Gary Player – Golf Icon and Leader Part Two

Gary Player believes, “the way you judge great men in the world are people that have suffered and have love, like Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa.”

As I mentioned in last week’s article, having love in one’s heart with no energy to share it can be counterproductive and quite possibly depressing. Player works overtime to enjoy both in his life. He exercises very hard and eats as healthy as he possibly can. He feels so passionate about this principle that had I allowed him he would have spoken about healthy living for the entire interview.

I thought long and hard about his passion for this topic and then bought into it. One of the greatest blessings in life has to be energy. What can we do without it? I have heard many comment that successful people always have high levels of energy. In many cases the passion for what they do gives them a lot of their energy, as is the case with Player. But, if one really wants to make a difference sustainably one has to invest more into a lifestyle that enhances energy – diet, exercise, sleep, rest, etc. Passion for what one does can only maintain energy for so long.

The weeks leading up to my interview with Player he had visited 12 countries and 19 cities in 30 days. That required energy! He said: “The word energy is one of the most crucial words in life today! If you have energy you are blessed and I find very few people with enough energy.”

What stops people from doing something about their energy levels I asked? Player believes in two D’s – Dreamers and Doers. Most people are dreamers and not good enough at doing. He believes what often stops them from doing is laziness and being in a comfort zone.

One of his biggest frustrations is that “in schools we don’t teach children that you can have millions in the bank; you can have the best wife/husband in the world; you can have the best family; you can have everything that you like, but if you don’t have your health you’ve got zero. This is my big frustration in life, that you have zero and people don’t worry about that”.

He cannot understand why schools must be purely about academics and asks the question: “Are we not trying to build a nation of energy, productivity?“

A book I read over December confirmed some of Players comments. The title is “Chasing Daylight”. It is about a former CEO of KPMG in the US that discovered he only had three months to live. He describes how he approached the situation.

Some very powerful principles emerged. One quick example… When he was CEO he believed the greatest success principle was commitment and of course he had views of how one measured a person’s commitment – the time one puts into the activity; what one sacrifices; etc.

But his view of commitment changed. I quote: “Commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up but, more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is”. 

Simple example is that I can spend two hours with my wife on a date and come across as committed because I sacrificed my personal time to be with her. But, the question is “how much energy did I put in to be present?” Did I act like I listened to her but spent most of the time thinking about work and other hobbies? Examples are numerous.

The implications of such a view are worth noting as it emphasizes the value of energy – physical, emotional, etc. Of course one must preferably be passionate about the activity to want to expend energy or one would be faking it, and one should look after oneself so that the physical energy levels are there to be able to ‘put in’. The practical things they did in KPMG to accomplish this is very interesting. Bottom line… leaders can do more.

While Player is a man with a world of confidence and energy he also gets scared or nervous about some things – like going to bed at night knowing that South Africa is riddled with violent crime. As someone that has traveled the world he is convinced that South Africa is the greatest piece of real estate on the planet, but it is a pity that this truth is somewhat hidden under a blanket of crime.

In his view we are in a slight comfort zone because millions of tourists visit our country every year. But, facts prove that countries like Spain receive 4-5 times more tourists and there should be no reason for this. Player believes “At this crucial part in our history we need leadership more than ever before… That leader that stops crime may go down in history as a greater leader than Nelson Mandela.”

During a dinner with President Eisenhower he said: “Always remember Gary, a nation cannot live in fear.” Player adds, “if you live in fear, people fear to invest in you and you fear to invest in yourself… We are strangling our investment and tourism by our crime.” 

Is he concerned about leaving all ‘this’ (life and achievements) behind when his time comes? “No, because I will go to a better place, but I am not in a hurry to go. This life is just a stepping stone”

What advice would he give to a 21 year old Gary Player, if he could? “I think patience… it is a great asset. The man gets on his knees and prays for patience and the Lord gives him tribulations, difficulties so that he will learn patience. In my life time I have seen few people with real patience. Someone that truly has it, oozes with it. You stop at the robot and take two seconds to pull off and people behind start to hoot at you. So, if I had to look back and give the young Player advice I would say he needs to practice more patience.”

And his final advice to leaders out there? “One must have faith. For me, the strength in my life has been my faith. Whether this means being a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew does not matter… You have to have a faith and not be conceited and think everything you are doing is you alone.”

He has often seen individuals ride the crest of success, thinking that they are doing it themselves and then they move on, only to go into depression because they have not learned that what they had was a gift and ‘everything shall pass’.

As a private company in the golf industry they have raised approximately 250m for under privileged children. He would rather be remembered for this than the great tournaments he has won. He was able to accomplish all this and more because of a gift that was loaned to him and believes all leaders should remember this principle.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

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Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

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