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Friday, July 22, 2011

Life Lessons In Golf

This summer I have found myself playing more and more golf and getting into the game with a lot of passion and emotion. I am a very average golfer with a handicap of about 16, meaning if I shoot one over par on each hole I achieve my average. Occasionally I will shoot much better than one over par and when that happens I get a renewed sense of excitement about the game. I like it when that happens, but it leaves me with a question: Why is it that some days it feels as though the club is an extension of my arm, and on other days it feels as if it is the first time I have held a club in my hand?

Recently three different people have given me copies of “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia,” by Dr. David L. Cook. I concluded that was a sign that I needed to read this book. It is a fable about a golf pro who has a disastrous experience in a golf tournament. In his car, he heads to the hill country of Texas and ends up in the small town of Utopia. (There actually is a town of that name in the state.) He meets a retired teaching pro, Johnny, who gives him a lesson a day for seven days using very unorthodox but effective methods. I want to share some of the lessons I have taken from the book that apply not only to golf but, more importantly, to life.

LESSON 1: To be successful in the game of golf and the game of life, we need conviction and passion. Where do we have that deep feeling of commitment and passion in our lives? In my case, I have a deep commitment to helping small business owners discover how they can be successful. It is a great moment for me when I ask a question and the business owner has a very puzzled look and says, “Wow, I need to think about that.”

LESSON 2: Paint a picture of what you want. In golf, as in many sporting endeavors, the coach will tell you to visualize what you want to happen. In my case, from behind the ball before I hit, I want to visualize every shot -- the direction, the trajectory and the distance. I find that many of my successful clients do exactly as the teaching pro was suggesting. They see their business as a success and have a vision for that success. Our teaching pro said, “See it, feel it, trust it.” That is great advice for us in business: See our success and imagine what it will feel like to have that success, and then work your butt off and trust that success will come.

LESSON 3: Get out of the comfort zone. I can see now, after many years, that when I accepted my comfort zone the colors of life began to fade. Johnny asks his student to mark his ball differently, to use a different ball marker for locating the ball on the green and to make other seemingly small changes. In that spirit, I challenge you! What are you doing to get out of your comfort zone? Take a different route to work. Challenge your daily routine. Make a special effort to get out of that comfort zone, enhance your creativity and take some risks.

“A score is not a goal, not a definition of a man’s life.” Johnny’s profound comment can be changed to read, “The success of your business is not the definition of your life.” With a golf swing, the key is to have rhythm, balance and patience. With business, I have found the same to be true. Successful businesses have a rhythm. They just seem to be in a flow and even problems are handled within that flow. The owners have balance and, when they get out of balance, they take positive steps to regain that balance. Successful businesses take patience, and, I might add, hard work. Does your business have a rhythm? Is there balance in your life? Have you been able to exercise the patience required to be successful?

Lately I’ve been playing golf with the same passion, but I’ve also invested some effort in painting a picture of what I want to achieve with each shot. And I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone, making the sort of small changes the teaching pro suggested. So far, the results have been encouraging, if not outstanding. I more often feel relaxed and confident on the course. And my scores have improved at least a little. I haven’t found Utopia yet, but I think it could be close -- maybe at the next hole.

1 comment:

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