‘Not a game of perfect’: Golf similar in many ways to business

Many years ago, a client gave me a book written by Dr. Bob Rotella titled, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.” I was pretty much a beginner at the game and having my share of frustration.

Later I saw a calendar based on that book. The calendar provided a bit of golf wisdom for each day of the year. Lately I ran across some pages I must have torn out of that calendar and saved after the year ended.

These saved gems resonate anew with me. For one reason, after a five-year hiatus I am back on the course twice a week. My husband – and golf partner – just took up the game several months ago and is experiencing all the frustrations familiar to golfers everywhere. (I keep telling him that if we were all looking for easy we’d just play miniature golf.)

Another reason I’m pleased that I saved these torn-out calendar pages is because I see so many similarities between business and golf. That may be the reason I saved them, who knows. At any rate I will paraphrase a few of them here.

If every world-class leader created a career tapestry, so to speak, it would include a few rough spots, a few interludes where his performance was a bit shoddy if not downright embarrassing. The golf calendar advises us to, “think of each loss as a beneficial experience. Draw lessons from each match and then forget about the outcome.” This is good advice in business as well, as where we’re going is a heck of a lot more important than where we’ve been. Setbacks are part of our journey to success and we only end up with a pain in the neck if we keep turning back to focus on them.

Here is another valuable lesson I found on the calendar pages: “To gain some control over what happens in golf, a player has to abandon the notion that he can control everything.” There are so many variables, within us and in the environment. All of these conditions have an impact on a round of golf as well as on the trajectory of business growth. I don’t know how many coaching clients I’ve worked with who are in transition between jobs because they want to escape the clutches of a boss seen as a control freak. It is such a relief to let go of that fantasy of control and learn to adjust to weather conditions, pin placements…and economic trends.

The page for Feb. 11 advised that “Part of the trick of staying at the top of your game is surrounding yourself with people who are supportive but who know how to tell you when you’re off track. And part of the trick is listening to them.” This is so valuable in golf and business. We lose a lot of headway if the people around us are scared silent. Even now there are many people in business who would never give constructive feedback to a boss. Sometimes that is because the boss obviously can’t take it gracefully or use it period. Sometimes it is just a behavior pattern of the direct report, to only give positive strokes. Whatever the reason, it does not contribute to a climate of progress and growth.

Another calendar page suggests “Pick out a target before every swing and picture the shot you want to hit.” This kind of goal setting and visualization is vital on and off the course. Decisive players in business and golf usually score better – and they clearly have more fun than those who keep wondering what to do now. The game plan must have flexibility – but there must be a plan.

So I’m getting closer to the handicap I had five years ago, and I must say my husband is improving rapidly. And… we practice Rule Number One – Have Fun. Hope you’re doing that as well.

Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee area resident. Her web site is www.coachingconbrio.com and she can be reached at (414) 305-3459.

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