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As a golfer once told me — “Never over, never in”

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Back when I lived in Spain, I never completely grasped the value when my friend Valentín used to say, “Never over, never in.”  This is a golf mantra…a warning that if you don’t putt to a point just past the hole, you’re not always going to putt hard enough to get to the hole. The best golfers rarely ever miss by falling short.

Since Valentín is a passionate golfer, his oft-said words passed through my ears without much thought. But the phrase kept bouncing around my head through the years, competing with the things my parents said over and over throughout my childhood. I just didn’t fully realize why.

Never over, never in

That phrase echoed because I had an uneasy feeling that I could do better. High school was easy for me. I didn’t have to study hard to get better grades than my peers. I succeeded in college without having to push myself nearly as hard as my roommates and classmates. I breezed through my first jobs and my Navy time, always getting promoted without having to break too much of a sweat. In a weird way, I took pride in that fact. I saw it as my advantage.

But somewhere, in the back of my mind, echoed the phrase, “Never over, never in.” That advantage that I thought I had wasn’t an advantage at all. In my work and in my life, I was rarely giving my best. I was doing just enough based on the circumstances, but never over and mostly in. In the early years, that’s OK because people forgive the near misses of the inexperienced. As time passes, however, there’s less forgiveness and higher expectations.

Always over, always in

What makes an executive particularly good at their job? They don’t make rookie mistakes and they don’t underserve their work. A good executive over-delivers, which is the professional equivalent of putting beyond the hole. To be an executive, successful husband and good father, I had to change my ways and recognize that my natural abilities were a good starting point, but not enough to be great. I had to deliver beyond the target and do more than what just talent would allow. I had to work harder and do more than ever before in my life.

To be good at my age takes advice I heard twenty years ago…never over, never in.

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