Back to The Future 2017 – Part II

This is what I wrote on January 04, 2017:

starttrek

Captain’s Log (I always like to pretend I’m Captain Kirk). Journal Entry Title – “Try Try Again & Back to the Future Basics.” 

“Well it’s another New Year and I have to stare into my mental mirror and be honest with myself while trying not to extinguish any new flames for getting back onto the golfing saddle so to speak.

pastLast year I set out some serious goals that I thought would be easily attained in terms of improving my golf game. One of them was to play in a local tournament before the year was out. While on our way to San Diego for a little sun and warmth, my daughter asked me if I had accomplished this simple goal and I had to reply, “No.” I then heard all of my words of advice offered up to her freely in terms of improving at playing the Viola or mastering Calculus assignments or completing her Girls Scout project – how genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, how putting in the time and making important things a priority in one’s daily life is essential for success at anything…. and all the other sage words I offered to get her through her fall school semester.

COME ON! – How hard is it to play and practice at least 3-4X a month and enter a tournament – ANY tournament?? It could’ve been a tournament for people who never held a golf club and I still would’ve been able to ‘check the box.’

But NO – Bupkiss – I failed. I failed to get myself where I wanted to be by December 30, 2016. I didn’t practice at the range, I didn’t play the easy 9-hole course only 10 minutes ways, I stopped watching Golf Academy, I let my Golf magazine subscription lapse and my clubs gathered dust.

And then. I thought a little harder. But you know? Now that I stop and think about it – HOLD ON! It wasn’t a complete wash. I did make some forays and I did check some boxes. I signed up for lessons and took 4 out of the allotted 5 lessons. And for about 5 weeks I did practice routines that the instructor suggested and did some of my own investigation and work on my balance, foot positioning and swing. I got a pre-paid key for the ball machine and use up half of the $100 dollar allotment. I picked up a new Titliest pitching wedge 56 degree. And I did spend a lot of time online watching Hogan’s and Palmers and Oosterhuis’ and other players’ golf swings ( to see whose body type most matched mine and what they did with it). I gave a ton of thought during meetings at work or while waiting in the security line at the airport on weight shifting and stuff like proper posture and how nothing should be hurried in the backswing. And after a lot of thinking I actually arrived at a conclusion: That I had yet to settle on some of the best basics for my swing – namely my grip and my posture.

As much as I like the pinky grip because it feels more secure, I think it wasn’t allowing me to grasp the club properly with my forefinger and thumb. SO I played around with it – starting around October. And recently decided to experiment with the overlap grip. It wasn’t entirely comfortable at first but it did make me feel like I had more control and consistency in maintaining a firmer but more supple grip all around. overlap1

And there was more!!

I also decided that I was bending over too much – and definitely from the waist instead of from the hips and, most importantly, that my lower back was not as straight as it should be. So I started practicing around the house – bending at the hips and settling into a position that had my back-end pushing out as if I was just getting ready to sit down. And I read and Googled more on it and went to the range only a few weeks ago standing taller and more erect. While there, I also flared my left foot a little more to help with some rotation and I tried to keep my chin up a little more in order to really allow room for my shoulders to rotate – something I fail to do a lot but which can really mess with my arc causing a lot of adjustments in the downswing and often making me hit turf before ball.

And, You know what? My first 2017 practice swing at the range with my new Titliest pitching wedges was delicious. And this was after months of not practicing but just mentally and randomly working on some fundamentals until they made sense.

drivingrange-2There I was after a long time off the range and I hit several shots that really felt good. After striking a bucket of ~80 balls I had maybe 8 shanks or flubs. 40 swings resulted in fairly straight solid trajectory paths with respectable arcs across my wedges, 8-iron and 5-iron. About 2 strokes were super sweet with the ball flying like it wanted grow feathers and keep going and with barely any sensation on the club head. The rest were pulls or pushes but they stay relatively on course and, considering how long I’d been off the range, I could not be disappointed. Frankly I was pleased.

I had reached a decision for 2017 by concluding several things:  now

  • Sometimes you’re doing work even when it seems like you’re doing nothing
  • Basics are the 80/20 rule of work. To go beyond is not advised until you have them down and sometimes it worth taking one step back in order to get those fundamentals down.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself – the past is the past and having a short memory actually can be a good thing in most cases. Because in order for the future to be bright there’s no harm in letting go and getting started again today.
  • And sometimes even when you can’t check the box on a big goal you may still be able to point to a few steps in the right direction.

I further thought that this type of thinking is exactly the kind of advice anyone can use when pursuing just about anything including trying to kickstart a start-up company, design a self-driving car or write that great American novel. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again. Failure and false-starts go hand in hand with perfect passes, winning touchdowns and eventual Super Bowl victories.

And with that – I re-committed.  touchdown

I’m Back to the Future and I’m headed back to the golf course! 

Svgolfer – signing out.

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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

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

Chambers Bay US Open – Get Your Groove on Music Play List

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a playlist.  Often I like to post tunes that get me in the groove when I’m heading to the driving range or the putting green.  Many a time, I’ve found myself pinching myself at how lucky I am – even as an aspiring amateur – to walk to lovely greens on a dewy crisp Silicon Valley morning and to be ensconced in nature’s beauty and surrounded by uplifting or cool riffy music.  Often too I find myself walking down memory lane to days gone by in ways that only music can provoke and smiling at the tapestry of thought wrapped in ambiance and reflection.

I just posted a pic of Tiger heading out for his last practice session with a pair of wireless headphones dancing around his neck.

I imagine there is many a golf player out there in the northwest doing the very same thing – turning to their go-to playlist and finding their jam or getting their groove and putting their heads on straight – in between pointers from their coach and media interviews.  I sure do wonder what they listen to and I wonder if the media might ever ask questions like that during the press conferences – it would definitely be something different to know about and could help mix up our understanding of these blade wand titans.

But I digress.  Here’s a melange of tunes (and album covers) I think are appropriate for the novel golf course and 1st-time tournament in Washington state.  Hope you enjoy it.  Being my typical self-indulgent self, I added personal notes here and there.  Who knows, maybe my daughter might read this blog years from now and she’ll at least have any idea what was making me tick all those times I insisted on going to the putting green.

Turn on your Spotify or Pandora or iTunes & Listen on  – SVGout.

(P.S. there are 15 songs and 15 is the age of the youngest player out there playing the US Open and it also represents the number of majors Tiger will have won if he wins this one and this is the 115th US Open.)

  1. Walking On A Dream by Empire of the Sun on Walking On A Dream
  2. A Fuller Moon by The Sea And Cake on Car Alarm
  3. Concrete Seconds by Pinback on Blue Screen Life (get it?  your computer goes blue screen just before it crashes and you have to re-boot.  wish life could actually work like that sometimes especially here in the Valley. but that really only applies to PCs not Macs so i guess i’m dating myself and maybe someone in the band)
  4. Dragonfly on Bay Street by Ron Sexsmith on Cobblestone Runway (upbeat but kinda lonely.  one of my favorites for putting.  wonder if Tiger feels like a dragonfly walking down a mainstreet right about now?)
  5. Breakdown by Miguel Migs on Outside The Skyline (good beat)
  6. Something About You by Daft Punk on Daft Club (total chill and memory lane tune)
  7. Year of The Cat by Al Stewart on Year Of The Cat (classic retro-tune from the days when analog and tape-to-tape ruled and there really was such a thing as a singer-songwriter.  it’s a shame they don’t make music like this anymore)
  8. Remind Me by Royksopp on Melody AM (always makes me think of flying out of SFO International Airport and traveling round the country and globe.  kinda existential.  it’s also the tune in the background of one of the GEICO commercials with the ape-man getting all flustered about something)
  9. Lasso by Phoenix on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (good tune for the driving range)
  10. Winter Nights by Cloud on Exceptionally Remixed 2 (think midnight, all is quiet and that single-malt scotch is just sublime)
  11. Let Go by NRBQ on Keep This Love Goin’ (dreamy, hopeful – everyone needs a little hope now and then, especially us amateurs, reminds me of moving alot and of some times in Boston, MA)
  12. New Frontier by Donald Fagen on The Nightfly (life is always a new frontier, especially around here where half the things you do and use weren’t even invented a decade ago – where’s my cheese?  we’ve gotta have some music on the new frontier!)
  13. Guess I’m Doing Fine by Beck on Sea Change (sad but positive)
  14. This Is The Life by Two Door Cinema Club on Tourist History
  15. Lisztomania (Classixx Version) by Phoenix on Kitsune Maison Compilation  (this one never gets old for me. snap your fingers, think those thoughts, get that groove, tap your feet and feel the techno hipster gidget gadget sound…)
Dragonfly On Bay Street

Dragonfly On Bay Street

Phoenix_Lisztomania_Wolfgang_Amadeus_Phoenix Daft Punk Cloud_Winter Nights Two Door CinemaThis Is The Life Royksopp-Remind Me BeckGuess I'm Doing Fine Al Stewart_Year of the Cat

Prelude to the Open – Riddle Me That & Hole Names at Chambers Bay

I was doing a little reading about the upcoming US Open and jotted down these interesting data points and things.  That’s what you do around here in the Valley – jot down data points and look for trends.  Everything’s always about measuring ROI and metrics.  Bah Humbug.  No trends here though – looks like there’ll be a lot of first for this first Washington State event.

USOpen_ChambersBay

Here are some facts and the names of the 18 holes at this year’s US Open at Chambers Bay in University Place – Washington State.  These are gleaned courtesy of the US Open Official magazine provided by the USGA.

  1. It’s a fine fescue grass course – a first for the US Open.  Tournament directors believe those who come and prepare early will benefit from their learnings about how this grass behaves.  It is not a flat blade grass like other course grasses but a very thin round blade that tends to grow in one direction.  Bouncing a ball into the grain can result in serious slow down in speed while balls traveling with the grain will move more quickly.  Note:  Fine fescue is not a singular turf type but is an amalgamation of several types of fescue – red, hard, Chewings and others.
  2. Chambers Bay was built on an abandoned sand and gravel mine.  The site was also home to a lumber mill, paper mill and a railroad hub.
  3. Steilacoom is the name of the Native American Indian tribe that inhabited the area prior to industrialization.  They established an ancient fishing village here.
  4. This will be the very first US Open hosted by Washington state in comparison to it’s southern cousin, Oregon, which has hosted 32
  5. It has the widest fairway in US Open history
  6. It has the steepest drop shot in US Open history
  7. It has the deepest bunker in US Open history
  8. For holes #1 and #18 the par will change from one day to the next ( a first for the US Open)

Chambrbay_Millbins

Ruins from the Mills

Ruins from the Mills

List of Hole Names (I like ’em, I like ’em alot)

  • Hole 1 – Puget Sound
  • Hole 2 – Foxy
  • Hoe 3 – Blown Out
  • Hole 4 – Hazard’s Ascent
  • Hole 5 – Free Fall
  • Hole 6 – Deception Point
  • Hole 7 – Humpback
  • Hole 8 – High Road Low Road
  • Hole 9 – Olympus
  • Hole 10 – High Dunes
  • Hole 11 – Shadows
  • Hole 12 – The Narrows
  • Hole 13 – Eagle Eye
  • Hole 14 – Cape Fear
  • Hole 15 –  Lone Fir
  • Hole 16 – Beached
  • Hole 17 – Derailed
  • Hole 18 – Tahoma

chambersbay2015usopenlogo-304-1