The Wisdom of Jack Nicklaus

Robert Graber| April 23, 2019| Personal Development

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Jack Nicklaus speak at a Long Island Association event. As an avid golf fan, I was thrilled to finally hear my golf hero speak in person. But as a business person, I was very inspired and motivated by his wisdom.

Mr. Nicklaus explained that he’s known for his world record of winning 18 Majors, which include The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.  But what most people don’t know is that he finished runner-up in these tournaments 19 times. Jack said that he actually learned more from those second place finishes than from the times he won.  Being oh so close isn’t a negative, rather it sparks a level of determination that a true professional has when they’re not quite on top. With that determination comes introspection, trial and error and a greater effort to find out how to do things better.  

So what can we learn from this?

For businesses, coming in second to a competitor, losing a client or just missing out on an opportunity can be frustrating and even deflating. But maybe you can learn from these experiences.  You may uncover better ways to improve internal processes or rethink ways to offer better value to clients. It’s a time to reflect. To get back to the essence of what you are as a business. Sometimes we need a trigger—like a loss—to force us to reevaluate our approach and to plot a new course of where we want to be. Sometimes we need to see what First Place looks like up close so that we can understand what we really need to get there the next time. You either win or you learn, but you never really lose. 

For job seekers and employees, just missing out on the job or the promotion is also a time to assess what’s working and what’s not. Maybe your resume could be stronger or include certain details the employer is looking for. Or maybe your interview technique could be improved. Instead of worrying about what could have been, think about the positives of your experiences. Break down each experience and think about how even changing one or two details can make a difference. Maybe you’re really not that far away from the success you’re after. And rather than doubt yourself, remind yourself of the great qualities you have and think about how to leverage them. It’s a process, but one that we need to go through sometimes to uncover a winning formula.  

Mr. Nicklaus’ famously said, Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game’s two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself. In business, this couldn’t be more true. The ability to understand and master our own courses, whether as a business professional or a job seeker, is key. And while you can never truly master the game of golf, in life, you should never stop learning and striving to be the best you can be. Always look for healthy competition in business and enjoy whatever you do. That’s ultimately what First Place feels like.  

See you out there on the course!