Today Thinking (Lesson #11 From No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard)

Nov 28, 2023 by Mike Magluilo
Lesson #11: Today Thinking

This month’s lesson is the one I struggle most to apply to my own life. 

I’ve always been a ruminator—turning myself inside out after falling short of the expectations I set for myself. 

As a young caddie, I’d hang my head like a guilty dog after messing up on the golf course—a lost ball, misread putt, incorrect yardage, or bumbled conversation with my golfer. 

I was prone to catastrophe-thinking as a teenager—mistaking the failures in life for Failure in life. 

So, after a bad day on the golf course, I'd second-guess whether caddie life was for me. The next day—thanks to habit and threats from my mother—I'd wake up early, hop on my bike, and do it all over again. 

One day something magical happened: I carried a different bag, avoided my old mistakes, and forgot yesterday. Today became an opportunity to be the caddie I wanted to be. 

Fast forward thirty years, and I now have the vocabulary to describe what drove me to stop catastrophizing about past mistakes and future worries. 

All we have is today. Yesterday and tomorrow are mere ideas in our head. The only thing that’s real is the present moment. Now. And now. And now. The cool kids call this Mindfulness. I call it Today.  

Applying today-thinking is easier said than done, but I make enough mistakes in a given day to get plenty of practice, and I’ve gotten better at it over time.

Take for example my application of today-thinking in my finance career. Let’s say a new client pitch went poorly—I didn’t connect with the audience, I didn’t articulate my points as well as I’d hoped, our recommendations bombed. The negative energy flowing through me after such a meeting—disappointment, anger, regret, self-loathing, self-doubt—could fuel my flight home.

Carrying the loss with me had ripple effects…I needed to get back to the work accumulating while I’d been away, and there were future pitches to work on. Over time, I practiced setting boundaries on the amount of time spent ruminating over disappointments. I learned to let myself wallow, feel the disappointment fully, and inventory what went wrong. I’d sleep on it, wake up the next day, and do my best to get back to work, applying the lessons learned from my recent mistakes. I’d tell myself, Today is my chance to do better. 

Three weeks ago provided another example—this time in my writing career. I hosted a book launch event in my hometown of LaGrange, Illinois. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup. The room was packed, I knew everyone in the crowd, people I grew up with took time out of their Saturday to celebrate with me. But I bungled my opening remarks, forgot to acknowledge it was Veteran’s Day, didn’t take enough pictures, and couldn’t spend the time I wanted with each person who came out to support me. 

I tossed in bed, replaying the event with the intensity of an IMAX movie. The next morning found me sleep-deprived and facing a long day of travel home. 

I gave myself thirty-six hours to wallow. I noted what I could do better next time. Then I returned to my desk in Vermont and got back to the work I knew would bring me satisfaction: drafting this post and a few pages of my next novel, and planning my next launch event. Moments of disappointment still creep into my thoughts three weeks since the event, but those are simply images in my mind. More important than what I wish I'd done differently or hope to do next time is what I do today, in the present moment, to make my next launch event better. 

Bad days are important. They teach us how we can do better. Give them your full attention for a day (or two) then get back to it…because today is the opportunity to do our best work.