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What I learned from Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer was part of my Dad’s big three. When I was a kid, on his desk at work were pictures of my mother, Bear Bryant, and Arnold, Arnie to us. The standing joke among us kids was, “Who do you think Dad looked at more?” Dad always loved Mom, but his affection for Alabama football and Arnie were a close second. We went to the Pensacola Open in the late fifties, and I got Arnie’s autograph. My best family memories seem to always include football and golf to this day.

With that as a lead in, Mr. Palmer’s passing, revealed a wonderful trait about him. He considered being a “professional” golfer included making sure his signature was legible. He figured if a fan wanted HIS autograph, he owed it to them and his profession to make sure they got his best effort.

Professional golfer after professional golfer related stories of Arnie admonishing them to make their signature legible. And for 60+ years, you could always tell an Arnold Palmer signature. Part of his greatness was his attention to his professional in the little things.

My calling in business is working with people, and Arnold has me wondering. If I passed today, what would my colleagues say was my consistent application of being a professional? What would be my “signature”?

I would hope it would be encouragement. That has been identified and ratified as a gift and talent I was born possessing. I would hope my colleagues could relate stories of my encouragement. Yet, I know that my encouragement at times is less than legible, and my willingness to stop for anyone needing it has been far below Arnold’s autograph commitment.

So what I learned is that to be a professional is to use your talents to the best of your ability every time it’s required. As Julius Erving put it, “Being a professional is doing what you love to do, even on the days you don’t feel like it.”

Arnold Palmer, the man, is gone, and he leaves behind so many lessons for his followers. I think his picture needs to be added to my desk as a reminder to be a professional every day.

Private Miller reporting for duty in your Army, Mr. Palmer!

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