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Luke List: It’s ‘About the Pursuit of Excellence in My Craft’

By Mayra Rivera
November 30, 2022
3 minute read
Make Work Better. Virtual Summit

Professional golfer Luke List achieved a career milestone this year when he won the Farmers Insurance Open. That win was a decade in the making, with countless hours of training and perseverance needed for Luke to reach the pinnacle of success.

His first PGA Tour win showed him that, no matter “how troublesome some things can be, you can still get the most out of your game.”  

Luke sees parallels between his journey as a professional golfer and the uphill climb many HR professionals face as they drive positive change in the workplace. “The HR industry has probably had the two toughest years ever with the pandemic,” said Betterworks CEO and Executive Chairman Doug Dennerline, “and that function inside of companies has been dealing with restructurings [and] the wellness of their people in a really difficult time.”

There’s no doubt that HR leaders face complexity and change in making work better. Whether you’re an HR leader or a pro golfer, the key is knowing how to make every ounce of effort count. “When I’m operating at my best, I feel like I’m adaptable,” Luke said. “I’m able to make the most out of my time.”

We invited Luke to share the story of his untiring pursuit of excellence at our Make Work Better Summit. Read on for highlights from his conversation with Doug.

The right people help you check the right boxes

Admitting you need help can be difficult, but it’s the first step toward assembling the right team around you. Luke’s team includes a mental coach who helps him stay focused on what’s most important. “It’s super-helpful just to have someone who’s specific in aligning what your values are and what’s important to you,” Luke said. These values go beyond golf to include family and personal values.

Luke has also focused on improving his communication skills with his team and family. “I think that’s when it really gets the most stressful,” he said, “is if you don’t really communicate well.” And it’s critical that good communication goes both ways.

Luke tries to empower his team to flag concerns. “If you see me not checking those boxes work-wise, value-wise, then I need to hear it,” Luke said. 

Surrounding yourself with “yes” people can create a dangerous situation. You lose that crucial outside perspective when no one dares to call you out. “I’m really happy with my team and the way that each, whether I want to hear it or not, is going to tell me the truth,” Luke said.

Persistence is in the perspective

A positive perspective can help you stay focused on the bigger goal, Luke said. Even when it gets tough, Luke puts his family first, and that helps him through challenges. 

“I try to leave [stress] at the golf course, so when I come home, I’m a little more focused,” he said. “That doesn’t always happen, obviously, but that’s a goal of mine: to be present with my family.”

The day he won the Farmers Insurance Open, Luke had to challenge himself on the golf course. “Even the final round, I’d hit it in some fairway bunkers and was just very persistent with my attitude about, ‘OK, I can still score even though I’m not driving at my best,’” Luke said. 

Ultimately, Luke’s positive attitude helped him deliver. “Just that mindset led to the confidence to pull off that shot,” he said.

Winning doesn’t equal success

We tend to be our own worst critics, even as we also hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. “There’s no barometer for perfection in a lot of things, and we get in our head thinking we have to be so perfect,” Luke said. “I tell myself in my head all the time: I just have to be good enough.”

The difference between success and failure is often your level of perseverance and dedication. “It took me 200-plus starts to get one win, and I still haven’t been able to win since. It’s very difficult,” Luke said. “The game’s gotten way more advanced as far as the amount of good players coming at a younger age. So if your barometer’s only winning, it’s the wrong thing.”

Instead of only focusing on wins, Luke combines his passion for golf with his professional and personal priorities.

“For me, it’s more about the pursuit of excellence in my craft, as far as trying to keep improving, trying to keep the love for the game, the passion, and then incorporating that all with my values, with my family and my other endeavors off the golf course,” Luke said. “ I feel like I’ll have a fulfilling career if I can keep that in perspective.”

Like what you read? Catch our Make Work Better Summit on demand to hear from Luke and other leaders.