How many times in life have you heard the phrase “You get what you expect”? I think as much as we don’t want to admit the truth that statement holds, we all know deep down its true. Have you ever anticipated an experience or an event to be awful, and it was? We often underestimate the power of our sub-conscious mind. Unfortunately our sub-conscious mind can’t distinguish between positive and negative. It acts on that in which we are constantly feeding it. In the book Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller he says our attitude is like a row of dominoes that looks like this: Thoughts⇒Words⇒Beliefs⇒Actions⇒Results.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the PGA Championship with my dad for a few days here in St. Louis. It was an incredible experience and very well put on by the PGA of America. I could write a whole article just on the experience itself, but this isn’t the place for that. However, I want to draw upon something that happened while we were attending the practice rounds on Monday. We decided to attend the Monday practice session because we knew the golfers would be more interactive with the fans that day as compared to Wednesday when they started really preparing for the tournament. We found a great hidden spot that the golfers walked through and were willing to sign autographs, so we hung out there for a couple of hours. As one guy was signing my PGA Championship flag, I told him “thanks for stopping, good luck this weekend!” Seems like an encouraging thought right? Well, his response was: “If I make it to the weekend” (referring to not making the cut after the 1st 2 rounds on Thursday and Friday). I knew in that instant after his comment that he would not be making it to the weekend portion of the tournament.
I’m not going to mention his name here, you know, in case this post goes crazy viral and he comes across it. Although if he does, he’ll know who he is and hopefully this helps! I’m sure you can guess since I’m posting this, that he didn’t make the cut after Friday’s round (Wouldn’t make for a very good learning lesson if he made it would it?!). I found this very interesting, that a golfer on the PGA tour, some of the top golfers in the entire world had this attitude. Maybe it was a moment of weakness, and he had been struggling for a couple of weeks with his game, I hope that is the case, but how does a golfer reach the top ranks with this attitude and philosophy? Most of us underestimate the power and advantage having a strong mental can give us over our peers. Many people think that success in golf is all about the physical mechanics of your swing, however the mental aspect far outweighs the way you strike a golf ball. All-time great Jack Nicklaus said that “Golf is 80% mental, 10% ability, and 10% luck.”
A lot of people can train their muscles through practice and repetition to develop the muscle memory to hit a golf ball relatively straight at a high percentage. But what most people underestimate is the power that the mind plays in this process. Think of how much time golfers spend on their swing, when in reality that is only 10% of their results!!! If you’re a golfer, you know the disastrous effects that thinking in the middle of your swing can cause. For those of you non-golfers, here’s a couple of analogies to hopefully relate: If you know how to use chop-sticks, have you ever stopped and tried to explain to someone else how to use them? For those of you that mow your lawn, have you ever tried to teach someone how to cut the grass without overloading them with tips and tricks? What about that signature dish you cook without a recipe? I bet if you stop and try to write it down or teach someone else how to make it, it won’t taste nearly as good as when you’re in the zone making it.
I’ll try to bring this back to my original point: your mind will determine your success in life. One of my biggest mentors and influencers in my life, Charlie Licari, taught me at the age of 19 that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” (I’ve heard this quote attributed to multiple people, Charlie was the first that taught it to me though). It doesn’t actually matter if something unfortunate happens to you, it’s how you rebound and respond that determines who you really are as a person. Do you play the victim card or do you decide to overcome it and persevere anyways despite the circumstances? We all will go through obstacles in life, especially if you have big goals and dreams, but it’s the way we react to these obstacles that will determine if we ever reach the dreams we have.
Back to my golf analogies (sorry for those of you non-golfers, I started playing when I was 4, so it’s a big part of my life!). My Dad told me a story the other day that I had forgotten about. I was playing in a Jr. PGA Championship around the age of 12 or 13 and had a bit of a struggle on a hole. I think it took me 3 or 4 shots to get out of a bunker on one hole (still the 1 weakness of my game). My Dad was telling my swing coach, Dan Polites, what had happened. Dan’s first response had nothing to do with the struggle, but he asked what I did on the next 2 holes after that one. My dad said I made a par and then a bogey and recovered great. Dan said “that’s all that matters then. We all will have some hiccups along the way, but it’s how we respond on the following holes that allows us to still have a chance to shoot a good round.” I expected his reaction and advice to be centered around avoiding those kinds of blow up holes, but instead his primary focus was on the mental aspect of my game and the way I reacted to that frustrating moment.
If your mental toughness can determine this much about a sport, imagine the impact is has on your daily life and career success. Everyday things happen that give us a mental choice. You can either take the high road and continue the path to success, or play the victim and surrender our ambitions and dreams because of these events. The choice is yours.