The second directive to the assembled pre-teens at the first Monday caddy school was to “shut up!” I mistakenly thought our caddymaster Pat Higgins meant that only for when we were on the course with our assigned loop. I learned (not too painfully because I had three older brothers caddying) that it was even more important in the caddy yard and around the caddy shack. Someone once asked me “if you could give your early professional self two words of advice what would they be?” My answer without hesitation – “shut up.”
I was told I was a pretty smart kid but early in my career I couldn’t stop trying to show that I was the smartest guy in the room. It wasn’t usually with my superiors as I guess I viewed them as the “golfers I was caddying for” but it was with my co-workers, fellow caddies if you will. I was 10 years into my professional career and in my second tour of public accounting before a partner in a law firm who our firm shared a client with told me (politely) to shut up again. I was in mid-sentence of telling him how I was going to present information at a meeting he had called with the four owners of this client when he said “actually you don’t need to be prepared to say anything. If there is a question I believe you should answer I’ll ask you, so just know your material.” I was really perturbed on the inside but in short order I understood what a blessing it was to hear that “Shut Up” lesson again.
Just a reminder to ask good questions and listen carefully to the responses before being the one with all the answers. My lesson came from Michael J. Burke, Sr. who at the time was Managing Partner of the Keating Muething & Klekamp Law Firm. Mike passed away far too soon in December 2001 and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is carrying important lessons they learned from him.