No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard - Lesson #1: Show Up, Pay Attention and Follow Through

Feb 08, 2023 by Mike Magluilo
Lesson #1: Show Up, Pay Attention and Follow Through

“Ninety percent of life is showing up,” says the smug executive to the adoring graduates. Unlike wisdom found on coffee mugs, however, reality offers no Uber ride to success.

Any idiot can show up for what’s required. Just think back to freshman year P.E. How you show up is the hard part, and the first lesson I learned caddying was showing up is about more than simply being there. You need to be present, engaged and follow through for the showing up to matter.

Showing Up Step One: Being Present. Showing up starts with being there. It sounds easy but requires overcoming the inertia of your normal routine, fear, shyness or preferring to stream The Office from your couch. If you’re struggling to get out the door, try commiting yourself to simply give the first step a try.  
  • Attend the meeting or networking event
  • Sit with your empty journal, notepad, canvas or spreadsheet
  • Register for the workshop
  • Join the study group
  • Turn your camera on
  • Put on your workout gear
  • Sign-up to volunteer
  • Reach out to the friend in trouble
  • Call your mom 

In the spring of seventh grade, my thirteen-year-old friends started working their first hourly jobs. An August birthday meant I’d have to wait until the next summer to join them at the grocery store, gas station or fast food joint. Fortunately, an older kid who also had a summer birthday told me about caddying at the local country club. Despite the manicured lawns and stone walls, the HR function of my local country club was a pretty scrappy operation. Caddie jobs weren’t advertised; training involved carrying the caddiemaster’s bag long enough for him to get bored and leave for happy hour; and nobody asked me to fill out an application revealing the fact I was only twelve years old the summer I started looping.  

The point is, if I hadn’t shown up for caddie school and instead waited until I was old enough to apply for an advertised hourly job, I would have missed the opportunity that changed my life way beyond a part-time summer job. 

Caddying taught me another lesson about showing up. Unlike the clock punchers working at Jewel Foods, Amoco and Long John Silvers, caddies aren’t given a schedule. If I wanted to make money, I needed to get to the caddie shack before the 6:45 a.m. roll call so the caddiemaster could assign me a loop that day. Caddying taught me being present = opportunity every morning I left my house at 6:25 a.m. for the twenty-minute bike ride to the country club. 

The first step to showing up is to get there in time to have a chance to participate.

Showing Up Step Two: Engage. Congratulations, you got off the couch. Now that you’re here, make it count.
  • Pay attention
  • Ask questions
  • Share your perspective
  • Start writing
  • Enter numbers in the cells
  • Start reading
  • Apply paint to the canvas
  • Play around with the lyrics and chords
  • Do the warm-up

I spent a lot of time hanging around the caddie yard waiting for a loop. The waiting drove a lot of caddies back to the grocery store, presumably humming one of my favorite Tom Petty songs on the topic

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I learned a lot while waiting in the caddie yard. Waiting gave me the opportunity to engage. I read the paper and played hoops. I learned about college majors and life from the older caddies, noted the books they were reading and watched them interact with the members. I observed how different members carried themselves among their peers and the paid help. I learned jokes and lingo and all kinds of stuff your typical twelve year old learns too late to avoid making a fool of himself. I learned to interact with kids of different ages and backgrounds from different schools who played different sports and had different plans after high school. I learned I was part of the caddie community. 

I’m pretty sure none of my friends working at the White Hen ever felt part of a community.

Don’t confuse engagement with progress, however. As anyone who’s hired a consultant will tell you, the real work begins when the smooth talkers in the fancy suits bolt for the airport. 

Being present creates the opportunity to be successful. Engaging helps you discover what needs to happen to turn the opportunity into success.

Showing Up Step Three: Follow Through. You spoke up at the meeting, collected business cards at the conference, took notes in class. You were present and engaged, but in order for it to make a difference, you need to do the hard work necessary to turn the opportunity into something that improves your life.

Success as a caddie was simple. Get to the caddie shack by 6:45 a.m., wait for a loop, carry a single or double bag for four-to-five hours, eat your free hot dog lunch, pay attention and learn, ride your bike home, do the same thing again tomorrow. After a load of tomorrows, you learn the course, understand the nuances of the game, practice interacting with golfers and become a competent and confident caddie. Some members also start upgrading your Caddie Special hotdog to a cheeseburger.

Success as a young professional wasn’t much different. Show up before the senior bankers, deliver everything asked of you on time, go home when your “inbox” is empty and make one less mistake the next day. Two years into my first job out of college I made 730 fewer mistakes than the day I started and stopped thinking I was an idiot.

I can describe my experience as a student, athlete, writer, father and friend the same way. Back to the room full of ambitious young professionals. Showing up isn’t a secret to success. It’s part of a formula.

Showing Up = Be There + Engage + Follow Through = Success

Anything worth doing in life follows this formula. Formulas aren’t sexy. Dreams and tweets and gym posters and clickbait headlines are sexy, but success is about doing the work (often simple, rarely easy) required to get a little bit better every day. Do the work consistently and persist through obstacles along the way, and there’s no way you can’t improve. 

Success isn’t a given, even if “showing up” accounts for 90% of it, but guess what you can count on if you stay on the couch? 

First, you’ll never know if you missed a right-place-at-the-right-time opportunity. 

Second, it will be easier to stay home tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you found this worth your time. I'd love to hear what you think.

My next post in this series will discuss how caddying taught me how to decide what to follow through on and when.  

About the Author

Mike Magluilo is a writer and recovering finance professional, a father of three and a husband of one. He enjoys clean living and dirty jokes and loves old dogs and small gestures because simple, sincere and content offers the best lighting for experiencing the world.

Mike grew up in the Chicago suburbs and had the best summer job in the world as a golf caddie. He attended college on the “Chick” Evans Scholarship for financially-needy golf caddies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he served as President of his chapter house and the Evans Scholars National Committee.

Mike spent several years of his adult life in the Midwest, Colorado and London and now lives with his family in Vermont.