Last Updated Nov 22, 2010 12:33 PM EST
When I became a pro golfer, I learned very quickly what happens when you start to have some success on the course: The better you play, the more people ask of you. Suddenly, everyone thinks they know what's best for you and people you haven't spoken to in years call because they say they want to help you out. Of course, it's always dangerous to listen to the people who don't have your best interests in mind. But it's equally as dangerous to shut everyone out and make decisions in a vacuum.
I used to think, "no one knows me better than I do" -- which pretty much meant that I didn't bother to ask anyone else when it came time to make an important decision. Over time I was surprised to find that, whether I liked it or not, I have gathered a small circle of people around me that know me better than I know myself. And that is incredibly valuable.
Whether I shoot 50 or 100, these are the people who are consistently honest with me. I call them my "board of directors" and they each play a specific role when it comes to how I manage my career:
The Skeptic: This one is my wife. She's with me all the time and I count on her to be my devil's advocate, the one who will always approach a decision with more skepticism than I do. I'm usually too optimistic and she's the one who brings me back to reality.
The Observer: My coach plays this role. He's very soft spoken and I know that he won't speak up unless it's legit. He stands back and takes everything in before he gives his opinion. It's an understated quality but when you have a lot of people giving you feedback, it's much appreciated.
The Doc: My sports psychologist always knows my temperature. For example, if I've played well for several weeks, he knows exactly how I'm going to react physically and mentally. He knows that I'd rather play several tournaments in a row because that's when my game gets into a rhythm but he also knows when I've had enough -- and often before I do.
The Supporter: My caddy knows everything. That's the joke about caddies, actually -- they spend more time with the players than the wives do. So he'll back me up on any decision I make.
The Details Guy: Basically nothing would get done without my agent. Once I know what I'm going to do -- like, say travel for 10 weeks straight, which can be a logistical nightmare -- my agent takes care of all of the details and makes it happen.
I won't say there's always a consensus amongst all of us -- in fact, pretty much everyone has his or her own opinion on what works. But they all know when I need to hear from them and how to make their voices heard. Of course, the only problem is when I decide I don't want to listen, like when I hired my previous caddy (whom I had to fire) and everyone told me I should have thought more carefully before I made the decision.
Even then, they usually know how to help me get back on track. When I knew I had to do something about the caddy situation -- it was stressing me out and I couldn't focus on my game -- and I had already talked to everyone else about it, I finally went to my agent. He said, "Scott, when it comes to making decisions like these, I'm the last guy you want to call. The fact that you're even asking me is proof you need to make a change." Thank you, Alan. You were right.
Who are your key players?