Tiger Woods’ career winning percentage is 22.8. Jack Nicklaus’ is 12.0. Pretty low. Are these guys considered losers? We view these icons as outstanding despite the constant defeats. The answer is how you define winning. If you play golf professionally or recreationally, and regularly compete in large field events, you’d better take some joy out of the process of trying because your chances of winning aren’t great.
I was struck by the recent comments of Milwaukee Bucks star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, after being eliminated from the playoffs and being asked if he felt like a failure. He remarked about Michael Jordan and that Jordan had played 15 years and won six championships, and that the other nine years couldn’t be defined as a failure. His perspective was spot on and is applicable to golf, all sports, and many aspects in life. You must immerse yourself in the joy of the process to feel successful because if you confuse effort with results, you’ll be disappointed.
Some days you play great and just get beat. Other days you stink and win anyway. What’s fascinating is the people in professions where failures outnumber successes and how they persevere and are viewed through history. Sonny Jergensen and Dan Marino were Hall of Fame quarterbacks and never won the Super Bowl. Were they failures? The greatest major league hitters fail seven out of every 10 at bats. Are they losers? I have the utmost respect for the millions of people in sales who face constant rejection. The outbound sales success rate for my company is 4%. I can’t imagine dealing with constant failure and still feeling positive about myself. How do they do it?
In golf, the most pertinent head case is Rory McIlroy and his quest to complete the career Grand Slam with a Masters victory. Heading into Augusta this year he had hired renown sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella, and seemed to be doing everything right but fell flat on his face and missed the cut. Rotella champions process before results more than anyone, but I’m wondering if his teaching is getting through. Rory seems to be outthinking and out preparing himself and would be better off just going out and playing. It must be infuriating watching Brooks Koepka piling up major championships with not a bother in the world. Brooks thinks less and just goes out and plays.
The key is to take small successes out of the process. Major league hitters know they will fail often but consider a good At Bat a success. If you made the pitcher throw eight pitches to get you out, that’s a success for the team. If the sales person gets a return call or email from a prospect, that’s a successful contact even if it doesn’t result in a closed deal. If I try a new shot in practice and can pull it off during a game of golf, that’s a success even if my score doesn’t reflect it. Immerse yourself in the process and let the results take care of themselves.