The Similarities of Golf and Life

woman-golfer-in-the-rainI played golf yesterday for the first time in over seven years. It was my Dad’s love and I’ve avoided the sport at all costs since his death. Besides being completely horrible at the game, the thought of four hours on a majestic course being flooded with memories was overwhelming. But my boss made me play.

The tournament was a benefit my company was sponsoring to raise money for a scholarship program to provide educational opportunities for children of wounded warriors.  I was perfectly comfortable working the registration table, driving the beer cart – even picking trash from the course at the end of the day – I was given no choice:  get some clubs and play.

My own clubs went in the garbage months after Dad died.  While they weren’t good clubs, in hindsight, I realize it was probably not the most responsible way to handle grief.  But they were just too painful of a reminder of my hero.  So one day, when we were cleaning out the basement, I grabbed the bag and chucked the whole thing into a rental dumpster we had for the weekend.  Clubs, shoes, dozens of balls and lord knows what else all went away forever. The sadness did not.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I lay in bed late Sunday night listening to the rain coming down in sheets.  “Good,” I thought to myself, “this ought to cancel the tournament.”  There is no way they will play in a thunderstorm, so I rolled over and tried to sleep away my anxiety.  It was a restless night and sleep did not come.  Golf, however, did.

I drove on Monday morning to the course at Andrews Air Force Base.  Despite the angry grey clouds – which matched my mood perfectly – the turnout was amazing and we set off for a nice afternoon of play.  I went to the pro shop to rent clubs.  I skipped the practice range and the putting green; I figured there was no hope for me and decided playing “cold” was as good as it was going to get.

My foursome was a client and his guest and an industry colleague I knew well; the latter was an ace golfer who takes the game very seriously.  I jokingly apologized to him for his misfortune with me as a partner and tried to use humor to mask my fear of playing for the first time in so long.  Thankfully, it was a best ball tournament and we only needed to take one shot from each player to meet the tournament rules.

My game was what I expected it to be.  My first tee shot stayed on the tee and I missed more putts than I care to admit.  But somewhere along the way, I came face to face with some old memories and found myself enjoying the day and the game again. The weather was horrible.  The tournament was stopped once for lightening and many players left the course and never returned to finish.  We spent a good 30 minutes at one point waiting out a gully-washer under a massive Oak tree.  There were more “instant” water hazards in the fairways and on the greens than I’ve ever seen.  But we did get all 18 holes completed.

I even got really lucky and somehow pulled off winning the longest drive contest for the ladies.  I know that came with a little help from my golfer angel; as I stepped up to the red markers, I whispered a little, “Ok, Pop, this one’s for you,” prayer and the ball dropped about two inches past the marker of the previous best shot.  Isn’t that amazing?

But the absolutely best part of the day came at the dinner, when the prayer was made before the meal.  I did not know the person was who was asked to give thanks for our special guests or our meal.  I know the words she spoke were not intended for my struggles, but for those of the many wounded warrior guests in attendance, but they spoke directly to my heart.

She likened the game of golf to the struggles we face in life, trying to get from pin to cup, facing obstacles and challenges along the way.  How we must figure out how to overcome the hazards and unexpected obstructions that obscure our path and cause us to not meet our goal in the way we have planned. She reminded us that we have opportunity to sit and enjoy nature, enjoy quiet conversation with strangers when we least expect it.  That we don’t always get the shot we want, but with practice and dedication, we can turn the unexpected places we end up into new vantage points from which to launch the next phase our game.

Yes, for as much as I dreaded facing an old memory yesterday, it was quite nice.  Despite the wind and the rain, the humiliation of how horrible of a golfer I am, I had a nice day.  My partner and I shared some great “Dad” golf stories (he just lost his Father a few months ago), I faced a lion of fear and I actually enjoyed the game. While I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to replace my clubs just yet, I might not fight so hard next time I’m asked to play.

New Perspectives

types_of_flies3There’s a fly in my office this morning. I’m not sure where it came from in the middle of winter, but right now, he’s driving me insane with his fierce determination to fly through the window pane and reach freedom outside. I hate to break it to the little fellow that he’s probably going to beat himself senseless — or worse — in his efforts to achieve the impossible. The buzzing alone may cause me to cut his efforts short…

His valiant attempts remind me of a Price Pritchett story on change that I read decades ago about a similar fly. Trying desperately to fly through the screen of a cabin in the woods to reach the great outdoors, all while a mere 10 feet away, the front door stood wide open. All that was required of the fly was to stop, turn around and fly across the room to his desired reward. The whole world awaits, unobstructed, through that open cabin door. All the fly needed to do was see the world from a new perspective and his goal would be easily attained.

Sometimes, I think we’re all determined little flies. We know the goals we have in mind. After all, we can see them right there in front of us, right? We work so doggedly hard beating ourselves senseless, doing everything we know to break through the barriers that stand in our way! Yet, despite the tremendous energy we expend, we fall flat. I don’t know about you, but my head hurts sometimes from how hard I feel like I am banging it against the glass!

It’s time for a new perspective! It’s time to turn around and look for the open door. To find the new pathway to the goal. It isn’t that the goal is wrong; the way you and I are trying to reach it isn’t the optimal route. It might look like the best way, but if all we’re doing is banging, repeatedly, against the glass and going nowhere, I suggest it is time for a change.

And one last word of advice? All the buzzing and complaining about the glass being there in the first place isn’t doing you any favors.  No one wants to hear it and it won’t help you break through and reach your goal. In most cases, it will just result in someone bigger or more powerful than you just grabbing their nearest fly swatter to silence the problem. Sorry, Mister fly…you were just too darn annoying before my morning coffee.

Find your new perspective. Quit beating yourself senseless in frustration and expending all your energy going nowhere. Do the 360 degree turn necessary to find the right pathway that will take you to your goals and achieve that outrageously wonderful life!

Keep the Stuff the Matters

newspapers$156.70. That’s what I paid an electrician in 1992 to put in an accent light on a painting in my Dining Room in my first house in Texas. If you need his telephone number, license or the kind of wire he used, it is on the bill I found meticulously filed away. Of course, he’s probably been retired for 15 years.Yikes!

I went digging last night for some records I need for an upcoming meeting. I practically needed the Jaws of Life to get into the filing cabinet in my home office. As I wrestled with the overstuffed folders, looking in vain, it dawned on me that it has been months since I really filed anything.  All this paperwork was kindling and it was really old. With all of my bills mostly electronic, I rarely see the need to keep anything in hardcopy. Meaning that what I was finding in the folders in my office is, embarrassingly, so old that the only true value is for fire starter. I guess I now know my weekend project.

But I contrast what I feel obligated to save with the papers I know are the ones that really matter. Most of those documents are tucked away in my dresser drawers and in memory books I have stored away for my child. They are the real documents that deserve to be under “lock and key” in my filing cabinets and safes.

It makes me wonder why we feel obligated to save old paperwork, but not old love letters.

Visit any decent financial advice or organization website, and they will give you great tips on how long to keep important papers related to your income, investments, life events, etc. We all need to be more diligent about ensuring that we are taking extra precautions to safeguard our personal identity and utilizing modern technology to put critical documents in accessible, digital lock boxes should the need arise. All good advice, but what about the rest?

Why don’t we keep old cards, notes from friends, thank you’s from the people who we have helped and blessed? They become the encouragement and motivation we need to stay on course in this journey of life. They turn into the gentle reminders of special moments, long gone, that mattered. We all need those periodic visits back to the spaces and places in our hearts and memories where we knew love, happiness and experienced the pain of loss. For in those moments — outrageously wonderful and gut-wrenchingly horrible — there are life lessons and glimpses of ourselves that we need to remember. I like to think those cards, letters and reminders are just all “cliff notes” of our lives and need to be periodically reread.

My most cherished document is a personal check I will never cash. It sits in my desk drawer and was written to my husband just days before my father died. His 45th wedding anniversary to my mother was something he wanted to commemorate with a special gift and he had enlisted my husband’s help to secure a nice piece of jewelry. Not well enough to shop, he described what he wanted and we had our jeweler overnight a piece, allowing Dad to fulfill his wish.

That simple check was the last time my Dad ever wrote his name. It is a constant reminder to me that love matters above all and making sure the ones you love know how important they are to you – even up to your dying day – is what matters most.  That was my Dad’s last lesson to me; the monetary value of that check could never come close to the true value of that little piece of blue safety paper.

Get your personal papers in order. Know what to keep, what to toss, and how to store those hard-to-replace documents. And above all else, keep the stuff that matters!

Get Out of Your Own Way

iStock_000017567006XSmallDid you ever try to move an area rug while accidentally standing on a corner of it? It doesn’t work so well. Success in life is often met with similar challenges; no matter how much you think you are helping yourself, your biggest adversary is most often you. You can tug, yank and pull to your heart’s content, but until you turn around and face the big problem that lies right at your feet, you probably aren’t going to make much progress.

Self-sabotage is a wicked foe and the odds are, you are making things much harder than you need to. When we consistently turn the tables against our own self and routinely beat the living snot out of our hope and dreams, it is no wonder we don’t have the motivation to get what we want out of life.

I grew up in a small town where the options for a girl with my background were pretty limited. I lacked the math and science strengths to be a candidate for academic scholarships, had zero athletic abilities for the sports ticket and wasn’t “wowing” anyone in the love department enough to land myself the “ready-made farmwife childhood marriage popular with many of my classmates (thank you God, for the bazillionth time!). My parents were not prepared to fund college; to the naked eye, I was stuck in life limbo.

Despite my “limitations,” I had one focus on my mind: I wanted to better myself and get out of rural America. I wanted my life to be different than most of the people I grew up around and wanted to achieve more for myself. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, but I knew it was outside the picturesque city limits of my small hometown. While I wasn’t conscious of my actions, I was already taking the steps to get out of my own way.

“Desire is possibility seeking expression.” –W. Wattles

I had many choices to make – we all do when it comes to building a better life. Each time I chose the one that took me a step toward fulfilling my destiny, I was getting out of my own way. I worked when others’ played. I opted for a weekend college and a full-time job to avoid unnecessary student loans and prolonged educational costs. I took job relocations and promotions to advance my career. I ended relationships that brought heartache and sucked me dry. I got out of my own way and got busy building a life.

Getting out of your own way is a conscious decision. It is about loving yourself and putting your own needs and validation as a priority in your life. It is about thinking positively, stopping the self-defeating, self-deprecating thoughts inside your head. It is about reprogramming your brain to accept compliments, believe in the positive and embrace new ideas.

Getting out of the way is getting off that corner of the rug of life that is keeping you stuck. Don’t you think it is time to move and make the choices that enable you to move, too?

Be More Charitable

give-backI’ve had more conversations in the past few days about the importance of giving than I can ever remember.  The need to donate more to the local women’s and children’s shelter … a discussion with parents of my child’s playmate about my post-retirement plans to use my time to mentor disadvantaged youth in the rural area where our vacation home is … a discussion with a client on ways I can help with the efforts to support the completion of the Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum at Travis Air Force Base.  All around us, there are so many opportunities to use our time and talents to be more charitable.

The volume of these conversations reached a crescendo during my Sunday church service yesterday, when I heard my pastor share the fact that the message of charity is the most frequently mentioned topic in the Bible.  Over and over again, both Old and New Testament verses repeatedly drill home the instruction to “care for the needy,” “show hospitality to strangers,” “be generous to the poor,” and “give,  and it will be given to you.”  In fact, there are more than 2,000 different mentions of the need to put others first.  I get the impression it is a pretty important matter to the big guy.

In this time of economic belt-tightening, charities, like individuals, must learn to do more with less.  They look for ways to optimize their resources and lean into new methods of working to meet the needs of the issues and people they serve.  Look hard at ways in which you can give, non-monetarily, to help support those in need.  Your skills and talents have significant market value and donating them to those who need them can be a tremendous blessing.

Everyone rushes out during the holidays to give and be charitable.  But this year, strive to make being charitable an ongoing part of who you are, not just a seasonal event.  Find ways to give back of your time and talents.  Follow your passion and give in areas that will enrich your field of devotion and enthusiasm.  Love to read and write?  Volunteer at a local library to teach creative writing.  Passionate about your garden?  Get involved in an urban renewal project and help replant a local park or community eyesore.  Have a penchant for finances?  Help the community Boys and Girls Club get their books in order.  There are so many places to give back and be charitable.

Emerson said it best:

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Be Expectantly Patient

386580_450411541678885_1805241043_nMy Cairn Terrier, Maggie, is determined to catch a squirrel. Twice a day, on her daily walk around the block, her focus is consumed with locating and snaring one of her fluffy-tailed nemeses. I have no clue what she’ll do if she is ever successful in her efforts, but her determination and focus — despite her continued years of failure — is inspiring. No matter how many times she has been taunted and teased by those little critters through the window, had acorns dropped in her path and tried to climb up trees in hot pursuit; she is no less convinced that she will one day capture her prize. That kind of determination and focus is inspiring.

So what is being expectantly patient? It is about acknowledging failure, but not accepting it. It is knowing that you fell down — hard — but mentally recalculating where you went wrong even before you get up.  Being expectantly patient is wanting more out of life!  So much more that you sacrifice sleep so you can squeeze one more hour each day to pursue your passion, you laugh more than you cry, you consume every nugget of information you can on topics of interest.  You do not settle, nor do you accept failure.  Words like “can’t,” “won’t,” and “impossible” aren’t in your vocabulary.

The watch-out in being expectantly patient is to not forget to be patient. Not only with yourself, but also with others.  Success and progress take time.  Go easy on yourself when the challenges come.  Take the life lessons that are being served up. We often stay stuck where we are not because the world is conspiring against us, but because our work is not yet finished.  If your endeavors are seemingly fruitless at the moment, do not discount that it is simply a part of the master plan.  It may simply be your time to serve where you are; renew your strength for the next phase of your journey.  Be patient and loving, too, toward those around you.  It is all too easy to be incredibly impatient with others as we are determinedly focused on our own goals and challenges.

Thriving at the art of being expectantly patient is learning to get comfortable with the ups and downs that come with living an outrageous life.  It is knowing that a life of passion will have both challenges and opportunities – sometimes simultaneously – and that you will weather through them a stronger, better person.

Yes, be expectantly patient.  Don’t ever settle where you land.  Accept the imperfections of life and work with humility and determination to change the things you can.  Take the life lessons your challenges offer and never lose sight of the amazing potential of this outrageously wonderful life!

Choose Wisely

ChooseWisely“Life is a series of choices. The objective is to choose wisely more often than you choose poorly.” I’ve heard my husband repeat that advice over and over to others. As simple as it sounds, it is sage advice. Life is all about choices. We are all the sum total of the choices we make each and every day and the objective is to draw our last breath with the confidence that those choices all netted out to a full, complete and outrageously wonderful life!

The art of making choices can be a bit overwhelming for many. Lord knows that life throws a ton of them at us: where to go to college, who to choose as a mate, what career path to invest our passion in, where to work, where to live, where to send our children to school, etc. If you start lining up all the really big choices we make and all the options we have to choose wisely, your head will spin. Unfortunately, I truly think therein lies the challenge for most; not having the life skills necessary to make good choices results in many people becoming so paralyzed by the thought of choosing, that they do nothing. They simply drift in life and let circumstances choose for them. They may think they are choosing, but in reality they are abdicating responsibility and leaving their future to fate. Trust me that is not choosing wisely.

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” –Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

The art of making good choices is a learned behavior. For most of us, it is taught when we are young. Good parents instill the behavior of making smart choices to little ones in the simple options they give to children: salad or ice cream … the choice to study versus watch television the night before a difficult test … chores and allowance vs. laziness and being broke. Helping your children learn the difficult skill of making positive, appropriate choices is a big part of parenting well. A child who is skilled at consciously making choices will understand her own needs, and gain a sense of control over her own life.

But what if no one taught you to choose wisely?

Good decision-making first comes with being clear on what it is you are really deciding. Don’t get all tangled up in your shorts about the secondary decisions and peripherals. Make sure you really understand the heart of the decision you are making. If you don’t nail that one correctly, all of the others will never fall into place.

Case in point, a dear friend once was offered a promotion that required relocation to a new city. The money was great and the opportunity was one that most people would be envious of. Multiple trips to look for the right school district for their children and home for their family kept turning up fruitless. Everyone was frustrated with the inability to find something to get settled. After a year of one spouse commuting and the other behind with the children, still making trips to house and school hunt, the family dynamics were coming apart at the seams. Another opportunity to return back to “home” arose and was taken.

The choice was never about the right schools and location, it was about whether it was the right time to uproot the family and do we need “more.” Be sure you know your values and your goals. In this case, more money and more prestige didn’t outweigh the importance of family stability and allowing children to finish critical milestone school years in familiar surroundings.

Choosing wisely also comes by balancing how much time you spend on making the right decision with how important that decision is. Unfortunately, most people put ‘time’ and ‘difficulty’ on the scales, not ‘time’ and ‘importance.’ Don’t waste a lot of time on decision-making on trivial things that don’t have a huge impact on life in the grand scheme of things. If you researched your future employers, your career options, your choice of spouse with the same focus and energy as you do your next car or computer purchase, would your station in life be better? Think about it. You get out of life what you put into it!

Always keep in mind as you navigate the pathways of life that the decisions you make are yours. Only you can place a value on the importance of the choices you make and the outcomes of your decisions. Don’t fall into the pitfalls of seeking everyone else’s opinion or trying to get consensus before you make a decision. What you value as important is unique to you and you will undoubtedly be disappointed if you try to please others or base your decisions on the “sound” advice of the well-intention counsel of those around you.

Know your goals and do your homework and when you do, you will choose wisely.

Be Courageous!

20120212-103005What do you think of when you think of being courageous?  Do you envision yourself racing into a building engulfed in billowing flames to rescue an elderly man trapped beneath the rubble?  Or perhaps see the need to take on the mantle of someone like Rosa Parks and refuse to give up your seat on the bus; thus setting into motion a new world order?  Perhaps it is a simple as not crossing the street one morning to avoid the bully always waiting to intimidate you at the corner?

Courage comes in a variety of ways, but each represent an opportunity to listen to our moral conscience and do the right thing, regardless of the personal impact or injury it might bring to ourselves.  It sometimes requires grandiose acts; other times it is accomplished by simply saying or doing nothing.  Regardless of the situation or circumstance, when you choose to be courageous, you choose to put the greater good above self.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –Ambrose Redmoon

Being able to shed fear and live your life despite the challenges of rejection, oppression, injury, etc., takes incredible courage.  To stand up for what is right requires incredible strength.  You don’t have to be Dr. Martin Luther King, standing up for equal rights.  You can be the lone person who stops to wipe the tear of the homeless woman, suffering in the cold, that others ignore as they pass by.  You can acknowledge her existence and give her hope.  That’s courage.

What can you do to bolster your courage?  Practice and strengthen your courage muscle with simple exercises that allow you to step beyond your comfort zone and listen to the inner voice of conscience. Simple tasks like:

  • Give a complete stranger a genuine compliment
  • Ask someone with very opposing views their opinion on a controversial topic — and just listen
  • Make eye contact with a someone on the street and don’t look away until they return your smile
  • Buy lunch for two and share it with a stranger.  Ask them about their life; be genuinely interested in their story.
  • Ask three colleagues for constructive feedback about how you interact with them.
  • Thank a person who performs menial service and actually let them know how much you appreciate what they do
  • Confront a negative person and politely let them know how their words/actions impact others; let them know how much you wish they would try being more positive for a change and how much more valuable they could be with a different outlook

Simple random acts of courage give us all the experience and the confidence to know — without a doubt — that real courage lies within all of us.  Practicing simple acts of courage now and exploring how you feel, will give you the confidence to know you have what it takes to really exhibit the courage to stand down your fears when you need it.  You may never need to be that lone, anonymous guy — shirtsleeves his only armor — facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square. But should the time ever come to stare down the enemy — whatever or whomever it is — you’ll know you’ve got what it takes!

Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

6a00d83453c18869e2017d3c1c59ae970c-800wiRemember the old advertising slogan, “Never let them see you sweat” that Dry Idea antiperspirant used to promote their brand in the 1980’s?  It might have worked for Gillette to sell women health and beauty care products, but as business advice, I dare say it is utter BS.  I’m not advocating we all take a crack at being some nail-biting, ‘Nervous Nelly’ who can’t hold her own way through a room, but I’m also not going to tell you that being the Ice Princess will get you a Fast Pass to the boardroom anytime soon.

Believe it or not, a little vulnerability can be a valuable skill to have and one that, used with sincerity, is an amazing bridge builder.  It will open more doors and close more business deals than most any other skills.  It allows you to connect with others on a personal level and share a bond of common experience or emotion.  When you open up and allow yourself to expose your thoughts and feelings, you are able to make connections on a deeply personal level.  Those bonds — business or personal — once forged, are hard to break.

“You would be hard-pressed to show me any evidence of any innovation or creativity that was not birthed from vulnerability.”  –Brene Brown

Being able to be vulnerable is about being able to openly voice big ideas, honest feedback and constructive criticism.  It speaks volumes when you can open up and “put it all out there,” knowing that it isn’t always going to be well received.  Being vulnerable is about sharing your own flaws and shortcomings with those you are mentoring … the clients you are selling … so that they know you aren’t perfect and can successfully navigate failure.

Sharing your vulnerabilities allows you to build credibility and earns you trust and respect with your peers. Being vulnerable will differentiate you from others.  It takes courage to be vulnerable.  To be the one who can take a hard stand on the risky topics others want to steer clear of.  The shrinking violet is the one who will shy away from the challenges in a relationship; the vulnerable person is the strong one who finds the voice to use past experiences to courageously navigate to new, better tomorrows.

By being vulnerable, you become authentic.  You are the one who gives everyone else permission to be authentic too.  That spark of reality ignites a fire of honesty and innovation that can burn like a wildfire of energy in your meetings and relationships.  When it becomes ok to share what hasn’t worked, admit you don’t have all the answers or simply voice that you think an idea or program is bad, real dialogue begins and solutions are born. Vulnerability is the spark that starts the process.  Trust me, you can vulnerable.

Being vulnerable with others clearly says you are real, trustworthy and capable of rising above challenges and disappointments until you achieve success.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many more skills I value more in my relationships — business or personal!

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