Apr 17, 2019 4 min read

What Tiger Woods Can Teach us about Professional Success

  • Culture
John Chlopek

John Chlopek
Principal, Business Solutions Practice

This past weekend, I found myself deep in thought after watching Tiger Woods win the 2019 Masters golf tournament. It was inevitable that I began to reflect on Tiger’s journey as a professional golfer and as a human being that lead to his most recent significant accomplishment.

As I did so, I found myself making correlations between his path and the journeys that we all take relative to our personal and professional lives (albeit with an infinite number of variations).

It made me wonder what, if anything, might qualify as the foundational requirements for professional success?

For Tiger, his formula for success seems to rely on three key elements: motivation, focus, and transformation.

Below are some reflections on how Tiger has applied these principles to become recognized as one of the best golfers in the world, along with some questions to ponder as you think about the role these concepts have played in your own professional life.


I suspect that early in his career, Tiger wanted to become a great golfer, and then the GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

Most recently, his likely motivation was to succeed against all odds — overcome injuries and disprove the assumption that he was now “too old” to succeed on golf’s biggest stage.

When channeling your own motivation, you might ask yourself:

What is driving you today? How does it differ from the past? What will continue to drive you going forward?


Closely aligned with motivation is focus. In order to excel in our chosen craft, we must be passionate about our core objectives and dedicated to driving toward achievement.

For Tiger, at present, perhaps the focus is on winning major golf tournaments. Only four events throughout the professional golf season fall into this category. There are many other events, but these four “majors” are likely the core focus of all other activities throughout the year.

In order to find your focus, consider the following questions:

What are your core objectives for the year? What are you doing each hour of each day to drive toward achievement?

Knowing what your priorities are can bring clarity to your work, and help you excel where it really matters.


Throughout his career, Tiger’s role in the golf world has shifted. He started out as the young gun and went on to hold the record for the number of weeks being ranked as the #1 golfer in the world. Then for a stretch of time, he was out of golf — facing back-to-back injuries and off-course scandals. And now he’s graduated to the cagey veteran.

Tiger has modified his swing several times due, at least in part, to physical limitations as a result of multiple back surgeries. And for all professional golfers, the course layouts continue to be lengthened and overall more challenging to play.

There are many aspects of change in our professional lives — some voluntary some involuntary. Over time, we must consciously adapt to variations in ourselves, our marketplace, and our competition.

When we take a look at Tiger, we see that he constantly evaluates and leverages enhancements relating to equipment, training methods & technology, physical therapy, and nutrition. He examines the landscape of the changing sport around him and finds opportunities to leverage that change to become an even better athlete.

When we think about how change has impacted our work, we can reflect on questions like these:

How does who we are today differ from who we were 1, 3, 10 years ago? Are you able to realize and embrace when change is required?

How has the marketplace and competitive landscape shifted? Are you focusing on maneuvering voluntary and involuntary changes in order to leverage them as an advantage?

Tiger’s comeback story gives us much to think about when it comes to professional success. Despite considerable odds, he has become one of the greatest golfers of all time. It’s a lesson to all of us that even when hope seems lost, simple principles like motivation, focus, and transformation can lead us to greatness.

I hope that contemplating the questions above provides you with some meaningful reflections on your own career. With enough introspection, you might just find your roar.