Out here in the Valley all the news is always abuzz about a new start-up that’s become the next “Unicorn” – that rare little 4-person operation that started in a garage with just a twinkle of an idea and little faith and lots of chutzpah and a desire to change the world – and then Boom! “It’s a Unicorn!!” an unbelievable entity of the likes of Google or Instagram or Facebook Uber or whatever. One day you’re like “Who?” and the next day everyone is using that smartphone gadget or uploading photos using that must-have app.
I think many of the qualities that are required to make it as a start-up founder (or start-up marketer for that matter – my bailiwick) are quite similar to the one’s that make for a pro golf contender. Very few that apply to one don’t apply to the other. Here are some of the mental game qualities I heard Sir Nick mention in the commentary before the start of the final round this past Sunday. Life is golf – golf is life, is how I see it.
Courage – Whistling Straits demanded it of all players. There was no room for error. the Penalty for missing the fairway or the green were scary and sometimes insurmountable. Courage and conviction with one’s shot selection and swing were key.
An Uncluttered Mind (Focus) – is how Jack Nicklaus described Jordan Speith, according to Sir Nick, and his ability to play consistently and to bounce back from a setback. Setbacks are common when building a startup. Set-forwards, if you will, are called “pivot-points” around here. It means staying positive while learning from one’s mistake and making adjustments and coming back even stronger. Jordan’s greatest quality perhaps is his ability to stay clear of mind and light spirited and to keep his mind uncluttered.
Visualize – you’ve heard it all too many times but you need to see your future in order to make it happen just right. Same thing with the golf balls trajectory. See it and believe it and chances are it will become.
No fear – I guess that’s the brother to courage. It’s also a sticker found on many a car. And I guess that’s what Grateful Golfer’s friend had the other day when playing that impossible shot from deep in the woods.
Right Intention – I thought Nick made a particularly rare point here. See the shot and adapt to the shot with the right intention. I think that means letting go of the negative and holding on to the real goal – which is to be your best self regardless of the circumstance. To not play from a place of anger or negativity. There’s a little bit of letting go that is a part of this – I think.
On a mission – with all that said – you still have to have that Rocky Balboa attitude that you’re going after a goal and you’re going to make it. Can you hear the brass horns playing as Sylvester runs up the stairs? Often in the Valley we call it the “Stormin’ Normandy” mentality recollecting the beachhead strategy by the allies that required sheer will and determination despite the obvious downside to the strategy. Another way to say it is “By any means necessary.” This is about grit. This is about believing with your head, heart and soul and beyond. Nothing’s gonna stop you. Jordan seems to have this. Tiger had it (and I would argue, despite his lackluster results of late – is still really showing it, even more so because no one believes in him anymore and yet he’s still out there giving it the best he’s got).
And then ( 2 commercials later)….. I was struck by an equaling compelling thought pattern that applies to golf, life, and start-ups. When asked how he did what he did in his 3rd round performance, Matt Jones replied he “pretended like it was a practice round, tried to relax and decided to just have fun with it.”
As serious as all this stuff seems to be – in the end, as long as we remain gentlemen and hold onto our integrity and play fair….. all of it, life, golf, startups, the daily grind, – all of it is intended to be fun – it’s really just a game. It just becomes really hard when we forget that.