How Pole Vaulting Taught Topgolf’s CEO To Be Braver In Business

Lessons that led Dolf Berle to the Pole Vaulting World Championships—and the set of American Ninja Warrior—drive equal success in the C-Suite. "Choose to be brave before you start."

Topgolf CEO Dolf Berle

In this week’s edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Topgolf CEO Dolf Berle teaches how to overcome self-doubt, shorten the life-cycle of failure, and be a brave leader. Through his track and field experience at Harvard and beyond, Berle learned to apply lessons that would lead him to the Pole Vaulting World Championships—and the set of American Ninja Warrior.

“I don’t consider it a failure to lose if you’re beaten by someone who is just so much better than you. I actually enjoy being in the company of people who are so awesome,” Berle said in the podcast episode.

His pole vaulting motto — “choose to be brave before you start” — shaped his two decades of C-Suite experience, including serving as the COO of House of Blues Entertainment, President of Lucky Strike Lanes, President and COO of Dave & Buster’s, and now CEO of the popular sports entertainment company Topgolf, where he oversees 20,000 employees in 25 countries.

“It is an everyday effort to practice being braver than your instincts want you to be,” Berle said as he opened up about one of the most emotional moments in his family’s life.

Berle believes that embracing competition:

  • Elevates our capacity to overcome adversity
  • Helps us dedicate ourselves to a passion
  • Gives us a “thrilling escape” from reality where our best efforts intersect with immediate feedback.

“Culture is created by design or default,” Berle said. Define your culture with lessons drawn from more than two decades of C-Suite experience. Listen now!

You will learn:
7:15 How to improve your mental strength and courage.
11:00 How Dolf finds strength and joy in the midst of post-traumatic stress.
13:45 How to overcome self-doubt.
15:30 A behind the scenes look into the American Ninja Warrior experience.
19:00 Dolf Berle’s most challenging moment as a CEO and how he continues to draw strength from it.
24:00 How to shorten the length of a failure.
27:00 How to prioritize family and philanthropy in a C-suite role.
29:00 The little gift Dolf gives to encourage others.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive.

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.