No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard - Lesson #2: Caffeine, The Serenity Prayer and Thoughts on Organization

Mar 01, 2023 by Mike Magluilo
Lesson #2: Caffeine, The Serenity Prayer and Thoughts on Being Organized

Being organized is like being caffeinated. The right amount improves performance. Too much can take over your life.

Several years into my career, I went to work for an internet company that hired way ahead of its growth, bled cash like a dot-com and tasked an army of recently recruited MBAs to solve its problems via PowerPoint. 

Company-wide processes were bullet-pointed in minute detail for activities that should have been the reason executives came to work. Attempts were made to organize the art of hiring, firing, allocating capital, selling products and addressing customer complaints into processes involving enough competing voices and metrics mediocrity became the only agreeable outcome. 

Each month a revised org chart arrived in my Inbox with a new dotted line added between me and someone I didn’t know. My day went from working with my team and the executives of acquisition and investment prospects to anxiously checking my Outlook calendar between meetings organized to optimize the organization of our organization. I finally quit when the company rolled out a process for organizing conversations with my solid line boss.

When you organize for control, the only thing you optimize is organization. Being organized becomes your core competency. The caffeine wins. 

“What does your company do?” 
“We used to sell software that solved our clients’ business problems. Now we create processes to track how our employees spend their day and how customers interact with our account management system.”

“How’s the training going?” 
“I used to run all the time. Now I monitor my sleep, macronutrients, resting heart rate, Zone 2 mileage and glucose levels, post it all to Instagram and run when my fitness tracker says it’s safe to do so.”

Instead of organizing for control, consider taking inspiration from The Serenity Prayer: control what you can and accept what you can’t. Accepting what you can’t control doesn’t mean shrug when things don’t go your way. It means take responsibility for what you control and expect people, events and traffic will surprise you. 

Caddying forced me to get organized at a young age. The adolescent brain isn’t pre-wired to wake, dress, eat and bike two miles to a caddieshack by 6:45 a.m.; keep a bag of clubs clean and in numerical order; utilize the pockets of your shorts and a golf bag to effortlessly access tees, balls, gloves and an umbrella during a four hour round; and familiarize yourself with the major yardage markers on each hole. 

These are, however, activities a caddie has complete control over. Through trial and error and modeling the more experienced caddies around me, I spent my first summer as a caddie figuring out how to organize my schedule and the interim steps necessary to do the job. 

Controlling the controllables, however, isn’t enough to make you a good caddie—or student, athlete, professional or parent. This is where accepting what you can’t control and anticipating surprise come into play.  

Get to the ball first in order to estimate the yardage to the pin before your golfer arrives. Hand your golfer the next two or three clubs she needs to get on the green so you can walk ahead and tend the pin. Place your bag along the route to the next tee before you help your golfer finish the hole without having to run across the green to hand him his putter.   

I used to think I was organized because I was lazy. I created lists and reminders, kept my desk clean, arranged my closet like a fireman, paid my bills upon receipt…all to avoid the stress and wasted energy of running late, looking for a shirt, scrambling for a deadline or owing someone money. 

Eventually I realized I’m organized because I value my time—and the time of others. Think about it. What’s the one metric in life we’ll never be able to improve? That reminds me, thank you for spending five minutes of your life reading this. 

Before you track your sleep or count your carbs, think about how much time over the past year you’ve wasted because you assumed there’d be no traffic, you couldn’t find your keys, you didn’t set out your workout gear the night before, you had to go back to the grocery store for something you forgot, you didn’t review the draft of the Monday presentation until Friday afternoon, you didn’t make reservations, you didn’t re-confirm the meeting—or you forgot to give your golfer his putter before crossing the green to rake the sand trap.

If you’re looking for a place to start organizing your life better, recognize you control your time. If you’re drowning in a busy schedule, find ways to make the clock and calendar work for you. 

Set the alarm, wake the kids up, leave for work five minutes earlier tomorrow. Book 25-minute meetings in those 30-minute slots in your calendar. It might just change your life. 

Create an “internal” deadline to allow for surprises and avoid setting your hair on fire the morning of the real one. Study for the test, draft the presentation, rehearse the pitch, pack for the trip a day before you planned. Check the status of the deliverable a week before the due date, schedule the completion of the project a day before the deadline, pack your gear the night before. Then notice how much calmer and more focused you are when it counts. 

Organizing to control what you can with slack in the system to accept what you can’t will help you handle higher than normal call volumes, supply chain delays, colleagues calling in sick, the babysitter running late, a lost mitten, getting lost, forgetting your water. You’ll not only get the most out of the time you have—you’ll avoid being the kid running across the green because you forgot to hand your golfer his putter. 

About "No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard"

Growing up in 1980s Chicago I had access to a number of summer enrichment activities. My parents called them part-time jobs. While my friends started flipping burgers and bagging groceries the summer after seventh grade, an August birthday meant I couldn’t legally work until I turned thirteen the following year. That is, until the older brother of another kid with a summer birthday told me about his job caddying at the local country club. 

All I knew about the country club was that’s where the kids who wore Topsiders played in the pool before five o’clock Mass on Saturdays. I soon learned, however, the country club employed lots of kids as seasonal service workers and didn’t have a formal application process requiring me to disclose my actual age. 

After three holes of caddie school, I signed up for a job that let me work outdoors, paid in cash and provided a free hot dog lunch. Little did I know at the time caddying would also pay my college tuition and teach me invaluable life lessons over the following ten summers. 

I left a twenty-five-year career in finance three years ago to pursue a lifelong dream of writing a novel. The main character in my story works as a caddie. The book’s not about caddying per se, but many of the values I learned looping appear in the themes of my book. 

This blogpost will be a monthly musing on the personal and professional lessons I learned as a young caddie. Let me know what you think and please share this email with anyone who may enjoy what I have to say. If you are interested in learning more about my writing, including my upcoming novel A Reason to Run please visit my website and sign-up for my newsletter.