I recently had the opportunity to golf at Pebble Beach, which is probably one of the best known golf courses in the world This experience could easily be categorized as one of those “once in a lifetime” type of opportunities for many people, including myself. Amazing as it was and is, I walked away from the experience having learned a thing or two. Golf seems to do that for me, it is an experience I continually learn from and find things to take away from it and apply in different parts of my life.
Golf can take years of practice to get to a level where you feel comfortable playing it, even in a casual setting. I won’t even talk about playing it beyond the casual experience, that is a completely different conversation, and one I don’t have experience with! The concept is quite simple, take a club with varying degrees of loft and hit a ball down a grassy fairway to a green. Once on the green you simply take the flattest club in the bag and hit the ball into the hole. The score is based on the number of strikes you take on the ball. Simple, right? Wrong! Golf tends to be a game where at one hole you are doing well you are on top of the world, whereas the next hole you are regretting even taking up the sport! Frustrations building, you simply want to pickup your ball and walk to the nearest watering hole!!! But alas, I don’t. I keep coming back for more, more of this game that teaches me more about myself and others than I ever imagined. As a casual golfer, I enjoy the game immensely. I enjoy the feeling of success when I am doing well, and get anxious when I am not. Golf is funny in that a very subtle change can make the difference of hitting a good shot or dribbling the ball down the fairway only a few yards, or worse yet driving it directly into a hazard such as a lake or sand bunker.
So how exactly did golfing at Pebble Beach teach me about success?
1) Rules don’t always make sense, Golf, like life, has a number of seemingly peculiar rules, in fact so many little rules that it can make it difficult to play the game. But in order to succeed at the game you must understand and play by the rules!
Lesson: To be successful at anything in life you need to understand the rules, regardless of how odd, trivial or unnecessary they may seem.
2) Adjust your strategy as needed. As you are swinging away at the golf ball there might be subtle adjustments you can make to your grip, stance or swing that could make a major difference in how well you hit the ball.
Lesson: Golf is a game of millimeters, if you could get all the variables right such as grip, stance and swing at the same time you will be successful. Test out different strategies, understand the cause and effect of your actions and see what works best for you.
3) Golf requires strategy. It is not just about hitting a ball down the fairway rather it’s about hitting the ball with the right club to the right distance down the fairway onto the green. You’ve got to understand your strengths and weaknesses and play smart shots.
Lesson: Life is similar in that it requires a strategy. No one will be successful at everything they try especially the first attempt. You’ve got to play within your strengths and understand your weaknesses in order to achieve your desired success and goals.
4) You can’t give up. There are times when you may have swung several times, scorched the earth, and for whatever reason can ‘t get the ball down the fairway.
Lesson: Just like golf is not easy, the things in life that are worthwhile tend to not be easy either. You’ve got to be persistent – don’t give up you can do this!
5) Golf is a test of character; golf is a tough game when playing with others. You will quickly learn their character, even if they were a stranger when you started the game. You most likely will be playing with others, and you can encounter people that yell, swear, throw clubs or worse yet even cheat on their score!
Lesson: Whether playing a round of golf or working on the next big business deal, it’s always nice to work with people who represent the values you hold. However, this isn’t always realistic so it’s nice to know how to deal with those folks that don’t hold your same values whether it’s on the golf course or in the conference room.
When you parallel the disciplines of golf to your life you may find challenges when you aren’t expecting them, you may want to simply give up, but the true test of your character is how you deal with these challenges. Take those challenges, and adjust your strategy to be successful, no matter how unfair life seems to be.
I can say that Pebble Beach beat me the day I played her, but rest assured I am working on a strategy and plan for my comeback!!