When you write a blog with a certain theme you are constantly on the lookout for inspiration. No matter where you are or what you are doing, a thought or idea can sneak up and whisper to you. If you are mindful enough to create some space that day, you tune in and pay attention.
Such was this past Saturday as I was driving home from dropping off my youngest daughter Clara at dance class. The radio was tuned into a CBC show called "My Playlist." It's essentially an hour long show where famous musicians play their favourite tunes and talk about their art. This particular episode was hosted by a Canadian bass-baritone opera singer named Daniel Okulitch. Admittedly I had never heard of Mr. Okulitch, but that didn't matter. It wasn't so much his singing or his playlist that caught my attention; it was one of his stories.
He was reflecting about his first time singing on Broadway and the hardship that goes along with performing eight shows a week. Up until that point in his career he had issues with perfection and was stuck on the simple yet destructive idea that if every show wasn't perfect, it was no good at all.
"As much as we strive for perfection and greatness in our performances, it can be crippling if it's our only focus. The act of performance is what the audience wants. They want someone who performs with a sense of abandon and joy. If you do ten performances, one might be brilliant, one might really not be that great, and the other eight should fall within a realm of acceptability that you and your teacher might know the difference, but they will be just fine for 99% of the audience. As a professional, it's when you can adopt that mindset that you are free to let go, express, and be free on stage instead of being so concerned with perfection."
I always like to explore the connections between performing artists and what we seek in our lives as greenkeepers. We learn the basics, train under mentors, and practice until we can practice no more. Then, each day of the season, we (along with our crews) perform. It's a long, exhausting schedule that can leave us spent on closing day.
Being constantly consumed with perfection can make the season even longer. It can place unrealistic demands on our psyche and create suffering where there needn't be. As Mr. Okulitch said, it can be crippling if it's our only focus.
If our intention to create the best playing surfaces possible is in tune with the professional journey of being a superintendent, then we can be free of the shackles of perfection. Being constantly tied to the end result leaves us blind to what is happening right in front of us. If we only see the finish line, we tend to miss all the creativity, art, and passion that is the voyage.
So make goals, practice your craft, and strive to be the best greenkeeper you can be. But don't forget to take it all in as you proceed down the path. Be good to yourself and those around you, and remember that 99% of the time our audience is happy to be playing golf rather than being at work.