Think about the last time you learned a new, and difficult, process. You may not have known it then, but learning that process was the easy part. Implementing it, however, was almost always the hard part. It really comes down to one simple question: Do you want to marginally improve, or do you want to pour your heart and soul into succeeding?

I find myself thinking about a crossroads many are faced with when learning the game of golf. Watch amateur golfers warming up or playing, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. In a sense, you’ll be looking at two types of golfers.

One type of golfer is not very good at what he or she is doing. This person has been hitting the ball improperly for so long that they are actually good at hitting the ball badly! Let’s assume there were lessons involved, and perhaps a few of the ideas taught were partially adhered to. There was probably some practice too, but practice is not a lot of fun, so there wasn’t much. There was also a nagging voice that said, “Come on, you’re thinking about this so much! You’re actually worse now than before you took these lessons! Grab a technique or two, learn it your way, and let’s get back to getting that ball in the fairway.”

There was no other voice that tried to shout back; what had begun as a strict new way of doing things slowly became a distant memory with a stray idea or two done halfway. That particular person will continue to play the game at an amateur level, expecting more, changing little, and baffled by his or her lack of success.

The other type of golfer is very good at what he or she is doing. This success did not come by accident, nor through a series of shortcuts. I can almost guarantee you that there were lessons involved, and more importantly, those lessons were strictly adhered to. There was practice, and a lot of it. There was also a nagging voice that tried to con that golfer away from his or her disciplined approach: “Come on, this is just too hard. You got the ball in the fairway before these lessons, and you played a decent game of golf! Not only that – you had fun!”

But that voice was shouted down by another voice that said something like this: “No, I’m going to master this, and that means I’m going to take a step or two back before I move forward.” That golfer went from playing the game in a satisfactory manner, to playing worse for a brief period, and then ultimately being able to play the game at a much higher level than he or she had ever imagined. That type of golfer is able to achieve a high level of success and enjoyment in playing the game.

The moral of this story is this: When you work at doing something incorrectly long enough, you can actually get good at doing it… badly. But make no mistake about it: No matter how much harder you work, your level of improvement will level off at good, and you will never be great.

On the other hand, if you work at doing something correctly that is truly challenging, you will almost always get worse before you get better. However, the harder you work, the greater your improvement will be, and the ultimately stronger level of skill you will achieve. You will be great!

When you want to perfect those challenging skills, you will probably have to learn a new, well-organized process. There won’t be much luck involved; it is will be a matter of hard work and discipline. Be aware, however, of that voice that will tell you to go back to your old way of doing things. After all, you can get good at doing things badly.

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