Imagine that you are a professional golfer. It is Sunday afternoon. You are in the final group of the day and you are leading the oldest and most global of golf’s major championships, The British Open.
Now, imagine that you hit a perfect tee shot. It arches into the air, starts curving towards the fairway on the trajectory that you envisioned. You twirl the club in your hands on your follow-through as if to say, “Yup, I just ‘pured’ this shot.” You walk down the fairway with an easy jaunt and, to your horror, find that your ball landed not in the middle of the fairway but, rather, on the side of hill in long, thick, nasty rough that is 9 inches high.
It is a horrifically bad break.
That is exactly what happened a few weeks ago to Jordan Spieth, the eventual British Open champion and one of the very best golfers in the world. This episode is not significant because of what Jordan did; instead, it is significant because of what his caddie did.
While Jordan stared at his unfortunate bad break, he muttered to himself, cursed under his breath, and grew frustrated by his bad luck (“That’s just crap, man!”) His caddie on the other hand, dutifully paced off the yardage for the next shot, checked the wind and the pin placement, and then uttered to Jordan one of the best lines I have ever heard in sports…
“You have 168 yards to the hole. Get over it.”
Many people say playing golf is great for business.
“You can really get to know someone on the golf course.”
“I do all of my deals on the golf course.”
I think some people just use those as convenient excuses to play golf during the week. However, the Jordan Spieth example did remind me of the many similarities between golf, business, and the many lessons we can learn from the sport.
Get over it.
As Jordan Spieth’s caddie reminded him, things do not always go as planned. You can execute the shot exactly as you wanted and get a bad bounce or a bad lie. But, you still have to hit the next shot. Get over it. As we have discussed in a prior Michael Marcon Tweets post, “What you did is done. It is what you do next that defines you.”
Raise your hand.
Bobby Jones was such a famous golfer in the 1930s that he received a ticker-tape parade (millennials, google it) after winning the Grand Slam. One time, he hit a ball into the woods. Upon finishing the hole, the official scorer awarded him a 4 on the hole. Jones corrected the scorer, arguing that his score was a 5 because, prior to hitting his shot, his ball moved and Jones needed to assess a penalty on himself. Despite no other person seeing the ball move, Jones called a penalty on himself. Upon being praised for his ethics, Jones quipped, “Do you also praise people for not robbing a bank?”
When you screw up, own it. Raise your hand, admit your mistake, own the consequences, and move on. Or, as someone once said, “get over it.”
Golf is an individual sport. You do not play defense against the other golfers. You compete against the course, the elements, and yourself. Golf is not a zero-sum game. You can play a very good round and shoot under par and your fellow golfer can do the same… or not. Similarly, business is not a zero-sum game. The success of my business is not dependent on the failure of someone else’s business. We can both succeed. And, when they hit a good shot, we can tell them so.
Swing your swing.
A few years ago, Dick’s Sporting Goods aired a popular commercial for golf equipment. The commercial showed people of all shapes and sizes swinging a golf club with various degrees of success. Some were elegant. Some were painful to watch. The voice-over was Arnold Palmer encouraging the golfers to “swing your swing.” It ends with a video clip of the very inelegant and obviously “homemade” swing of Arnold Palmer. He looks into the camera and says, “I did.” Great achievers become great because they swing their swing. They do not copy. They do not mimic. They are originals.
So grab some clubs, grab some friends, and head to the course. If you hit a bad shot, get over it. If you screw up, raise your hand. If your friend hits one pure, say “nice shot.” And, all the way, swing your swing.
Will following these simple steps help you achieve business success? “Maybe…YES SIR!”
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.