Allan Mas via Pexels.com

Stacy Lewis On Being Grateful For The Gift Of Ability

If you ask Stacy Lewis what she’s most grateful for in life, her answer might strike you as a little odd. But if you know her backstory and look at the nuances of her answer, it not only makes perfect sense, but it also provides an important point about how the rest of us can truly succeed as leaders.

Stacy is a wife and mother, so you might suspect she would immediately talk about gratitude for her family. She is, in fact, incredibly grateful for her family, but that wasn’t her response when I posed the question to her during a recent episode of Off the Rak.

She’s also a professional golfer. By any standards, she’s had one of the best careers in the history of the game, and she’s a highly respected leader on and off the LPGA Tour. So you might think she’s most grateful for her golf accomplishments: 13 tournament titles, including victories in two majors; a total of 25 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world; an appearance in the Olympics; a four-time member of the US Solheim Cup team; and a two-time captain of that team (last year and this year).

Yet, her answer wasn’t about her accomplishments.

Her response: “The ability to play golf.”

Stacy’s personal story of overcoming adversity makes her answer particularly poignant because it reveals that her gratitude is connected to a gift she was given. Stacy once lost the ability to play golf. Getting it back is something she never takes for granted, and it serves as a reminder to appreciate every other gift in her life, including her family and her many professional honors.

Fans of golf likely know that Stacy grew up in Texas with scoliosis and wore a back brace for nearly seven years in an attempt to correct the curvature of her spine. Right before she graduated from high school, however, her doctors told her the brace wasn’t working and she needed surgery that would implant a rod and five screws into her back.

“I still remember the day in high school when I was told I was having back surgery and I thought it (golf) was gone,” she told me. “And to go from that day to all these accomplishments, to everything I’ve been able to do with my life, I mean, it’s a bonus really.”

Never miss a post about leadership, transparency, and trust by signing up for my weekly mailing list, delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

It’s easy for leaders, in sports or in business, to take their positions, titles, and accomplishments for granted and to forget that their ability to lead is actually a precious gift. Stacy’s career shows what happens when gratitude for your opportunities and abilities fuels your passions in life.

After a year of recovery and intense rehabilitation, Stacy returned to the course with a vengeance.

“What came out of that was I get to go play golf every day,” she said. “I had such an appreciation for practice and just the fact that I got to practice. When I was in college, I was at the golf course at all hours of the day. And my coaches, they couldn’t kick me out because I made such good grades. … You know, you see it get taken away from you and it just creates a different sense of appreciation.”

The hard work on and off the course paid dividends. As an amateur, she was a four-time All-American at the University of Arkansas, where she earned a degree in finance and accounting. Then she led the USA to a 13-7 victory in the 2008 Curtis Cup when she was the first player in the event’s history to go 5-0 in her matches.

In her early years as a professional, Stacy appreciated the fact that she once again could play golf, but it took some time for her to grasp the influence her story could have on others.

“I was tired of talking about it … and I couldn’t escape it,” she said. “I just want to be thought about or talked about as a great golfer. I didn’t want to be talked about as a kid with scoliosis anymore.”

The better she played and the more the story was known, the more letters she received from children with scoliosis and their parents. She thought about how insecure she felt as a teenager, how she tried to hide her brace under loose-fitting clothes, and how she didn’t want anyone to know what she was going through. It didn’t take long for her to embrace the idea that she could and should mentor young girls going through similar struggles.

Stacy embraced other opportunities to lead and give back, as well, whether its donating her paycheck from her win at the 2017 Cambia Portland Classic to hurricane relief efforts around Houston, advocating for better pay and improved maternity clauses for women golfers in their sponsorship contracts, serving as a player director on the LPGA Board of Directors, or stepping up as the youngest American captain in Solheim Cup history.

“Anybody can be a role model,” she said. “A 15-year-old girl in high school? You can be a role model for your younger sister or your younger brother. I just think we all need to realize that somebody is watching, and that (realization) can help us go about things in a better way.”

In other words, we’ve all been gifted with the ability to have a positive influence on others. And if we’re truly grateful for that ability, it can ignite a passion and work ethic that makes an incredible difference to everyone around us.

Leave a Comment on This Post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *