Success from the Inner Voice

 As seen in Golf Business March/April 2022 

jk.jpgBy Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO

Recently, my thirteen year old son, Jonah, was invited to join his school’s Beta Club. His application involved questions about community service and leadership. The occasion gave me the opportunity to regale Jonah about my younger days as a leader in the Beta Club. To my delight, he was listening closely. He asked me, “Dad, why are some people successful?” Wow.  What a question. 

I paused, thought for a moment, and then replied, “Well, you know that little voice in your head that speaks to you when you have an idea or feel compelled to do something that might be amazing or fun or different? Everyone has that voice. Everyone hears that voice. Sometimes that same voice will tell you all the reasons why, perhaps, you shouldn’t do those things. I think successful people act on that voice. They actually DO something about it. They hear that voice and turn the idea into action. They put pencil to paper and make a plan. They turn that plan into research, networking, information and ultimately action.”

I gave him the example of football in his own life. Last year, Jonah played tackle football for the first time. He had tried every sport that a typical kid will try, and he really loved flag football and following the NFL. But Jonah never was the kid to jump into the fray on the field, so we were surprised that he wanted to try tackle. During the process of learning how to play, he was very fearful of getting hurt, and did get hurt on a few occasions. But he also loved the sport itself and being part of something bigger than himself. He said football is the ultimate team sport, because everyone has a part to play in each and every play on the field. But Jonah was scared at the visceral level. The voices in his head were telling him simultaneously to keep going, and also to quit. By the end of his first season, he was asking the coach for more and more playing time on the field.

As an adolescent, Jonah is experimenting with success, which means calculating risk and reward. During this time of fantastic change in our industry, I cannot help but think of the golf course owners and operators who are making risk-reward calculations, and then acting upon the voices in their heads. Owners like Allison George at Toad Valley Golf Course, in Iowa, who gutted her entire pro shop in favor of a simulator-based, golf entertainment business. A scary proposition for sure. I can just imagine the voices in her head when contemplating this! Cathy Harbin added TopTracer Range technology to her driving range at Pine Ridge Golf Course, in Texas, after I’m sure wondering if it was a wise investment. Even JC Resorts, a multi-course operator out of California, made the move to remove their courses from the industry’s largest online tee time aggregator to take back control of their pricing and the customer engagement. I would bet there was a healthy amount of concern about leaving, which counterbalanced a vision of success. And they still acted! The result has been an increase in income for all the aforementioned.

There is no singular definition of success, but we all have those voices that love to talk to us about the things we could do, only if. I’m continually inspired by course owners and operators in our industry who turn that “if” into “done.” Change doesn’t always have to be big. It can involve an accumulation of small actions, too. I’m personally and professionally inspired to be more like Jonah. Keep thinking about success. Listen to the voices. And act.