Super Saturday: Life Is Like a Box of Titleists

This post was originally published on November 13, 2011. Today, less than four months after my accident I am golfing!

I like to golf. A lot. My dad’s a golf pro and so I’ve grown up around the game. My dad likes to say that everything in life can be related back to golf. Being a 20-year-old college kid, I like to roll my eyes at that, but the truth is that everything does kind of relate back to golf. Take for instance trying to find a golf ball. Sometimes, you hit an errant shot, and you have to figure out where your ball is. Over the years, I’ve developed a skill that makes me pretty good at finding golf balls. Here are some of my strategies:

1. Observe. This one seems really simple and stupid. It is simple, but it’s not stupid. No one likes watching bad shots. But bad shots are the most important ones to watch. You know where a good shot is going – straight down the middle. A bad shot, though, can go anywhere. But a lot of people will turn away in anger and stop watching. And then they wonder why they can’t find the ball.

Sometimes the time to take the most diligent notes is when we know things are going horribly wrong.

2. Don’t be afraid to dedicate the majority of your time to the place where everyone first looked. People tend to have really good instincts. And so if your playing partner thinks he hit the ball near the 150-yard-marker, but then starts looking near the 100-yard-marker, chances are, the ball is closer to the 150. I always feel like a jerk when I am searching 50 yards further back than the guy who hit the ball. But when I find it, it’s all worth it.

Focus on the basics. Sometimes ideas are abandoned too quickly.

3. Gain perspective. Sometimes the most useful thing is to stop looking for the ball, and climb up on a hill or climb down a hill. Looking at the same area from a new perspective is incredibly helpful. Sometimes the grass is covering the ball from one angle. But it might be completely in sight from another.

Taking a creative break is almost always a good idea.

4. Be confident. The pros almost never lose balls. This is because they have scouts, but those scouts aren’t literally everywhere on the course. They have to watch the ball just like everyone else. Part of the reason the scouts are so successful is because they are closer to the ball’s destination and because finding the ball is their only concern. But the main reason I think scouts are so successful is because they are confident. They have a ten-foot by ten-foot area they think the ball is in. Not a 50-yard by 50-yard area. That makes things really easy.

If you are 90% sure of something, it’s probably best to go against the rest of the group even if it makes you look like a lone ranger.

5. Know when to cut your losses. Knowing when to give up the search is a talent in its own right. Some people stop searching too quickly. They find their original ball after they have already put a new one into play. Others search too long for a ball that is probably in the water. There’s a happy medium. The key is to have a healthy realistic understanding of the world. Not too pessimistic but not overly optimistic either.

You aren’t always going to find what you want, but that’s okay. Take it in stride.

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Life Is Like a Box of Titleists

I like to golf. A lot. My dad’s a golf pro and so I’ve grown up around the game. My dad likes to say that everything in life can be related back to golf. Being a 20-year-old college kid, I like to roll my eyes at that, but the truth is that everything does kind of relate back to golf. Take for instance trying to find a golf ball. Sometimes, you hit an errant shot, and you have to figure out where your ball is. Over the years, I’ve developed a skill that makes me pretty good at finding golf balls. Here are some of my strategies:

1. Observe. This one seems really simple and stupid. It is simple, but it’s not stupid. No one likes watching bad shots. But bad shots are the most important ones to watch. You know where a good shot is going – straight down the middle. A bad shot, though, can go anywhere. But a lot of people will turn away in anger and stop watching. And then they wonder why they can’t find the ball.

Sometimes the time to take the most diligent notes is when we know things are going horribly wrong.

2. Don’t be afraid to dedicate the majority of your time to the place where everyone first looked. People tend to have really good instincts. And so if your playing partner thinks he hit the ball near the 150-yard-marker, but then starts looking near the 100-yard-marker, chances are, the ball is closer to the 150. I always feel like a jerk when I am searching 50 yards further back than the guy who hit the ball. But when I find it, it’s all worth it.

Focus on the basics. Sometimes ideas are abandoned too quickly.

3. Gain perspective. Sometimes the most useful thing is to stop looking for the ball, and climb up on a hill or climb down a hill. Looking at the same area from a new perspective is incredibly helpful. Sometimes the grass is covering the ball from one angle. But it might be completely in sight from another.

Taking a creative break is almost always a good idea.

4. Be confident. The pros almost never lose balls. This is because they have scouts, but those scouts aren’t literally everywhere on the course. They have to watch the ball just like everyone else. Part of the reason the scouts are so successful is because they are closer to the ball’s destination and because finding the ball is their only concern. But the main reason I think scouts are so successful is because they are confident. They have a ten-foot by ten-foot area they think the ball is in. Not a 50-yard by 50-yard area. That makes things really easy.

If you are 90% sure of something, it’s probably best to go against the rest of the group even if it makes you look like a lone ranger.

5. Know when to cut your losses. Knowing when to give up the search is a talent in its own right. Some people stop searching too quickly. They find their original ball after they have already put a new one into play. Others search too long for a ball that is probably in the water. There’s a happy medium. The key is to have a healthy realistic understanding of the world. Not too pessimistic but not overly optimistic either.

You aren’t always going to find what you want, but that’s okay. Take it in stride.

I’m Asking You for Criticism

I don’t ask for criticism nearly enough. I get myself into situations where I think I got it all under control. And then I find out I don’t. Then I start to wonder how all of that happened. And it occurs to me that if I asked for some criticism every once in a while, it would fix all of these out of control situations.

I used to play golf competitively. My dad was my coach. It was complicated. I used to complain to him that every time he criticized me, it felt like he was breaking me down. He was my dad, I argued, he should be giving me confidence. And so I made it a big deal that my dad was my coach. It became a challenge that other kids didn’t have to deal with. But the truth was that the hard part wasn’t having a dad that was a coach, it was learning how to take criticism. If someone else had coached me, that coach would have criticized me too. Then I would have been able to come home and have my parents build me up and tell me how great I was already. And I probably would have never gotten better. Instead, I had to learn to take criticism from someone who loved me.

The truth is that when we talk about things that are important to us, we don’t like hearing the problems with those things. We don’t like hearing we are bad at getting people excited when we are the leader of an organization. We don’t like hearing that we are too clingy when we are in a relationship. We don’t like hearing that we don’t spend enough time studying or that we aren’t thrifty enough with our money. But we need to hear it.

Think about how efficient our social interactions would be, how much happier we would be if, instead of meeting over coffee with friends to complain, we asked them what we were doing wrong. Because our friends would tell us lovingly, and they would help us get better. Sure, we might have to bite the bullet and let them start seeing us as people rather than superhumans, but it would be worth it. Batman isn’t happy.

And in the end, it’s our decision what to do with the criticism. Sometimes it just makes you explain more what you are doing. Several people have told me they hate the question at the end of my posts. And I told them that it is standard practice for blogs, and eventually there will be a payoff.

What am I doing wrong? How can I make my blog better?