No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard - Lesson #3: Don't Be Petty

Apr 02, 2023 by Mike Magluilo
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Lesson #3: Don’t Be Petty

Ever wonder what gives some people charisma and a magnetic personality? Is it a sense of humor? Confidence and intelligence? A stunning smile? 

Unlike other part-time jobs I had as a teenager, caddying provided me a seat on the carnival ride that is adult social dynamics. 

The country club where I caddied was like many organizations: personality and looks can get you in the door, but small gestures determine how long you’re welcome to stay—and generosity struck me as the biggest of those small gestures

The most respected members displayed generosity in various ways…   
  • They tipped their caddies well
  • “Gave” final putts that were close enough
  • Let other golfers “take a Mulligan” after a bad tee shot
  • Held the door open for others, including club employees
  • Laughed at themselves
  • Bought lunch for their foursome
  • Celebrated a hole-in-one by buying a round at the clubhouse
  • Offered caddies a lift down Par 5 fairways on the back of their cart

Generosity wasn’t all about money and favors, however. The most generous members were the ones who pointed out my mistakes so I could become a better caddie, communicator and young adult. 

A world illuminated by generosity, however, sharpens the shadows of pettiness. 

One afternoon during my first summer caddying, I got Mr. S—just the two of us for eighteen holes. I assumed Mr. S golfed alone because he wanted to squeeze in a quick round before dusk. Given the caddiemaster assigned a first-year looper like me to Mr. S, I wasn’t expecting a big payday. The wrinkled sack of a man, however, exceeded my already low expectations when he asked at the end of the round if I’d prefer a tip or a hot dog. 

Mr. S taught me two things that day. First, some people deserve to golf alone. Second, better to be penniless, kind and generous than a cheap ass with a Lincoln. 

Pettiness is not about being frugal. Frugal is living within your means—and admirable. As I grew up I came to think of pettiness as a disregard for others expressed in the form of low emotional intelligence (“life is a kindergarten sandbox”), confidence issues (“I’m full of sh** and afraid everyone is going to find out”), and a lack of self-awareness (“my pronouns are Me and My”). 

Pettiness is the friend of your friend who itemizes everyone’s dinner order to make sure the bill gets split accurately.

Pettiness is the kid on your floor in college who puts a padlock on his closet.

Pettiness is going to lunch with a colleague who waits for change at the food truck. 

Pettiness is letting small grudges with your spouse spiral.

Pettiness is a president sending angry tweets.

And for some reason, restaurants, hotels and airplanes trigger our most petty tendencies. Take the colleague who complains the hotel’s not as nice as the one they usually book, the bed’s too small, there’s a better table in the restaurant, the wine list sucks, they didn’t get upgraded. They’ll also be the one asking unnecessary questions about the menu before dictating a special order to the server. 

Caddying gave me a high-resolution pettiness radar at an early age. While this drives me crazy around self-absorbed people, it helps me recognize when I need to check my own behavior. Yes, I’m guilty of petty moments—and my family will back me up here.

Awareness of my pettiness helps me spot bigger problems in my attitude and gives me a chance to self-correct. Refocusing on what matters in relationships with friends, colleagues and loved ones helps me live in a manner more likely to attract the generous people. 

When I find myself wasting energy and time on things that don’t matter, I remind myself of a few of the many reasons it’s always better to be generous than petty.   
  • Worrying about unserious things makes it hard to be taken seriously
  • Pettiness discourages others from giving you the best version of themselves
  • You don’t want to wake up every morning in the mind of a petty person
  • One day the people around you will be in positions of influence and will remember how you treated them
  • Act like Mr. S, and you’ll be stuck with the equivalent of a rookie caddie like twelve-year-old me the rest of your life