By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates headquarters then in Phoenix to meet with Mark Stark, CEO/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, Nevada Properties and California Properties. While in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to play a round of golf with Mark as well as Dennis Alaburda—agent with Arizona Properties—at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, a world-class course that has hosted elite events like the United States Mid-Amateur Championship, Arizona Open, Ping Pro Scratch and the Merrill Lynch Shoot Out.
Being out on the greens, cacti surrounding me, the rocky Sonoran Desert hillside just beyond, I thought about one of my all-time favorite golfers, Jack Nicklaus, an athlete I admire as much for his off-the-course philosophy about life and leadership as I do for his superb skills displayed while playing the sport.
Objectively speaking, Nicklaus is widely considered the greatest golfer who ever lived. His game combined an incredible mental dexterity with a physical ability almost unmatched by any player on the professional tour. When it came to major championships, Nicklaus absolutely dominated; he won a total of 18 career major championships over a span of 25 years including, six Masters, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens and five PGA Championships. And in a stunning feat achieved only by five golfers in history, Nicklaus completed three full cycles of the modern Grand Slam.
Yet, despite his overwhelming success, it’s actually not his winning record that contributes to the worldwide esteem of this golfing great, known affectionately as “The Golden Bear.” He is consistently admired, in fact, because of the way he graciously handled defeat; Nicklaus finished second 19 times in major tournaments and each and every time always gave credit to the winner.
“Golf is a better game played downhill,” he once famously said.
So, what’s the message? Don’t let people define you by your behavior when you win. To be a good-natured winner will never set you apart from anyone. That’s easy. Let people measure you by how well you handle loss because it is in those tougher moments that your character is truly tested and humility is less easily found. Always remember: Taking the high road when you come in second place still means you‘re moving forward, on a path toward bigger and better things to come. As Nicklaus said, “Through the years of experience I have found that air offers less resistance than dirt.”