Old dog

Columns - Parting Shots

July 31, 2019

© methaphum | adobe stock

So, it turns out that E-ZPass is the bomb.

I’m not sure why I always resisted the little magic box that pays your tolls. It seemed like a hassle to get one and I am a wee bit prone to procrastination, so I just never got around to it. Instead, I scrambled for change or hoped the tollbooth accepted whichever valid card I had at the moment.

Then, a few months ago, Mrs. Jones was forced to listen to a long stream of epithets, expletives and blasphemies streaming out of my piehole as I tried in vain to make a credit card work at a tollbooth on the %#@$&! Indiana Turnpike. So, being a problem-solver, she got me an E-ZPass and registered it. Took about seven minutes. She smiled knowingly when she handed me the little plastic box.

Oh. Dear. Lord. Greatest thing ever. I feel like I have a magical key that saves me time, money and anxiety. I giggle like a schoolgirl and shout “Open Sesame!” every time that tollgate automatically lifts into the air. What a dumbass I was for not doing it sooner.

I also recently had a change of heart about Crocs, the comically ugly foam rubber shoes. I had decided years ago they were kind of douchey and even occasionally made fun of turfheads who wore them (I’m looking at you here, Alan Hammond).

Again, Mrs. Jones played a role by pointing out that I didn’t own a pair of sandals and I should get something beachworthy. After much procrastination, I snuck into a shoe store and pretended that I wasn’t really looking at the Crocs. Then I stealthily tried a pair on. I haven’t taken them off since.

And, as you may have heard, this old dog recently made a career change. That (hopefully) wise decision was also encouraged by Mrs. Jones who said, “Do whatever makes you happy.” For once, I was being proactive, but it still wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t heard her lovely southern voice repeatedly telling me to go for it.

So, I hope the lessons here are obvious.

First, it’s never too late for an old dog to learn new tricks. I think that the happiest and most successful supers are the ones who constantly try new things and are capable of changing on the fly. Like Mrs. Jones, y’all are problem-solvers. I’ll never forget 2009 when many supers had budgets slashed as the recession hit. Instead of whining about it, the majority of you accepted the challenge and said, “Oh yeah? Let me show you what I can still do with 25 percent less money.”

The best current examples I see are the folks who are now experimenting with new ways to recruit, train and retain staff. Recognizing that the old labor model is gone and it ain’t coming back and worrying about it is one thing. Taking action to find new and creative ways to address it is the real trick. But many of you are doing just that.

Second, procrastination is the foe of progress. Fundamentally, we procrastinators fear failure, so we rationalize doing nothing. Remember what Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

One of the things I’ve always loved about you guys is how much you love growing grass, yet you embrace the idea that killing it comes along with the job. Killing grass isn’t failure … it’s just finding another way that doesn’t work.

By the way, even young dogs learn new tricks in our business. I’ve lost track of the number of aspiring turfheads who said they had never used Twitter before getting into our business and were baffled that anyone would use such a goofy social platform. But they were willing to try once they saw the value.

Finally, when it comes to embracing change, count yourself blessed if you have a partner like Mrs. Jones who will nudge you, lovingly, in the right direction. When we start to believe we know it all, there’s nothing more important than having someone who cares enough to gently disagree and help you learn a better way. For 10 wonderful years, Kim has patiently done that for me. And I love her madly for it and a million other little things. How lucky can one old dog get?

Pat Jones is the editor-at-large of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at pjones@gie.net.