This is what I wrote on January 04, 2017:
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.
Last 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.
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.
There 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:
- 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.
I’m Back to the Future and I’m headed back to the golf course!
Svgolfer – signing out.
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!!”
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.
This 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
Just a couple quick notes.
- It was cool to see Tom Watson sitting in the crowd at game 1 of America’s favorite pass-time, the World Series between my newly adopted baseball team (of some 10 years now so i can’t really say that anymore – although it was nice to see a hometeam – the Orioles – ((when was the last time we saw them in it again?)) – during the run up) the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. If you’re ever in Silicon Valley come on down and check out the minor league feeder team – the San Jose Giants – it just doesn’t get any better. I enjoyed watching Joe Panick last year while also enjoying some great tri-tip on a quintessential crisp clear San Jose Day. Minor league ball doesn’t get any better than hot dogs while watching the SJ Giants and Gigante and catching fireworks on perfect summer night.
- So what does this have to do with golfing? I was thinking about my golf swing while watching and observing the mechanics of both the batter and the pitcher (any of them on either team) as they wound up and prepared to swing or pitch. The whole thing is all too similar and very instructive to how one should approach the golf swing. The movements are exaggerated for sure but you can see the batter plant his back leg and turn his forward knee (or even lift it) as he winds up. The grips and hand turnover are very familiar (even if i can’t ever seem to duplicate them myself – YET). Posture, arms, how the back foot often ends up on its toe, the complete follow-through – all of it!!!. And you can really see how and what they mean by turning your hips to get power – not swinging with your arms.
When they give you the slow motion replay, it is brilliantly informative. Thinking about GratefulG and his visualization techniques, I could let my mind absorb some training by just watching TV intently and with purpose.
So. I think I’m gonna enjoy this World Series in more ways then one. As I stood there listening to Joe Buck and holding a 3-wood while swishing it across the rug in slow movements like a batter just loosening up before cocking the bat up in preparation for the pitch – I thought to myself “many of these sport are instructive – the way a tennis player torques to serve the ball or hit that backhand, how a pitcher launches a pitch, how a soccer player plants his foot before striking a winning goal, how a quarterback throws a long bomb – all of it – the whole magilla – is instructive.!!”
And then I thought – “there must be as many ways to set-up to the ball as there are ways to set up for a pitch. I mean, everyone who hits well doesn’t seem to set-up the same. And this made me go Hmmmm. Just how much should I conform myself to someone else way of instruction for developing my swing? I know I have to end up in what should be a balance swing plane – but how I set up to it will undoubtedly display some idiosyncrasies even if I have to conform them to the laws of physiques as it relates to alignment, posture, grip and other fundamentals.
But I digress – More on this later.
But then – right then – Pooof – there’s Tom Watson. I took it as a sign – for what? I don’t know – but some stars had to be aligning.
Side note to this side note: I think I need to stand over the ball more. I’m a straight putter – just about no arc at all is what feels good to me. And I’m wondering if my whole posture issue has to do with just not having the ball more underneath me – like more directly under my eyes.
Side note to this side note’s side note: And the Steelers winning last night was just the best bit of football I’ve had in a long time. Go Giants, Go Steelers, Go 49ers, Go figure, Go Golf.