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How a Wise Golf Coach’s 9 Simple Lessons Stopped a Young Amateur Golfer from Giving Up on his Dream of Playing on Tour
“Hey coach can I talk with you for a second?”
Sure John, I’ve got some time right now, what’s up?”
“Well, I’m thinking of giving up on becoming a tour player.”
“Really, wow, that’s surprising, what bought that on?”
“Honestly coach, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I've just about had enough of the high scores in tournaments, playing badly, and how golf is making me feel.
I have tried so hard to get good at this game, you know coach I practice long hours, but it seems like it doesn’t matter what I do, I’m not making the progress I thought I’d make by now.”
Lesson 1. Don't Give Up, Get Better
“John, I can understand how you feel, there’s a lot of very good amateur and professional golfers just like you who regularly suffer from similar feelings of frustration, anxiety, annoyance and a whole range of other emotions that get in the way of them playing closer to their potential.
They are trying so hard to improve and play golf like the great golfers they see on TV. The tragedy John is that nearly every one of them will not make it to their goal—or even get close to it.
And they won’t make it to their goal not because they don’t have the ability, or the potential to get there—because they do!
The reason they won’t get to their goal is a lot more fundamental than you might think.
Maybe you know some golfers struggling with their game, that are experiencing similar emotions to you?”
“Yeah coach, actually I know a few guys who are currently struggling with their game, and I also know of some who have walked away from the game.
I don’t want to walk away from the game coach, I love it, and love playing it, but I feel like I’m at the crossroads and not sure which way to go.”
John the bottom line is this; don't give up, get better!
Lesson 2. Develop a Higher Tolerance for Accepting and Managing Hardship
“Look John, no one is going to deny that golf is a difficult game to get really good at, but if others have got to a place you would like to go, then it’s possible isn’t it?
“I guess so, at least I used to think that way”
“Anything you do in life where you aim for the top branches is going to mean that falling and failing regularly is absolutely normal--
especially for really determined human beings who are attempting to achieve more from their potential.”
“What do you mean coach?”
“Well John, those who try harder, and more often, also fail more often."
“OK, so are you are telling me that failing often and the feeling of stress you get is good?”
“Well yes, in a way I am, but I wouldn’t say failing is good so much as it’s an absolutely necessary function of developing a higher tolerance for accepting and managing hardship.
But let me explain it to you in a way that I know you will understand.
John would you agree that generally speaking the highest branches of a tree are thinner and more bendable compared to the branches at the bottom?”
“Well, yes I guess I would.”
“So John, we could say that if your goal was to climb to the top of the tallest tree that the higher you climb the more adaptive and flexible you would need to be?”
“I’m not sure how climbing higher requires more flexibility…”
Lesson 3. There's More Than One Way to Achieve Your Goal
“Well, sometimes the route to the next branch or step requires you to go a long way out of your way just to get to that branch.
There may be obstacles or challenges that require a change in strategy, or possibly even to start again.
It's normally not as simple as going from A to B John, it’s never as simple as that when you are climbing to the top of your profession.
Also you will need to build a lot of trust in your skills and ability along the way.
“Ok coach, I get it. I think what you are saying is that there’s more than one way to do it?”
“John, that’s right, you see we live in a sea of potential with endless possibilities for becoming successful.
There's no "One Way" or "The Way," to get to your destination, there are many.
Lesson 4. Thrive in All Types of Challenging Conditions
Now John, take a look at that big oak tree over there next to the 16th tee for a moment. It would have to be at least 50 feet tall, would you agree?”
“It certainly is a tall tree coach.”
“How did it grow so tall and strong John?
“I don’t know coach; I guess it has been well looked after over the years?”
Actually John, it grew tall and strong because of its ability to be resistant to whatever challenges it.
You see the winds have shown no mercy or kindness to that tree; the winds blow hard and move it violently in many directions at times, and will even try to blow the tree over if it wasn’t for its strong and well-grounded roots.
That tree has had to survive all types of weather conditions as it slowly grew taller, from the bitter cold, to hot and dry conditions, and everything in between--even disease.
You see the lesson here is that you have to thrive in all types of challenging conditions. You have to be resistant to whatever challenges face you…
The lesson about that tree is that Nature John, shows no mercy. It is always survival of the fittest and strongest.
It’s all about your resistance and your persistence. It’s about how much out of your comfort zone you are willing to be, and how you learn to adapt to continual change.
Lesson 5. Learn to Grow, Adapt and Change
Now take a moment to think about your climbing ability. Are you a skillful climber John?
Imagine for a moment that you are climbing that oak tree and you have made your way up through the low branches, through the dense foliage and onto the thinner branches.
It’s not easy an easy climb is it John?
And it can be scary—really scary because the higher you climb up that tree the further you get away from the security of the ground, and everything you know and are familiar with—your comfort zone.
The good news is that the person you are in the lower branches John is not the same person you will become in the higher branches. You will rely more on your instincts, and on your courage, confidence and belief in your capability to keep finding a way to push yourself upwards, branch by branch.
You will be constantly fighting against the forces of Nature, because they are ever present, continually testing your resolve.”
“Coach I think I know what you mean. Are you saying that as you make progress towards your goal you grow, adapt and change as you climb."
"That's right John, you will get better in many different ways as you climb higher. One of the ways you grow is by realizing that each step you take gets you closer and closer to your outcome.
You become less outcome focused and more process focused."
"Coach I think I understand your metaphor. I have gotten quite high up that tree in the past, to where I have experienced the expansive and majestic views, it was intoxicating, and I desperately want more.”
“I know you want more success John, and that’s what success feels like for many people. When they get closer to their goals and dreams, it’s like a drug, and they want more of it.
But it requires a strict focus on the process to access it more often John.
Lesson 6. When You Can See More You Can Be More
You also discovered that the outlook higher up is very different to lower down John.
You can see more, and because you can see more, you start to believe that you can be more.
“That’s true coach, there have been many times where I felt like I had all I needed to play golf the way I truly wanted.”
“That’s right, and you probably realize that that’s why top athletes and successful individuals from all fields of endeavor are motivated to climb higher and higher.
But success is fleeting John for everyone, it comes and it goes. Because climbing high and into the thin branches means you are risking falling more often.
Now because the fall is more dangerous, you have to continually devise strategies that manage the risk. You have to take your time, if you rush the climbing process you risk falling.
Now maybe you have been impatient at times, and you have fallen down into the lower branches once or twice, and maybe even back to the ground.
Maybe now is one of those times John. You have probably even had the wind knocked out of you, and maybe you have broken a bone or two. Maybe John you have simply had enough of falling and feeling like you are a failure.
Maybe you are thinking of giving up on your dream of getting to the top because you are starting to believe that you haven’t got what it takes to climb right to the top and to stay there.
Lesson 7. It's About Your Goal Not Someone Elses
Maybe you have been listening to the bottom dwellers, those who fear the climb, and who are telling you to give up on your climb—your dream—your goal.
Nevertheless, whatever your reason John, don’t make a decision that you’ll regret later on.
John understand that when you fall, and like I said, you will do this often, you must come to the harsh realization that this is simply Mother Nature doing her work making you a stronger and more resilient human being.
“So it’s not personal coach because it sure feels like it is.”
“No this is not personal John, so don’t make it so. It is the Nature of how you discover success in your life, purely and simply.
Nobody, and I mean nobody John is allowed to make progress, especially to the top of a profession, without a great deal of resistance along the way.
And where there is resistance John, you need lots of persistence.
“So coach for every action like resistance, there needs to be an equal and opposite reaction like persistence, right?”
“Now you’re getting the concept John!
Lesson 8. Attitude is Everything
You see Mother Nature is not concerned with who you are, or where you came from.
Her job is to toughen you up for the journey, and in this way she sorts out those who can climb high from those who can’t, or won’t.
John, your frustration and disappointment is a normal reaction, especially when you believe you are not getting your way sooner. You mentioned that you practice hard, like you are implying that this alone should give you success sooner.
But you need to accept that practicing hard has nothing to do with how quickly you can reach your goal.
It is always about your attitude to how you manage set-backs, challenges and your expectations, first and foremost.
You have chosen to pursue excellence in one of the most difficult sports there is, a sport that few people ever really get to the top of.
Many golfers before you have practiced hard and gone nowhere.
Why? In my experience one of the biggest reasons is that they are in a hurry and impatient. Understand that you grow your ability John, and your skills won’t grow faster just because you want them to."
"Coach I must confess that I have been impatient but I never considered that I was growing my ability. I didn't consider that it's a process of Nature, I expected that if I practiced hard that I should progress faster."
"John, If you want lower scores, then be patient, do a great job of improving your core scoring skills every chance you get.
Lesson 9. You Cannot Get to Success Via Easy Street
It is a long term process to climb to the top, over many years, and with many challenges and set-backs along the way.
This is the reality you must come to accept. There is no mystery to this John, it is the same for anyone who attempts to climb to the top.
But given the opportunity to get something without a lot of effort, most people will take the easy option.
Never forget that the path of least resistance is the most popular path John.
Many want the easy way out because they want to avoid the pain and stress that comes when persisting in the face of continual resistance.”
“So coach, I should just suck it up and keep pushing?”
“Yes John, that’s how you grow bigger and stronger muscles, you keep adding more resistance.
So just keep climbing, learning and adapting and let Nature take its course on her terms—not yours.”
“Thanks coach, I won’t ever forget these lessons.”
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College