Yesterday I finished reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It was really challenging for me and took an intense focus and concentration. Before reading this book, I got about halfway through The Basic Writings of Carl Jung (Modern Library Edition 1993) before I decided I needed a break because that material was also quite intense. After finishing Hero, I decided I would read a few lighter, shorter books before returning to Carl Jung. This morning I started With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham. While it is easy to read, I can already tell that it is exactly what I needed. Sometimes I think God speaks to me through the books he leads me to read.
Two weekends ago I hit rock bottom at the golf course. I went to Pinehurst, North Carolina with a group of guys for three days and four rounds of back to back golf. That place is so amazing. The golf history there is magical. I could feel the presence of the greats of golf such as Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, and the like. We played four beautiful courses. The guys I was with were a blast and they were all exceptional golfers. The experience was truly amazing and I will remember it forever. The only thing that went wrong on the entire trip was me! I played some of the worst golf of my life. It was embarrassing, frustrating and sent my self-esteem down the tubes. But I remember the words of Brian Buffini who said that “a setback is a setup for a comeback.”
The morning we left to come home, my travel companion and I went over to the clubhouse to buy souvenirs. We sat on the rocking chairs on the porch outside the clubhouse for a while watching the morning activities. The US world kids championship was going on, so we watched as kids got ready to start their rounds on Pinehurst Number Two. I felt conflicted. I felt like I had missed an opportunity. I spent three days in this beautiful place and completely blew it on the golf course. All four rounds. (Okay, there was one birdie.) Yet somehow, I knew this trip was a setup for a comeback and the trip was the inspiration I needed.
Many years ago, I wrote down that when I master my golf game, I will have the evidence I need to prove that that I’ve also mastered my mind. I’m not there yet and I certainly wasn’t there that morning. After 35+ years of playing golf I’m still suffering the same old self doubts and resulting poor performance on the course. Granted I don’t play that much and I don’t practice. Nonetheless, I am certain that my biggest problem is the mental aspect. I have had plenty of good golf shots so I know I’m capable. But my mind keeps getting in the way.
Mastering my mind, particularly in golf, has been a dream for a long time. More recently but still many years ago I quantified this mastery by setting a specific Goddard’s list goal to break 80. Over the course of 35 years playing the game I’ve scored an 80 once. I’ve had one 81, an 83, an 84 and several rounds at 85 or higher. One of my most memorable rounds of golf was an 85 at the Quail Hollow Club where the PGA Championship was held in 2017. To be clear, it’s not about the score. The score is simply the measurement of the result. I know I can do it, so what’s the problem?
That Sunday morning at Pinehurst, I thought about my lifelong goal. One of the things I really embraced over the past few years is leaning into coaches and mentors. This is new for me because for most of my life I’ve been afraid to ask for help. I’ve since discovered that by leaning into others I’ve been able to make more progress faster. For someone that has always tried to figure things out myself it’s funny to think about how this mental shift has changed me. That same “figure it out myself” person now has two business coaches, a personal trainer, a psychotherapist, swim coach, sports rehab chiropractor, a spiritual teacher, and a productivity coach. There’s probably others I’m forgetting. I’m getting a ton of help from paid professionals. I’ve also discovered value of learning from peers, mentors and both formal and informal mastermind synergy groups.
I’ve used my interaction with others as an endless opportunity to learn and grow. I’ve gotten much better at asking for help and advice. I have regular discussions with friends, colleagues and clients about books I’m reading. I’m involved in multiple book clubs and I meet regularly with peers so we can hold each other accountable. In the areas where I have applied these concepts, I’ve experienced tremendous personal growth. (I credit the book The Decision Maker, by Dennis Bakke for helping me see the light.)
That morning at Pinehurst, after hitting rock-bottom and thinking enough is enough, I realized I need to apply these same principles to golf. As Popeye would say, “that’s all I can stands and I can stands no more!” I will get help. I will get better and I will break 80.
Starting with some inspiration, I recall that while we were playing golf that weekend, one of the guys I was with shot a 79 during the third round. It was his first time shooting in the 70s. It was an extreme score differential for him because his first round was close to 100 and the second was 89. Considering I’ve been shooting around 100 consistently of late, there seemed to be hope for me. It was fitting that I would witness someone else who had been practicing more than me to achieve the goal that I have been after. He showed me exactly what it looked like to achieve my goal. That memory is burned into my mind. He was with a group of great friends and I was inspired by the support and encouragement he received. His playing partner was selflessly dedicated to helping his friend by reading putts for him and guiding him through the process. When the last putt was made for a score of 79 the rest of the group of friends all celebrated as if his victory was their own. There was camaraderie and true joy in the air. I felt true happiness and admiration for his accomplishment. There was no envy that day. I knew that someday that would be me.
That weekend I lost my confidence. I recognized that I need help and I need a coach. I searched online and found the golf academy back home where I had gone for a short game lesson a few years ago. They offer a three-day golf school to include a comprehensive review of all aspects of the game including the mental part. Bam. No more screwing around. I signed up and it’s happening this coming Friday.
While I was researching the school, I read that they teach a philosophy of sports psychology called the Mental Management System by Olympic medal winner Lanny Bassham. Turns out he wrote a book about it. Tada! The book is With Winning in Mind. I ordered a copy and started it today. I’m only a few chapters in but I can already tell it’s going to help. His system is about finding an even balance between the conscious mind (concentration), the subconscious (skills), and self-image (belief in oneself). I realize that I have a tendency to get out of balance in each of these areas. My conscious mind often tries too hard. My subconscious does not have the necessary skills because I don’t practice enough. And my self-image suffers because of self-criticism. All that ends today. I will read this book and I will practice. I will focus and I will concentrate. I will practice skills until they become subconscious. I will be positive and reinforce good behavior.
It so happens that all of this aligns perfectly to the spiritual and psychological work I’ve already been doing. Winning is about alignment. It’s about connectedness and oneness of consciousness, the unconscious and ego. Winning is about spiritual enlightenment. It is yet again another example that “there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching.” (Eckhart Tolle). I have not yet broken 80. But I will and I’ll start by focusing not on breaking 80, but by focusing on scoring in the 70s. I just learned this little trick by Lanny Bassham. Because if I focus on 80, I will score 80. You see, I am someone who shoots in the 70s. I’ve got the mental tools I need. I’ve got the skills I need. Stay with me here to find out how this all turns out. Come back soon to find out how I shot a score in the 70s at the game of golf.