understand and relate to the generationals they work with, whether it’s younger millennials or older Baby Boomers. Don’t just try. Learn more about the topic of the multi-generational workforce. There are a number of great management books that provide clarity on this topic. Then engage your people one on one. Find out what their professional goals and expectations are, how they work best, and then match them up to the tasks that take advantage of their unique strengths. You can swap out “multi-generational” and easily apply this approach to “multi-cultural” and “new hires.” Also, don’t just try serving as a mentor to an up-and-comer. Do it, damn it.
Growing the game. We’ve really got to quit trying on this one. I’m talking about FootGolf, Frisbee golf and what have been touted as cure-alls for getting butts on greens. While these unique alt-golf programs get more people to use the golf course, they do nothing to put sticks into new hands. We need to quit trying to convince people that golf is a great way to spend four hours, and instead enact fundamental changes to foster the notion that there are two types of golf. One is traditional golf as we currently know it. The other is a game that is fundamentally golf, but isn’t a stickler for all of the rules, embraces the forward tees, and provides an enjoyable and enriching group activity in less than four hours. If the industry achieves this simple philosophical shift, then there won’t be people just trying golf. They’ll embrace it.
Lastly, I’m not discouraging anyone from attempting to find new solutions to problems. Rather, I’m encouraging everyone in the noble pursuit of finding a better way to never give up on that mission. If we limit ourselves to trying, then we leave that window open to failure as a possible – and perhaps inevitable – outcome.