Excuses abound when people think about getting into golf. And for entrepreneurs, many have even begun to question its value.
I recently ran across this article by Chris Heivly on Inc., “The Real Reason Entrepreneurs Don’t Play Golf.” About golf, he’s dead wrong.
“Golf is too hard.”
“It takes too long to learn.”
“I am going to embarrass myself.”
“I don’t have any extra time.”
These are often the most common responses when talking to other entrepreneurs about getting involved in the greatest game. In fact, these are the exact reasons you should be picking up the game. Mastery is for the enlightened. Excuses are for everyone else.
I have loved golf for a lifetime and played 75 rounds in my first year of startup circa, 2014. Golf was required for my success. It still is.
So instead of working networking events or building things on my computer, I should be on the golf course, spending time with people who aren’t tied to my business?
Yes! That’s exactly what you should be doing. Here’s why.
You may not know golf yet, but the greatest game does several things. It centers your daily life against the brutal reality of alignment, requires you to accept the random forces of nature, teaches you about self-control, and most importantly, is backed by sound scientific research.
And further, we learn that this great game is played against the golf course and not each other.
The Brutal Reality of Alignment
In golf, alignment is the process of lining up correctly at your target. Easy, right? Not so much. According to the PGA of America, 95% of the result from your golf swing is based on alignment. Yet, most golfers spend so much time on choosing a new driver or working on their impact zone. They forget that their eyes, hips, and shoulders create the vision for impact and ball flight. The simplest of things like aiming incorrectly direct the brutal reality of a well-struck ball into a watery grave.
Arguably, businesses’ most important aspect of growth is alignment. We may hire slick consultants, court the best creatives, or have been in the industry for decades; however, without basic alignment of our product and customer intent, we will fail.
Alignment in golf and business are simple concepts, but they take years of courage and willingness to learn. Alignment, practiced appropriately, will provide sound feedback and allow us to gain confidence to go for the green in two, every time!
Random Forces of Nature
In 2011 at the age of 59, Tom Watson stood in the fairway of the 18th hole at Turnberry, headed for another Open Championship. He needed to make par to become the oldest player in Major Championship history.
On the 461 yard, par 4 from the fairway, he striped a long iron right at the pin. But for whatever reason, at that time, the ball sailed just a little further than he intended and bounced over the green. He failed to get up and down. He hit two career shots, yet still made a bogey 5.
Afterwards, Watson reflected,
“I hit the best two shots of my career, but still didn’t win. That’s how golf works.”
Coping with the random forces of nature cause many to never get past year two of startup. The good news is that golf teaches us how to handle those forces.
In business there are things we can control such as the type of products we sell, who we hire, or our desired target audience. Yet still, there are things we have much more difficulty controlling including global business practice, corporate tax code, or competitors inside and outside the industry. How we handle those items, regardless of how our products or services are built, will define if we win or lose. And we learn, even if we’re standing on the fairway at 18 with the lead, success can be taken from us at a moment’s notice.
Self Control for Hours on End
I recently read a book called, “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits.” It wasn’t that good; very predictable and the classic ignorance finds reality type thing.
However, what stuck out in this book was the initial pride that recruits had in working 16 hours or even 20 hours — for days on end. Later in the book, we learn about the results. Drug abuse, anger issues, and a general frustration for everything except money. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
I’d prefer a different path. What the bankers got right, though, is training focus. For me, I’d rather learn this playing a game.
Golf teaches us about focus, over a long period of time. It also teaches us how to react with others we may not know while they either stay focused or disappear into despair. Golf is a much better teacher on focus than spreadsheets and benders, for sure.
You Cannot Argue Against Science.
A few years back I was fortunate to meet Dan Wieden. Dan, for those who don’t know, was Phil Knight’s (he invented Nike) “brand guy.” He wrote the tag, “Just do it.” Now, he runs one of the most courageous agencies in the world. Check them out here.
Dan shared with me about the creation of the Nike tagline — it was most insightful that his ideas came organically, based on experience and thought outside of the office. In fact, he’s not really sure how it all went down.
For many Golfers who are taught the game appropriately, the experience and challenge of playing against the golf course, coupled with the ability to sit in nature, allow us to develop the human spirit needed for leadership.
Science may also help us understand why being in nature is better and more productive than the office grind. I learned about Sara L. Warber, MD, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, by reading a Fast Company article. She points out that being in nature (Dan and Phil love the outdoors) enables us.
When in nature, Sara argues that there are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits. Furthermore, her research shows that,
“Nature can be like an instant path to relaxation, similar to meditation.” Sara L. Warber, MD
Sara isn’t the only one who is testing and confirming her hypotheses that nature benefits us. In a recent article in the New York Times, a Stanford Graduate Student discovered that we feel better when in nature and those feelings impact the state of our brain.
According to the Study,
“…volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health… They also showed less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex.” Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times
This suggests that being in nature has lasting neurological and physiological benefits against city and office dwelling. Any entrepreneur knows how difficult and stressful the foreseeable future can be which is exactly why we need to be in nature more, not less.
On Confidence and Failure
“If you’re not willing to have the confidence to pull the trigger and fail, you’ll just keep doing what you’re doing.” Anonymous
Regardless of theory, practice, or science, if startups played more golf they’d learn the unintended lesson that golf teaches us — these things we’re trying to create are only won based on our willingness to fail.
Golf’s ability to teach failure, in an appropriate way, is its greatest lesson. Failure isn’t something that should deliver fear. As Golf teaches us, it should instill an everlasting curiosity to understand what it feels like to fail. Then, we can improve, based on the reality of our ability and willingness to start our swing.
Entrepreneurs, pick up the game. Likely, it will change your life and improve your business.