As superintendents and salespeople, we spend so much of our time looking down. Looking at diseased turf, insect damage, drought stress, a mower out of whack, poor golfer etiquette. The list goes on. We are always looking for problems.
When I was a superintendent, I spent most of my days looking down. Measuring green speed, checking fertility levels, topdressing sand requirements, TDR readings. Let's face it, most of the job of golf course superintendent happens below our feet.
It isn't much different on the sales side, either. Pouring over numbers on a spreadsheet, collecting diagnostic samples, responding to that frantic text at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night or staring over the steering wheel for a 300-mile stretch.
We are always looking down.
I'll be the first to admit, as a superintendent I daily battled the pressure of working at a private course. There were times when it was difficult to breathe. There were days when I wanted to hide under the desk. The stress associated with that job even put me in the hospital on two occasions with heart palpitations.
The funny thing about stress, is that it is always self-inflicted. Internalizing, putting pressure on oneself, avoiding conflict. These are choices one makes that will cause both life and work to be more difficult. We make big problems out of small problems because we build them up in our minds, and they are out of proportion with reality.
We spend so much time looking down, I feel that it is very easy to become mired in the daily grind. We let that stress overtake us.
We are always looking for "what's wrong."
But, what if we started looking for "what's right?”
What if we start looking up instead of looking down?
A couple months ago, I was at a reunion with my family at Houghton Lake. It was getting late, and admittedly it was a few hours past the kids’ bedtime. My youngest daughter, Lila, came to me crying about some injustice that had been done to her. At 8 years old, being called a name by another kid is a big deal. I saw this as a learning opportunity. She was looking down, focused on the problem. I took her by the hand and led her out to a dock on the lake.
"Dad, where are we going?" she asked me, the impatience evident in her voice.
"Lila," I said, pointing to the sky. "Look up."
Above us, the sky opened into a billion tiny shards of light. Stars ... more stars than any of us city-dwellers ever see in our lives. Looking up, and staring into the vastness of the universe, suddenly our day-to-day problems seem so small and insignificant. Looking up and really, truly appreciating our place in the world has a way of turning one's daily worries into a silly science. We stood there for a time, looking up, in total silence.
"Lila, there will be times when your problems seem so big, they will seem inescapable. It will seem like the whole world is against you. It will feel like those problems are impossible to solve. When that happens, I want you to look up. I want you to see how big this world is, and how small your problems are in comparison."
It's hard to judge a response in an 8-year-old's eyes. But I think she got it. She knows to look up. And if she forgets, I will remind her… as many times as it takes… and for as long as I live.
So the next time you're getting beat up about green speed, or why there's crabgrass growing in the pavement cracks, or why the grass along the fence line is two feet tall: stop looking down for a moment. Appreciate what you have and put those problems in perspective. Take a deep breath, and then I want you to do something:
Adam Garr is a territory manager and former superintendent.