Back to The Future 2017 – Part I

Back to the Future and Why a Short Memory Is a Good Thing for Golfers & Start-Up Innovators

Many times I hear a sports commentator reflect on the mental game of a good quarterback, basketball player or golfer and they’ll say something like, “He has a short memory and that’s something that serves him well.” They’ll continue and say something like “You know he’s gonna fire that touchdown in there if he’s given a chance. He’s always thinking about the next down, the next play…. and doesn’t let bad passes, turnovers or interceptions throw him – You just can’t teach that stuff!!” football-pass

Confidence and the ability to ‘get ‘er done,’ comes from constantly looking forward and letting the history a mistake or a bad decision or a lapse in performance be exactly that – history. 20/20 hindsight often offers little except stoked fires of regret, resentment and self-degradation.

I think this viewpoint also applies to my journey of  trying to get to a point of comfort playing golf. A journey that’s always exacerbated by the time commitments of working overtime in the grueling new technology economy that’s fast-paced and where often the phrase ‘everything is new and has never been done before,’ stands as the crucible of what it means to be a worker in Silicon Valley. And that applies to start-up founders as well as your run of the mill everyday employee. I’ve had the luxury of being both.

EW20th_infographic_FINALThis experiment called Silicon Valley is quite amazing if you stop and think about it. Even though there are many huge billion dollar companies in the Bay Area – many of them are no more than twenty years old and that includes household names like Google, Apply and Amazon. Old-timers like Intel and Oracle are only twice as old thereabouts. Nothing here resembles the lifestyle, workstyle or pace of change found in more traditional last- century economies.  And even behemoths like Intel are still relative newborns compared to most old-economy companies. The parlance around here often refers to ‘lava formation’ as the state-of-creation that makes up everyday life and the challenges inherit in learning how to build stuff that’s never been created before – to do something new, to learn new techniques, to improve on what’s been built and to look for that proverbial touchdown after making a series of mistakes – and failure and mistakes run a plenty in this former land of “Heavenly Delight.’ We just don’t ever hear about them.

Which brings me back to my golf game. And a recent bout of retrospection I ended up grappling with over the holidays. I’ve spent some time musing over all the things I had planned to do in 2016. This was triggered by an innocent question from my daughter while on vacation. “Dad?” She asked “did you play that tournament last year like you said you would Dad?” She added “You know, you’ll never get better if you don’t practice.”

I was going to do so many things last year. I was going to be so discplined and get to the golf course and practice aspects of my swing and stance and grip while at home. I was going to get home training equipment. I was going to practice with a net in the front yard. I would get an instructor. I would play at least once a month and my crowning achievement would be playing in a tournament – any tournament! I hardly accomplished anyone of these goals – in fact, I hardly accomplished anything the more I looked backwards. My mental judger started issuing proclamations. What a loser I am. I’m never going to get anywhere. I’ve wasted so much time. Why should I bother? Making resolutions is a pointless thing to do.

Thinking about making commitments for this year became harder and harder. And then something changed. I decided to focus on the present and realized how what I decided to focus on NOW could make all the difference in how I would feel one year from now and beyond. There’s nothing I can do about yesterday but I still can impact tomorrow by doing something now. One day maybe I will be a 65 year old Unicorn tearing it up in some senior tournament – who knows? But I won’t get anywhere worrying and feeling down about the past. My biggest challenge wasn’t to figure out where I went wrong but to make a decision to re-commit today. And I thought about the sports commentators. The difference between success and failure starts in the mind. Deciding to try again isn’t really that hard a decision to make. And after much trepidation, I did.

….continued in Part II

Advertisements

PGA Golf Lessons Apply to the Silicon Valley Start Up LIfe

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.

Myth of the Unicorn

Myth of the Unicorn

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.

Courage

Courage

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.

courage2

SVG-out

Practice Notes to Self on the Backswing – Think Frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

Did some front yard practicing today with my at-home practice station. Took out my SKLZ target netting, a fairly huge contraption but easy to set up (don’t worry I don’t use real golf balls – i use the perforated plastic ones instead), and tried out my new grips and tried to focus on some backswing drills that work on the CASH principle of trying to move/turn the clubhead (in other words – the wrists) first, then the arms then the shoulders and then the hips.

I did a few swings slow motion but it was hard to think it through on a normal swing and I started to get all jumbled.

Then I remembered a thought I had after reading something online – about the swing really being all about the left arm.  If you use the left arm to move the club instead of your right arm – you’ll have a better chance of guiding the club correctly.

That’s the thing with golf – it’s such a game of opposites – swing down to get the ball up, focus on calming your mind instead of getting all pumped up, work on being more humble instead of brandishing your ego.  When it comes to the swing – I’m figuring out it’s about using your non-dominate arm instead of getting power and control from your right arm (if you’re right handed).

frisbee3So I had a little Eureka moment.  When i tried to focus on that – I came up with the thought of trying to throw a frisbee with my left hand.  I was playing with the idea that the backswing and the swing all together is more like a left-handed backhand in tennis.  I read that in one of the blogs or a magazine.  And I always heard that the swing altogether is like trying to skip a stone across a pond or similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball.  But the latter images made me focus on my right hand and action with my right wrist arm and shoulders. But when I tried to emulate throwing a frisbee with my left hand I sorta kinda really got the sensation of having to keep that left arm extended, turning my wrists at the right times and leading with my hips as I tried to shift from back to front. It was palatable and replicable and natural even if awkward.

I also got the feeling that I could also emulate the sensation of trying to hit a nail with a hammer – something you hear many pros talk about when talking about the precise nature of getting the sequence for power right…the idea that you delay the striking of the hammer until just before you hit the nail much like you need to delay the club head from swinging forward until it comes back down below your hips. The whipping sensation came about naturally when I tried to swing like I was throwing a frisbee – because the speed of the frisbee comes from delaying the flicking of the wrist until the last moment.

Anywho – the ‘throwing of the frisbee with my left hand’ seems to work conceptually for me much more so then trying to think clubhead, arms, shoulders, hips.

So my practice session was useful in that regard.  Now I’ll have to see if that sensation remains after a few more practices.  But after several weeks of feeling like I haven’t started making improvements on anything except putting, this is a glimmer of hope.

That’s golf for ya’.  Just when you start to get discouraged, she throws you a bone and you’re right back in it like its the first day. Hazzah!!

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

Backswing Basics – CASH into a good sequence

So I’m back into focusing on my game.  I played 9 holes a couple weeks back and although it wasn’t a great round I did notice that the one area I did well in was my putting – which is the one area I’ve been focusing on since the beginning of the year.  I can’t beat myself up too much because work’s been a grind and I haven’t been able to focus or practice much but I need to double down and re-look at my goals for this year.  But it felt great having such a grooved routine that I didn’t have to even think about for my putting.  I never 3-putted and I guess that counts for something.

I’m almost done with my batch of lessons – my very first batch of lessons from an instructor EVER! – and I have to admit that the greatest benefit from this is that I swing all the way around in one full motion now – instead of decelerating or stopping short.  My instructor’s been good with giving me mental thoughts and I’ve changed out my grips (per his advice) for the first time ever.  Who knew? (common phrase for me it seems) but grips are like running shoes – you have to replace them every so often even if you don’t play with them – they dry out from use and/or age.  At a minimum you should wash them often to get the grit off.

So now I have a new set of Golf Prides’ that are a smidge wider than my older grips on my new/used set of Titliest DC9’s.

And now I have a confidence that if I focus on a particular area of my game, I will see improvement over time – so I’m gonna focus on my irons. 3-9.

Recently I read a GratefulG blog about the many resources available to us die-hards and I decided to take advantage of online videos and such to research how to practice my backswing where I have a lot of trouble sequencing club movement and staying on plane.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the real sequence evolves from thinking purely about the left arm’s movement and to think: clubhead, then arms, then shoulders, then hips when it comes to what rotates in what order. The acronym is CASH.  Move the clubhead to 730pm on the clock face, then move the arms to 9 oclock, then turn the shoulders until the left shoulder is under your chin/chest over your right foot, and lastly turn your hips until your back faces the target.  Also, I’m learning that the backswing is not where you get power – it’s just the set-up to get into position – like pulling the bow back before you release the arrow.  Once I got the CASH thing in my head, I saw it every where – on TV, in magazines and in a ton of online videos so this is a fundamental that I need to groove into a routine.

Anyway, that’s where I am for now.  I haven’t written in a while but I’m gonna try and get back in the saddle for that as well.

My Pittsburgh Steelers are playing tonight – whoo hoo! life is good.  I love my new grips – they feel great.  I shoulda done that a long time ago.

SVG-out

Backswing_CASH

Take a Pause & Shake A Hand

Couple of quick notes as I shake of my work week (phew – what a doozy, nothing but non-stop digital marketing stuff AND I had to compile a bunch of end-of-quarter budget and projections stuff. and i hate working with numbers (except on the course, chuckle chuckle…. “for the love!!!”).

Note #1: Hadn’t been to my favorite before-work putting green in a while but I didn’t have to drop my daughter off at summer school this morning so swung by and did a few putts trying to a do nothing but 2-putts from about 30 feet out.  Hit them all. I really developing confidence and trust in my routine.  And it’s becoming natural – I don’t think to much at all about it.  About time I guess – I’ve been working on it since January.  My first putts were all within 5 feet and I nailed them all in.  Sidenote – it was a damp morning.  I always seem to do better on damp greens (not wet enough to leave grass on the ball – just la little moist).

Note #2:  I’ve been working at my at-home practice station on pausing at the top of my swing – very deliberately – and I’m getting a much better feel for my transitions from front to back.

Greg Norman1Note #3:  Watched the shark (Greg Norman – who also makes a fabulous Pinot

The shark has a nose for good wine

The shark has a nose for good wine

Noir and you gotta love his apparel too, right?) on the Golf Channel and he talked about getting to a position halfway in your backswing where you could literally shake hands with someone standing directly behind you if the butt end of your shaft was pointing directly at the target.  To do this you have to really focus on keeping your swing low and extending that left arm so your outer circle keeps it’s proper circumference.  Anyway, I’ve been practicing that to good effect as well.  Swinging from the ground up he says – really keeps you from going inside to quickly.

Note #4: Sitting down after this long week, with nobody home, so the first thing to do is flip on the Golf Channel and the JAMESDRISCOLL-PROPEN_depth1Web.com tour is on and this golfer – James Driscoll – was sharing some practice tips for after his -7 round.  He has a club with some pebbles or bullets in it or something that makes a audible sound – he takes the club to the top, waits for the stones to drop and for the noise from rattling around in the shaft to stop, and then swing.  He was working on deliberately pausing at the top of his swing.  So that re-affirmed some of the direction I was taking the past two week.

Going slow, taking my time, learning to pause and shaking the hand of the invisible guy behind me are thoughts I’ve been holding onto with good result.  This game takes time to dial-in but persistence seems to pay off.  Maybe I’ll get to play a 9-holer this weekend before I dive back into the melee.  That’s the valley – what can i say!

The A Swing – A new approach and new book by David Leadbetter

QuDave Leadbetter_A Swing Bookick notes from Golf Central on the Golf Channel with Martin Hall.  I feel affirmed about my hunches about the backswing that I blogged about a couple days ago.

  1. New book released by David Leadbetter called “The A Swing – the alternative approach to Great Golf”
  2. DL’s 8th instructional book.  Why?
  3. It’s about the backswing – because the backswing is really difficult to repeat on a consistent basis .  Most amateurs go way inside too quick or turn too soon versus really good athletes who can compensate better.
  4. It’s all about synchronization between the inside circle (your hands) and the outside (the club head) of the body or the 2 circles of the swing.
  5. Leadbetter mentions Calvin Peete as one of his favorite players with a great swing.  Up there with Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus, etc.  Interestingly, Calvin swung with a bent left arm because it was broken during childhood and never re-set properly.  He died recently.David Leadbetter2
  6. Calvin Peete never let the clubhead get behind his hands.  Hands stay in and the clubhead stayed out.
  7. He likens it to a batter in baseball – go figure, just like I mused about in my recent random thoughts blog entry and I know the Grateful Golfer mentions this in his blog as well.
  8. If you keep the clubhead outside all the way to the top  you end up in a sorta natural batter’s set-up position which sets you up for more consistent down swings where the club head levels out perfectly to strike the ball.
  9. Closing comments – It’s all about simplicity.

I’m gonna take a look at some Calvin Peete swings on Youtube or something.  And next time I’m in the book store, I’ll check out the book.

David Leadbetter1

But this is re-assuring …. Leadbetter’s approach.  Because I still don’t fell ultra-confident about my ability to be consistent with my backswing.

What a nice end to what was an unusually grueling day in the Valley.

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Why this number is fundamental to Golf?

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Another Who Knew?-Certainly not me!-Aha moment Blog Entrynumber_9_green

This is a bit about golf swings and how many unique types of ball flights are generated from a classic golf swing.  I may have written about this last year but I think it’s worth repeating – for my practicing’s sake.

But first, a little bit about that title? – Yes, I was one of those music fans who contemplated the notion that John Lennon may have taken out, offed, rubbed out (call it what you want)  Paul McCartney back in the day (for those of you too young to remember the Beatles craze, there is lore concerning the White Album’s song that repeats the phrase ‘Number 9’ for like 100 hundred times and ends with a muffled voice that sounds like John Lennon saying ‘I buried Paul’ or ‘I murdered Paul’ in slow motion – it was a street myth that went on for years) and that the living bass player is an impostor.  Takes you back to those brilliant 70s radio daze when DJs would do anything to keep their listeners tuned in and once in a while blessed us with a full weekend of nothing but Beatles day in day out.  Not so much these days when Silicon Valley innovations  have practically mummified “by-appointment radio music listening” habits by supplying music subscription services for our mobile phones like Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify and Itunes.

But I thought of that song title when researching the golf swing and what the basic patterns for golf ball flight are.  So when I stumbled on this seemingly common data point regarding the 9 fundamental swing paths for a golf ball, I figured why not tie in my crazy brain-connect-the-dots machine to come up with a catchy title.

Swing batta' battah!

Swing batta’ battah!

But it’s true.  About the 9 fundamental flights that is.  After getting over the fact that shanks and wicked hooks don’t count, I’ve come to realize there are only 9 true ball paths.  And, more importantly, as I getting better at actually striking the golf ball, I’ve also come to realize it’s important to try and effect one of these paths while practicing and aiming for a precise target on the driving range – versus just wailing away and feeling great that I didn’t clock the guy standing just 10 feet to my right with an errant knuckle sidewinder  – and there’ve literally been times when I was truly afraid that might could happen, much earlier in my practice days but nonetheless still haunting my brain cells every now and again.

So – if you weren’t aware there are 9 fundamental golf ball flight paths that should be part of any proficient ball strikers repertoire – the execution of which would prove one’s mastery at effectively controlling the golf swing.

9 ball flights 2

The 9 swing paths are

  1. Pull Hook
  2. Pull
  3. Pull Slice
  4. Draw
  5. Straight
  6. Fade
  7. Push Hook
  8. Push
  9. Push Slice

This website explains the ‘who-and-a-what-now?’ details http://www.tutelman.com/golf/ballflight/ballflight.php

By the way – a fade and a draw are the most minor deviations from a straight correct ball flight that lie within the first off-axis flight types – the hook and the slice.

I like to think of these ball flight paths as being analogous to the various travel paths of a tennis ball and their associated spin: such as cross-court top spin, straight center flat, under-spin cross court, down the line etc.  Another analog might be the various ball placements for a pitcher as he tries to place the pitch down the middle, inside right, outside left, high/low, etc.  There are only so many fundamental ball paths that need to be mastered and executed – after which you’re in outlander territory including beaning the batter, throwing fouls, or spinning up dirt.

There are other golf ball paths or variations like a ‘cut’ or even a ‘chardonnay fade’ (I heard that one on the Golf Channel) and so on – but it’s the little tidbits like this that make me always say “who knew?”  As an amateur, this stuff just doesn’t come up while talking on the range or flipping thru mags.

9_ball_flights

This game of golf, no matter how accessible the USGA and the PGA and other organizations are trying to make it, is full of fundamentals that are so numerous, I consistently find myself saying “who knew?”  Learning it is definitely not for the faint of heart.   And I haven’t even begun to read up on the rules of golf.  I mean, for realz – this is not a sport for someone who just wants a few pointers and then they’re off.   It is complicated, complex, befuddling, mathematical, precise, and filled with painstaking minutia.  Look at how changing the grass to fescue in the US Open befuddled some of the world’s top players.  What sport do you know of – other than maybe tennis – that can change the actual playing surface type on you, not to mention the entire set-up from one tournament to the next?  Chambers Bay was the trifecta on that score – actually changing par on some holes from day-to-day.  What the?  They actually changed par for the holes 1 and 18!  A baseball field is always the same (sure there are some minor deviations but they mostly affect things like hitting a home run).  A basketball court is always the same and all tennis courts have the same dimensions even if some games are played on grass or clay. But not golf.  No siree.   The depth of knowledge and ability to adapt required to execute, understand and excel at the game is substantial.  And that’s before you get into the inner psyche-ego-id challenges one needs to be aware of and overcome in order to maintain some level of decorum and consistency while executing said swing.

So what is one to do?  Keep on learning I guess while reminding oneself that golf isn’t a destination – it’s a journey – like life, love and dare I say, enjoying music – a journey in search of a holy grail, I guess, but a journey nonetheless that mandates a desire for continuous seeking and discovery.  I’m not giving up.  But I think I’m gonna create a new music listening station on my Pandora titled No.9 and I’ll playing it the next time I’m looking for my golf ball in the trees somewhere well off the fairway.  I wonder if any of the fab four were ever smitten by the siren song of mother earth meeting time out of mind?

SVG-out