Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lessons in self perception

It's a bit hackneyed to say that playing a round of golf with people will tell you everything you need to know about what they're like in business: Are they fun? Do they cheat? Are they a stickler for the rules? Do they take stupid risks?

I'm reminded of all this as I recently returned to playing golf after a 16-year hiatus. I used to be halfway decent; in fact, my first two editorial jobs were with Golf Digest and Golf Illustrated. Today, I have several clients in the golf business, so I've committed to bringing my game to an acceptable standard.

But coming out of retirement has been a reality check: I am older, weaker, less flexible, and have worse depth perception. On the flip side, I'm also a bit wiser, slower to anger, and more patient -- funny enough, much like I have become in business. Recognizing that I was getting worse with each progressive round, I knew that I needed help, or I might just abandon the game again for good.

So, I paid a visit to a pro at the local municipal course last night. Before doing anything, she asked me to hit a couple of balls to see what my swing looked like. Stage fright took over, and I hit a series of awful-looking line drives and topped shots that bounded feebly down the range.

After making a few quick technical adjustments, though, we spent the next hour working almost exclusively on perception vs. reality. What I thought I was doing was pretty different from what I was actually doing. Really, you kind of need to trick your brain into rethinking its understanding of alignment. One hour didn't get me back to 1994, but I was amazed at how much more comfortable I felt. There's hope for me yet.

Your mileage may vary, as far as using golf (or any activity) as a way of judging personality. But the business lesson for me was very personal: Getting to the end of my rope, and seeking out the help of a skilled third-party professional, was a reminder that we're often terrible self-judges of what we're doing.

And perhaps more important, that asking for help is not a weakness, it's a strength.


  1. You can usually identify a jerk within the first three holes, and by the end of 18, you know for sure.

  2. This is timely, because today I had a "difficult" meeting with a new client. Office bookkeeper told me I had balls...a good set, in fact! Uh....anyway, I never think of myself in this way...a confident broad...I'm always nervous with every encounter cause you never know what a client will hit you with. Over prepare and never think you're the smartest gal/guy in the room, get input from those who are smarter than you. In the end, you're not as dumb as you think.

  3. @John, too true. Heck, sometimes you can tell before you even tee off.

    @adchick, wise words from a wise bird!