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Golf Doctor

In golf and business, Palmer was wise


Arnold Palmer (1929-2016) was once featured in an ad about adroit business practices. His advice was as applicable to how we can play good golf as to succeeding in business. Here is my version of Arnold’s tips.

Aspire to excellence. Nobody ever became great by settling for average. Always try to be the best you can be. Sounds like Arnie and his Army. My dad admired Arnie and that was how he raised me. I did my best every time I dove into the pool at ND.

Have a vision. As the saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” If you’re tired of playing so-so golf I suggest you set some specific goals, write them down and create a logical plan that will lead you to accomplishing those goals. Just like you would if you were running a smart business. Focus on your goals, not the obstacles in your way.

Choose wisely. Golf and business are all about decisions and choices. That includes the friends you play golf with, the courses you play, how you choose to practice, the golf clubs you select, even the aiming line you pick. These are not to be made impulsively. The best decision-makers are clear-headed, extremely focused and unencumbered by emotional turmoil.

Play to win. That’s Arnie all the way. I’m not a riverboat gambler or hustler when it comes to golf. I have a lot of pride, so I’d rather play masterfully and bravely and lose than to play like a chop and win money. My mindset stems from my experience as a start-up entrepreneur years ago, knowing that over 90 percent of small businesses fail within the first 18 months. So I decided I would not fail; and I didn’t. I approach golf the same way. I try to be intelligent, and I play to win.

Avoid hazards. Avoiding hazards is just as key to success in golf as it is in business. In sports, there are penalties, fouls, bad bounces and rules infractions of all sorts. Just as in life. Getting entangled in hazards because of poor choices and personality flaws has been the downfall of so many celebrities, sports stars, politicians and executives. Some were great on the field but dumb off the field. Not unlike the temptations in business and life, hazards on the golf course attract the unprepared, unthinking, unaware, over-zealous and inept golfers.

Play by the rules. It’s an unfortunate reality, but most golfers don’t know a lot about the rules of golf. Even some tour pros. I grew up in the 40s when common folks played by the rules so as not to shame their families. What ever happened to shame anyway?

Become emotionally resilient. There is no other characteristic of success that is more shared by business leaders and sports winners than emotional and mental strength. On the golf course, in organizations and on sales calls, bad breaks happen, things turn sour and it can seem like the cards are stacked against you. How you respond to setbacks and adversity defines how genuinely strong you are, and often, whether you will ultimately prevail.

Be detail-oriented. People who are expert in what they do pay attention to details. I don’t care if we’re talking about musicians or architects or lobbyists or surgeons or tour golfers. Leaders make the people they lead feel important and valued by doing and saying those critical little things – the details.

Maintain a positive attitude. One of the most influential books ever written is “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, first published in 1952, which posited that what we reap in life is proportionate to what we sow mentally. Do you like working (or playing) with negative whiners? I like to hang out with positive, upbeat people. If you want to play good golf, think positive. When bad things happen, don’t berate yourself; encourage yourself.

Get a coach. As an executive or a golfer, help from a pro is needed. Don’t go it alone.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact Blanchard at docblanchard71@gmail.com.