Musings from the Ledge: Focus on the controllable in 2024

By |  January 25, 2024 0 Comments

A new year and a new set of resolutions. It always starts out great; eat better, exercise more and lose weight. All of that sounds great on Jan. 1 but is a distant memory by February. Like everyone, I start with the best of intentions, but the realities of life catch up and they fall by the wayside. Every year I’ll throw one or two work-related ones in there too, but usually, by the fall, I’m kicking myself that, yet again they somehow slipped through the cracks. This year will be different!

Photo: Alan Fitzgerald

Alan FitzGerald, CGCS, MG

By the time you read this, I will either be about to or have just finished a presentation at the GCSAA Show called Control the Controllables. My co-presenter was a roommate of mine at Penn State, so he has the privilege of knowing me for my entire life in the U.S. Maybe our communal living back then had enough of a profound effect on all of us roommates that, over time, has resulted in us consistently thinking alike.

Being the smart one, he is a proper soils guy, he has helped me tremendously over the years — nurturing my obsessive need for better turf. As time passed, we started to think that, as superintendents, we possibly are our own worst enemies, making more work for ourselves as we go (which I discussed back in October 2020). This was the genesis for our presentation and by basing it on our experience it came together quickly.

While the fundamentals of it are basic Turf 101, to work properly it is very interactive. We’ll revisit the questions: What exactly is a superintendent? What do we do? Why do we do it? These questions get the conversation started so you can challenge the content. Since there are no right or wrong answers, the idea is for people to think more about what they do and more importantly why, which hopefully can result in a more efficient use of resources.

As we struggled to find a title, we realized that no matter what happens there is usually something we have no control over, such as the weather, the environment, etc. While our seminar is based on the agronomic side of things, the same goes for the business side.

Budgeting is a great example where we can present all the info, help influence the decisions and provide feedback, but ultimately, we do not make the final decision. Every aspect of what we do depends on something else, so why should we get agitated trying to make the impossible happen? As simple as it seems, why not just worry about controlling the controllable items? At the end of the day, it is the most we can do.

It doesn’t matter if the club has endless resources or is run on a shoestring, Mother Nature can quickly nullify our best intentions so we desperately look for answers.

An accident is defined as a specific unplanned event or uncontrolled sequence of events that has a specific undesirable consequence; removing one part of the sequence of events can prevent a problem from occurring. Concentrating on maximizing the controllable items breaks up the sequence of events, leading to success. Worrying about the ones you can’t control, will consume your time, and steal your focus. It is not about doing less or becoming complacent but recognizing an uncontrollable problem encourages you to think about what is happening, helping guide better decisions and maximizing any available resources.

So, my resolution for 2024 is to prioritize what I can control and not lose focus worrying about what I can’t. I have finally found a resolution that will stick, and by limiting the impact of an unmanageable event, I can minimize mistakes, quickly adapt to situations and make a quick recovery from a problem. Maybe this year by controlling the controllables, I might actually make some other resolutions stick too!

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About the Author: Alan FitzGerald

Alan FitzGerald is superintendent at Rehoboth Beach (Del.) CC.

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