As You Watch Tiger Woods Work, You’re Seeing the Future of Work

What work would you do if money were no object? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves, and it’s surely a question some are asking now.

It’s interesting to think about while watching Tiger Woods play golf at the Masters Tournament. Money is plainly no longer a factor for him, though he’s working. And if we’re being realistic, he’s not working on golf nearly as much as he’d like to. The barriers to work at this point are physical for Woods. His body plainly can’t handle the hours, days, months and years that he’d love to be putting into golf. Still, it’s not nothing that Woods continues to play even though he doesn’t need to financially, and even though he’ll physically pay for working.

Think of all this with Wes Dorsett, father of Tony, well in mind. As he used to say to his kids about life in Aliquippa’s steel mills, “Come in this place, you don’t know if you’re coming out. And if you do you might be missing an arm or eye or leg.” In the steel mills that politicians oddly romanticize, retirement was the goal. It was the exhale point, particularly if you made it to the end with arms, eyes and legs intact. Contrast that with Woods. He doesn’t need to work anymore, but does so while risking injuries of the kind that could include breaking his body so much that he can never play golf again.

What a world we live in that some people can’t not work. Some will call this “grit,” and that’s a mistake. The view here is that “grit” is vastly overrated to the point of irrelevance. If this is doubted, ask yourselves if Woods would still be working if his options were those presented to Wes Dorsett decades ago. And before you dismiss the absurdity of the comparison outright (steel mills versus golf), never forget that Woods has been battling against severe injuries (including to his spine) that have at times threatened his ability to play at all.

Which means a look at Tiger Woods is a look into the future of work far more than people think. What plainly keeps Woods going is that golf is his specialty. When he picks up a golf club he’s doing what he cannot get enough of. What’s important is that the excitement Woods feels about his chosen vocation will more and more define work for all of us. Which to some may come off as ridiculous, Pollyannaish, or some kind of combination. But it may not be as unrealistic as you think.

What has Woods in love with golf is that the sport matches his unique, specialized skill set. Think about how it mirrors Woods’s unique genius with expectations about AI top of mind. Those who know the technology best claim with a combination of excitement and worry that robotic advances will free many jobs from 80% or more of the work done in those jobs. What that tells us is that specialists are soon to multiply across the economy.

If machines can do for us and do alongside us, jobs won’t disappear as much as work that rewards varied and unique skills is set to multiply. Whereas there used to be a binary quality to work in the 19th century of the “farming or something else” variety, a globalized division of labor defined by men, machines and robots that have humanistic qualities promises to massively expand the range of ways that we can showcase what’s uniquely great about us in the workplace.

Which means that as opposed to retirement as the goal and exhaling endpoint, the future will more and more be defined by feverish work that enables us to keep on working. Tiger Woods is an exciting look into this future.

Republished from RealClear Markets


  • John Tamny

    John Tamny is a popular speaker and author in the U.S. and around the world. His speech topics include "Government Barriers to Economic Growth," "Why Washington and Wall Street are Better Off Living Apart," and more.

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