Let me begin by saying that I am not much of a golfer. I’ve just never had the time to work on my golfing skills. When business was strong, I had no time to play. When business was not strong, why would I have been out playing golf? But I have played the game, and at times fairly well, and I respect the game.
There is one interesting aspect of golf that used to puzzle me: Why do professional golfers, when they are in competitions, refuse to look at the scoreboard? They can play for four days, meticulously keeping track of every shot they take, and yet they seem totally uninterested in what their fellow competitors are up to. If they do take a peek, it won’t be until the final hole or two. This isn’t just something you’ll find with a quirky player or two. This is something almost all of the great players do.
I played and coached a lot of basketball and I can tell you, I always had a good look at the scoreboard. Based on what I was seeing, I made certain adjustments to counteract what my opponent was doing. After all, I needed my team to be playing strategically. It was important for me to keep track of what our opponent was up to.
It seems that the elite golfers go about things in a completely different manner. To be elite, they have to master the physical game of golf at a level that many of us cannot even comprehend. But that’s only half of what it takes to be an elite golfer: They also have to master the mental side of the game. They have to quiet their emotions, focus completely, and have complete confidence in every swing they take. Does this sound like a mindset you could benefit from?
Think about the last time you had an important sales call with a potential client, or a critical interview you were prepping for. What mindset did you subscribe to? For most, it’s the mindset of a typical competitor: You split your time preparing for what you could and could not control. The “could control” items gave you confidence. These were things like the questions you would ask, the materials you would prepare, and your overall preparation and execution. These types of things gave you confidence because they were 100% within your control.
Here’s the thing: You also unwittingly devoted a great deal of time to the “could not” control items. These were things like what your competition might be up to, or your competition’s overall preparation or execution. You may have even worried about some of the politics that might be behind the client or the job you were attempting to land. I suppose that, on some level, these were all legitimate worries, but these were worries you had absolutely no control over. So how does worrying about your opponent’s performance help your performance? Do you see the genius behind the elite golfer’s mindset now?
Control what you can control; your game, your preparation, your execution. Play the course to the best of your ability, and don’t be distracted by your opponent. You will be able to quiet your emotions and you’ll be able to focus completely on what you are there to do. If you can do that, you will be able to perform at your absolute optimum level. What else can you hope for?
You have zero control over your opponent’s performance. If someone better comes along, who is legitimately better suited for the job, there isn’t anything you can do. As long as you know you gave your very best, you’ll feel okay. If the nephew of the boss gets the job, or the budget wasn’t appropriate to begin with, or the company just doesn’t like ______ (fill in the blank,) why add this to your worries? These things were never in your control to begin with, so there was no use in spending your energy worrying about it.
By playing the course without obsessing about the opponent, you not only improve your ability to quiet your emotions, focus, and perform with confidence, but you also will have the privilege of doing what you do best: You will be able to confidently show how very special you are.