Golf is sorta like business

In an age of prima donna sports stars, one group of professional athletes stands head and shoulders above others. One group of professional athletes embody everything that is good about sports. That group is the men and women who play professional golf. (There are of course, some exceptions.)

Consider a two facts about professional golfers: they keep their own score and they call penalties on themselves. Can you imagine a football player calling a penalty on himself? Or a pitcher calling balls and strikes on his own pitches?

Golf is unique in that the players themselves apply the rules. Just a few weeks ago a player disqualified himself from a tournament after learning he had broken an obscure rule. Even more remarkable is that he did so the next day!

The essence of sports is the pursuit of a goal within a clearly defined set of rules. It is this pursuit that makes watching sports enjoyable. In most sports this pursuit involves a direct competition with others, and the competitors generally take actions to impose obstacles to fellow competitors.

Again, golf is unique in that the players do not directly compete with one another. The primary competition is against the course—an inanimate object that provides the same obstacles and challenges to each competitor. The secondary competition occurs within each player—he must control his emotions during the inevitable highs and lows that occur within a round.

Indeed, golf is largely a mental game. Players do not have to react quickly. They have time between shots to identify and consider their options.

The same is true of our small business. We have time to plan our shots. We have options that we must consider. We must make decisions. And then we must execute those decisions. Like golf, business combines the mental and the physical. Unlike golf, business is not a game.

In lieu of shoes

One Christmas my wife wanted a pair of expensive athletic shoes for a gift. I was unable to find the shoes, even on the internet. So, in lieu of shoes my gift to her was a curio cabinet to house her pig collection. (You are probably thinking– A pig collection? But she has some neat pigs– fat pigs, skinny pigs, pigs made out of rock, short pigs, tall pigs, and even a piggy clock.)

Over the years I’ve built numerous pieces of furniture. While some were rather challenging, I thought that a curio cabinet would not be my most difficult project. Boy was I wrong.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this was a much more demanding project than I had imagined. Despite careful planning, there were many details that had initially escaped me. Despite carefully measuring, I found myself making wrong cuts and drilling holes in the wrong places. With each piece of wasted wood my frustration grew. But I persevered and eventually completed the cabinet.

So it often is with our small business. Despite careful planning, we often find ourselves confronted with situations that we did not anticipate. Despite careful execution, we often find ourselves with less than desirable results. And we find ourselves with a similar choice—throw our hands up in despair or learn from our mistakes and move forward. Or perhaps more importantly, we can learn from the success of others and avoid the mistakes all together.

Fortunately, with our business we can learn from others. We can avoid biting off more than we can chew. We can avoid putting ourselves in difficult situations. We can prevent many of the mistakes and frustrations that might result when we choose a course of action, in lieu of shoes.

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