The 4 Valuable Lessons We Learned from a Pro Golfer
Get inspired with advice from the LPGA Tour’s Natalie Gulbis on work and life.
If there’s one thing we learned from our recent chat with Natalie Gulbis, it’s that she’s unbelievably goal-oriented. “It was very intimidating and overwhelming,” she says of joining the LPGA Tour at 18. “My biggest fear was that I’d fail and that I wouldn’t achieve my goals.” When back injuries began to take their toll on her—and even prevent her from playing—she took them in stride, choosing to see her recovery as another goal to be accomplished, rather than an insurmountable setback. Natalie shared her advice on overcoming hurdles and keeping your eyes on the prize.
1. Create a plan...
“I always set big, wouldn’t-it-be-incredible goals, and then I reverse engineer how I’ll get them done,” says Natalie. “So, when you get injured, it's basically just setting a new goal. Maybe today you aim to walk 25 yards, then next week you aim to walk half a mile.” She sets little benchmarks that contribute to a big-picture goal, and lets that guide how she spends her time. “Women have a lot going on. They’re mothers, daughters, wives and friends; then maybe they’re working on business opportunities or their health or charitable initiatives,” she says. “I think the key to being successful in any of those areas is to be organized and have a plan.” (Natalie brings this level of forethought and preparedness to everything she does—travel included).
2. ...but don’t be afraid to adjust it
Natalie’s back pain became a huge limitation for her as she got older, and it still prevents her from playing as much as she'd like to. “I went into retirement in 2009 because I had two back surgeries that really didn't fix the problem I had. That was the lowest part of my career,” she says. “As an athlete, you have successes and you have failures from a performance standpoint—that comes with the territory. But when you’re injured, you don't have a chance to succeed or fail. You're not even in the game.” She ended up, finally, having a successful surgery that saved her career. She plays in 10 events a year, compared to the 30 she would play earlier in her career. She uses the rest of her time to combine golf with other business opportunities—a Fox commentating gig and her own Boys and Girls Club, to name a couple. “I have a more balanced career that allows me to keep playing golf, not only professionally but even for fun,” she says. “Growing up, I thought that, once I got my tour card I would be proud of that and feel grateful to be able to go on tour, and it’s been true. But when I look at my whole career, I’ve been more successful off the golf course than on. I thought joining the LPGA would be the be all end all, but I’m so enjoying the things I get to do in addition to playing.”
3. Let your goals guide your decision-making
“You can be so easily distracted by the shiny things in life, and being goal-oriented has helped me avoid that throughout my career,” she says. “For example, you might get invited to an event one night and say to yourself, ‘It would be fun to go to this event, but does that help me achieve my goals? Does that help me get to my plan?’” Then, you’d make your decision accordingly.
4. Take setbacks one day at a time
“Don’t be limited by whatever happened yesterday,” says Natalie. “Look at your goals, your dreams and your hopes and just make the most of today. I’m living day by day with my goals in mind and doing the best I can every day. Any time I've had a hardship, I try to not make it bigger or sensationalize it. I just ask myself, ‘What can I do today?’ Even if I've lost a sponsor or we've lost an LPGA tournament, I try to look at the big picture. You have a choice to look at it positively or negatively.” Hear more from Natalie—she shared her advice for Jonny Ruzzo.