Life Lessons: From the Green to 2019

By James Presnail, Director of Golf Operations and GM at Shadow Ridge Golf Club for Monaghan Golf Group


Ten years ago, I had a difficult career decision to make. Did I want to stay at the prestigious Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club or embark on a new adventure at Fraserview Golf Course, a busy municipal operation?

After some sound-boarding with my mentors, I decided to take a risk and move to the public golf sector. The very first paycheque I received was from Monaghan Golf Inc., the firm who is contracted to operate Fraserview. Today, my cheques are still from Monaghan Golf and January 1st, 2019 marked the ten-year anniversary of me having the privilege and honour to work with this company. I feel very lucky to have grown alongside it, as it expanded from operating only Fraserview to many courses across British Columbia in the last decade. The time has flown by and represents a significant chunk of my working career.  One of the most valuable parts of this experience has been the life lessons I have accumulated during this time. The lessons learned are ones I will take with me as I go forward, and will undoubtedly help me to be successful in my next decade of work and life.

Here are 13 things -  in no particular order -  that I have taken away from my time in the golf industry. They have honestly changed my life and I want to thank Tom Monaghan for taking a leap of faith and sticking with me for a decade.

  1. Be kind – It’s easy to judge, dismiss or jump to anger but it takes poise, patience and perspective to choose kindness. As often as you can, give second chances and choose kindness.

  2. Be grateful – Look around you and acknowledge the people and things you are grateful for; they are everywhere. And start with people before things; that’s a valuable lesson in itself.

  3. Be open-minded – Our daily decisions are always going to be clouded by our past experiences. Reflect on why you make certain decisions and try to understand why you feel that way. This reflection may result in a changed perspective.  

  4. Expand your self-awareness – Do you know how people perceive you? Do you know how you make people feel? Do you know your habits and tendencies? Understanding yourself is the first step toward personal growth. Be aware of your flaws, and work on improving them.

  5. Get comfortable – Being comfortable in your own skin allows you to be who you are. Being who you are allows you to be confident without even trying because you are the best version of yourself. It’s difficult to put on a show everyday if you are trying to be someone you’re not. Just be you. 

  6. Play – You shouldn’t dread work. Do something you enjoy. And have fun while you do it. 

  7. Don’t stop trying – Push your limits, fail, and try again. I like to fix and build things and believe it makes me more creative, and builds my confidence. I practice this ALL THE TIME, just by getting my hands dirty. I build electric bicycles, 3D printers and computers. I didn’t know how to do any of this stuff before, but now I do - just by trying. Take a chance and try.

  8. Get rid of your ego – It doesn’t do you much good and more often gets in the way.

  9. Trust and be trustworthy – When you have a lot of responsibility, people will have to put their trust in you - and you will have to trust others to help you get the job done. Surround yourself with people with integrity and make sure you check on your own integrity. If people can’t put their faith in you, you won’t get very far.

  10. Build relationships wherever you go - The golf business is ALL about people, whether it is staff, vendors, members or customers. Everything we do is about people. I love that we are all so different. We are each an endless puzzle with inner landscapes that range from empathic to cold, hard business-minded. I tend to hang out on the empathy side, but visit the opposite end when needed.

  11. Don’t be defensive – When you are faced with criticism, can you just listen to it without telling your side of the story? Can you just … take it? A lot of us can’t. Many of us feel the need to justify what we said or why we did it. Typically, the world isn’t asking for your defense. Instead, listen and work toward a solution without an excuse.

  12. Take time before you respond – I’ve just learned this lesson recently, but it is an incredibly important one. For most people, our first response stems from an emotional reaction. Generally speaking, I think we make the most sound decisions from analytical thinking rather than emotional reactions. When you take your time to respond, emotions will subside and you can approach the scenario with an open mind and from multiple angles. A calm and collected perspective will help you to make better decisions.

  13. Think positively – Most situations have a silver lining. Find it – it’s out there!

And finally, I’d like to share a quote that sits on my desk:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

Always consider how you make people feel. That is the mark you leave in life, and it is the most important one.