What’s better for your career – learning new skills or to play golf?

Early in my career I remember distinctly having a conversation with a fellow employee about whether we needed to learn to play golf. We discussed getting lessons and even went one day to the driving range. You see, I work in the technology and industrial arenas where historically all the leaders, executives, and sales people play golf. In fact, my company is a sales organization and we even joke from time to time that sales people really only bring donuts and play golf! (As an aside, I know first hand this is completely false because my husband was in sales and I experienced his early mornings and late nights visiting customer sites!) One of my first senior mentors even shared with me he only learned golf so he could get access to power for his career!

But seriously, I’ve watched leaders in my industry play golf, make decisions while they played golf, hold work meetings playing golf, interview candidates playing golf, and attend conferences where everyone plays golf. I contemplated whether the time spent learning a sport that I had never previously played, other than hitting a few balls at the driving range, was worth the time investment. Intuitively I knew that it was, but ultimately, I just couldn’t justify that the time spent learning a sport was really that valuable to my future when compared to learning additional skills.

Instead I chose to learn those additional skills. I chose to get trainings, certifications, and keep up my CLE requirements for my law degree and bar license. As a result, over the last 10 years I’ve read hundreds of books, been trained in more than a half a dozen different major training curriculums, been certified to teach three of those programs, I’m a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, and I’m working on certificates in neuroscience and coaching. I’ve also created my own website, written a few articles, and most recently I’ve even written a book on all of the concepts I’ve studied over the last 10 years. (Keep an eye out for more on the new book coming soon!)

Despite all I have accomplished, I seriously wonder sometimes if I had only learned to play golf how much further would I be in my career? How many additional conversations would I have had? How many opportunities or doors might’ve been opened? How many relationships might I have been able to develop?

Surely all I’ve accomplished is far greater and more valuable than learning to play golf, right?

Honestly, I’m not really sure and will likely never really know. As long as workplace meetings, decisions, and relationships building activities occur in places where everyone is not invited, included, or cannot participate inevitably many will be left out of opportunities. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with golf my husband plays golf, my fathers plays golf, my mother plays golf, I have friends who play golf but why can’t it be just a game? Why does it have to be so closely tied to our work? Why does our ability to play golf have to impact our work experiences and relationships?

And if we want a sport to play and socialize why not pick one easier to learn and that allows more people to participate, even without learning it! What if workplaces adopted pickleball as the new golf? Pickleball is the fastest growing sport, anyone can jump on a court and learn to play within minutes, it’s outdoors, it’s social, any age can play, and it even includes ways to make it accessible for those in wheelchairs to participate!

I hope one day making a decision as to whether to learn a particular sport for the purpose of a career is no longer relevant. I hope one day what we bring to the table, what we learn, what we are capable of, what we are and can do are what drive our opportunities. I hope by the time my twin two year old girls and five year old son are in the workplace the question of whether to learn to play golf has nothing to do with their career. I hope they can choose to play golf or not based only on whether they are interested in and enjoy the sport. I hope their careers will be based on their skills and capabilities in the workplace and not on their ability to play golf.

I hope careers will be based on skills and capabilities in the workplace and not on the ability to play golf.

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