Understand this to experience success.

I worked with this pharma director on a work challenge they were experiencing. We still stay in touch and they share their wins which I love. I asked for permission to share this story.

Hey Howard!

Hope you are well and enjoying the summer and the extra time with the kids. I know you like a good Win so I thought I’d share this with you. It’s a bit of an essay but hopefully you’ll enjoy it…. 

Well, you know that golf is one of my things. Can’t explain it, it just is. And I always strive to improve, play better and improve my handicap. It’s a very hard thing to do as you’re always competing against a few hundred other lads every Sunday with the same intentions, the course, the weather….etc…etc. Also, as with any game of skill…..it requires a lot of practice to improve and get better. And practice takes time…… Now golf does not look after Niaobh and the boys. It does not put food on the table nor pay the mortgage. So I’m time-poor….or time constrained at the very least. So, without time, there’s no practice and without practice, there’s no improvement and without improvement……..well, there’s just frustration. 

In order to address these issues and get some practice in, I generally get up at 0630 on a Friday morning (evening though I work from home on a Friday) and go and play a few holes/practice. At that hour, I can practice without anyone missing me. I don’t need to be a husband, a dad, a dog owner or an employee at that hour…..so I make the time. I do this every year, once the mornings are bright enough to play at 0700. So, I create the time and get some practice in. 

In May and early June, I could see small but steady improvements. The practice was paying off and I was happy with that. However, on Sun 17th June (Fathers Day!), I had a bad day at the office. Just one of those days. I’ve had them before and I’ll have them again for sure. I was quite philosophical and tried to put it behind me after the first 9 holes and focus on improving over the second 9. That worked and I thought I had a few things figured out. I hit a great drive on the 18th but hit my second shot WAY right, into tress and lost the ball. I was fuming. I don’t think I’ve ever been so annoyed leaving the course before. I can’t explain it specifically but I guess it was just the frustration of seeing my game getting worse instead of better. I had practiced, therefore I should be better. Life is linear, no? J

As it was Father’s Day, we had a lovely afternoon planned. We met with a few friends and their kids and had a big picnic/play date in the Phoenix Park. It was a lovely afternoon…..but I was still stuck thinking about the golf. Even that night, the logical element of my brain kicked in and began to analyse things. I actually lay awake thinking very critically about the situation. My conclusion was that in the 6 years that I have been a member in Grange Castle, despite my best efforts, I’ve only reduced my handicap from 18 to 16. A miserable 2 shot reduction. However, given that I don’t get time to practice a lot, maybe it’s not all that surprising. The train of logic continued. If I don’t practice, I won’t get better. If I don’t get better, I won’t play better. If I don’t play better, I won’t score better and I won’t reduce my handicap. One of my main goals in playing golf is to reduce my handicap……so logically, if I’m never realistically going to achieve this……..well, why bother? Why spend all that time, effort and money perusing something that is not realistically achievable for me??? Why get up early on a Friday morning to practice? Why spend hours away from Niaobh and the boys every Sunday morning? Why spend money on golf? In conclusion, why bother? 

The ultimate conclusion of my late night thinking was a very uncomfortable one – maybe golf is not for me? At least’s that’s what the logical brain said. Of course, the logic was clear and easy to follow…..but it was deeply upsetting and hard to accept for someone who’s been a golf fan all of their life. Of course, being the scientist/planner/fact-driven person that I am, I had to test this theory to come to a logical and data-driven decision on my golfing future. At that point, my membership was paid until Feb 2019…. so no need for rash decisions. I agreed with myself that if I could not get down from 16 to 14 by the end of the year, I would not renew my membership, would not play golf as a hobby and would be a social golfer instead. Again, this was a very upsetting thought ….but I could not argue against it. 

So that was all on Sun 17th June. You shared with little pearl of wisdom with me on Mon 18th June: 

… Time.

There is a balance to be struck. On the one hand you have to give yourself the space to reach your destination on the other there has to be a sense of urgency about getting there. Most successful people know that it is the journey that counts because destinations are stagnant places. Paths lead to static places – when you reach a destination, you stop. So success isn’t a destination, it is a continuously improving journey so give yourself the space (time) to make it continually happen. 

To be honest, when I read it first, I thought “oh f**k off Howard, you and your pearls of wisdom”. That was just the mood/mental state I was in J 

Golf is all about mental resilience…..so I was back out on the course the following weekend, ready to go. I didn’t practice any more that week and I can’t explain it……but I play the best around of my life! (literally) It was a strokeplay competition, which is the most difficult format for high handicappers. However, it all just came together for 18 holes. I shot an 82 gross or 66 nett…. which is 6 under par! I won my section and was only 1 shot off wining the whole thing. However and most importantly, my handicap was cut from 16.2 (16) to 14.6 (15)……but only 0.2 away from the magical goal of 14 J. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I’d never put a round like that together and certainly not in a strokeplay competition. Also, it gave me back the belief that I could get down to 14 by the end of the season and that I could kick-on from there and lower my handicap even further. 

The weekend after that, there was a team even in aid of Crumlin hospital. I played well and so did the lads I was with and we got 3rd prize in that comp. No change to the handicap as it was a team event. 

The following weekend was a bit different. I really wanted to keep playing, keep the form going and have another shot at getting down to 14 before my hols. However, I had made a previous commitment to play in a charity/memorial day down in Wicklow for my brother’s partners dad. They hold an event every year to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society. As much as I would have like to skip that and play in Grange Castle, family comes first, so I played in Wicklow that weekend.However, that was the start of my holidays and there was a small window that I spotted. We weren’t heading off until the Tues…. and there is a competition every Monday in Grange Castle…..so I thought…. maybe I’ll try that. It was probably a bit greedy/pushing my luck but we were well organised for the hols. Plus, I had the bit between my teeth at that stage. 

Well, long story short but I shot the lights out again. I posted another 6 under par score, 42 points (different scoring format) and won the competition. However, for that, my handicap was cut from 14.6 to 12.1!!!! It was an amazing mixture of pride, relief and excitement reading that result. I couldn’t believe the difference that 2 rounds of golf had made. Utter despair to cloud nine in just 36 holes. For me, my handicap is important for a number of reasons. It’s like a badge of honour or something. Now, instead of thinking about giving up gold for good, I’m thinking, can I get my handicap lower this season? Can I get to single digits next year? Completely different train of thought……but better head-space to be in J

Of course I came back to this too……

… Time.

There is a balance to be struck. On the one hand you have to give yourself the space to reach your destination on the other there has to be a sense of urgency about getting there. Most successful people know that it is the journey that counts because destinations are stagnant places. Paths lead to static places – when you reach a destination, you stop. So success isn’t a destination, it is a continuously improving journey so give yourself the space (time) to make it continually happen.

I read it again and I thought “right as always Howard” JJJ

There is a second lesson here in goal setting and it’s an important one. The client was focusing on the wrong objective by focusing on lowering their handicap. The goal is to become a better player and enjoy the game – the consequence of that is a lowered handicap. The skill in goal setting is discern the goal from the consequence of reaching that goal. When you learn that skill then your decision making skills improve, you will have renewed enthusiasm for your goals (because you won’t be afraid of wasted time) and that will shorten your reaction time.

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