I was so frustrated.
I’d taken golf up about two years ago because a good number of fellow dads in town had been asking me to play. I liked the guys, I love being outside, and I was tired of having to say, “I’d love to … but I don’t play.”
So I bought a set of used irons and the other necessaries and signed up for a five-pack of lessons with a pro my father-in-law knew. Considering the financial investment, I’d hoped those lessons would give me the foundation upon which to build my house of golf awesomeness. With that in mind, I decided I’d play when I could but, in between those few and far events, hit the driving range once a week. I would do this even throughout the winter to keep up my, let’s call them, skills.
This, I did week in and week out, buying the bucket, hitting the balls, and hoping this ritual of repetition would yield sweet fruit. Unfortunately, as the months wore on and winter turned to spring, I began to accept the fact that despite my tenacity, I was getting worse.
Sure, I’d hit a ball straight and long once in a while but, before and after, I’d often be right, left or smack the club into the mat, leaving my arms vibrating like a cartoon character. Of course, the biggest problem is I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or right (if anything). For the golfers out there, the fact that I thought I’d be good to go with five lessons is probably pretty amusing. Unfortunately my foolish assumption had brought me to a decision point — get more lessons or quit.
I didn’t quit because the reasons I’d taken up the sport in the first place still existed. I still was getting invited to play, I still loved being out there, and it was still an activity my wife and I could do together for years to come. So instead of continuing to work without knowing what to work on, and instead of quitting, I found a new pro and signed up for another five-pack of lessons.
In our first session, which he recorded on his fancy computer and was able to review with me in real time, Jim was able to show me one flaw after another, which we worked to address. Many of the changes were simple, yet very significant to the outcome of a golf shot. And as I incorporated these tweaks, I began to lament all the time I’d spent over the winter doing things incorrectly over and over again — creating the wrong type of habits and muscle memory that now had to be undone.
We are often told that two characteristics or qualities are essential to success: persistence and adaptability. The problem is these two are in direct opposition. If we are doing something and embrace wholeheartedly the concept of persistence, we stay maniacally focused on going forward so as not to give up Three Feet from Gold. However, if we embrace adaptability, we see failure or ineffectiveness as an indication that change is necessary. The truth is there is a point at which persistence becomes foolishness, the same point at which adaptability becomes the key to success. The hard part is that nobody tells us when we have reached this point.
And therein lies the rub. Many self-proclaimed self-help types belong to one tribe or the other. The more enlightened of which tell you it’s critical to change from one to the other. But the art, the magic, lies in finding the right time to say what got me here won’t get me there, and change. The hard part lies in understanding when you just need to take more swings, versus when your swing is the problem.