Spieth Loses Masters, We Learn Vital Business Lessons

the 12th green at the Masters viewed from the 13th fairway
the 12th green at the Masters viewed from the 13th fairway

Jordan Speith’s loss at the Masters may have been a big upset in the golf world, but it gives us the opportunity to learn three important business lessons.

You don’t have to be a rabid golf fan to know that something just happened in professional golf that was unpredictable and unlikely. Jordan Spieth lost The Masters golf tournament after leading by five shots with only nine holes remaining.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the trophy presentation. Danny Willett of England shot a final round 67, while Spieth scored a title-surrendering 73, after dunking two balls into the water on the famed 12th hole (pictured above). So Willett—never mentioned as a tournament favorite–won the championship by three shots.

While the golf pundits stay busy exploring what this stunning upset means for professional golf, let’s consider three vital business lessons Spieth’s loss provides.

FIRST: PAST SUCCESSES DON’T AWARD YOU THE NEXT CONTEST
Mary Kay Ash, who sold and managed her way to the top of the cosmetics industry, said this well, as quoted by her biographer Jim Underwood in More Than a Pink Cadillac: “Never rest on your laurels. Nothing wilts faster than a laurel sat upon.”

Apply her advice to today’s flooded job market. True, job seekers are wise to highlight their major accomplishments in their resumes, and to refer to them during their interviews. Although these achievements help their cause, past activities alone won’t land a new position.

A potential employer will determine what you can do for her company now, next year, and beyond. How will you boost teamwork, sales, and customer service? Will you adjust successfully to the new corporate culture?

In the music industry, the phrase “one hit wonder” applies to many recording artists. Sadly, their careers plummeted soon after a meteoric rise to the top of the charts. They didn’t keep producing what the public would buy.

So follow Mary Kay’s counsel. While describing your career, talk about your wins enough to build your credibility, yet emphasize what you are going to do next that will benefit your employer, clients, employees, other constituents, plus that all-important bottom line.

SECOND: TALENTED COMPETITORS SURROUND YOU
New Masters Champion Danny Willett didn’t qualify for The Masters by winning something like the Toledo club championship. Though far less heralded in the United States than Spieth, Willett ranked twelfth worldwide among professional golfers, and had finished sixth in the British Open.

One key to remaining at the top in business is to recognize that vastly gifted competitors challenge you–to remain innovative, to adjust to shocking changes, to be the first to offer new products and services, and to treat your customers better than anyone else could.

Think back a few years to the condescending comments some merchants and business owners made about an upstart company called Walmart. You can just hear hear their derisive words:

“From a hick town in Arkansas, won’t amount to much.”

“They won’t affect us. Our folks will stay loyal to this company.”

“They’ll fold soon, like the other store that was on that corner before them.”

As we know, any business executive who thought he could ignore the lesser known competition was miserably mistaken. Walmart has become the world’s largest corporation according to revenue, and the world’s largest private employer.

So here’s a second vital message: Never assume the competition seems trivial, less prestigious, or unlikely to take control. Plan, work, manage, sell, and motivate as though your competitors are gaining on you. . .big-time.

THIRD: ONE BIG LOSS WILL NOT DESTROY YOUR CAREER
So,  Jordan Spieth did not win The Masters, and resembled an amateur badly in pursuit of his club’s championship. Yet would you consider him washed up, a has been? Would you bet against him in any tournament he enters? A thousand dollars, or more? Not likely–because you know that one loss, even one witnessed worldwide, will not destroy his confidence permanently, reduce his talent, or erase his drive to regain and keep the number one spot.

Relating to the business scene, have you experienced any of these threats?

  • Downsized staff, making you accomplish more with less help
  • Company has a new owner, you get a new boss
  • Your health and retirement plans shrink drastically
  • The company transfers you to a distant location
  • You lose your job
  • A potential employer who seems a “sure thing” hires another candidate

Once more, use the Jordan Spieth analogy. You, too, will reach top levels again.Chances are strong you have done that before, after what you considered a career-ending catastrophe. Now, you are even more skilled, you have additional leaders referring you, and you know you can adjust to unsettling situations.

Yes, Jordan Spieth, you didn’t win the coveted green jacket, but certainly you gave all of us three superb business lessons.

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Golf Pro Greg Lee–Comeback King

Greg Lee, my golf instruction pro at Chicopee Woods Golf Course in Gainesville, Georgia has given many lessons, to me and other golfers. Yet I’m sure he gave his best lesson ever when he played in the PGA Professional National Championship in California a few days ago. The lesson:

Don’t quit, no matter how poorly you started.

Greg’s first nine holes in the tournament were dismal, by professional standards. He scored 42, six over par. Some other pros would have thought “Might as well quit now. I won’t have any chance to make the 36 hole cut.” Some might have claimed they had an injury or illness, and requested permission to withdraw.

But not Greg. For his second nine holes, he shot 34, two under par. His 18 hole total of 76 was far from what he had expected. However, his comeback had started on the tenth hole.

Second round: 70, two under par. After his awful opening nine, he had played the next 27 holes in four under par.

Miraculously, Greg made the 36 hole cut. At the end of the four round tournament, he tied for 40th place. As he walked off the 72nd hole, which he birdied, he was summoned to a TV interview, which many of his friends saw. Who would have expected that prominent recognition after round one?

Yes, I consider Greg’s comeback a grand lesson for every one of us, whatever we do professionally. A bad start doesn’t have to determine the outcome. We can recover, and perform at the skill level we’re accustomed to. You can bet I’ll include Greg’s courageous story in my motivational speeches.

Have you overcome a bad start in an important venture? Want to tell us about it? Greg and I invite you to share your story in the Comments section.

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Phone: 770-534-7322

As a regular student of Greg’s, I assure you that his golf instruction is friendly and encouraging–and that you are very likely to experience improvement in your game.

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