Posts Tagged ‘golf’

Every once in awhile I’ll be doing something and I get a glimpse, almost a flash-forward perspective, of the way I expect to live fifteen, twenty, thirty years from now. Those little moments where I think, “Yeah, this is good. I would be happy having more of this in my everyday world more often.” Which gets me wondering what I’m doing to guide my life in that direction.

My recent post on golf is a good example. I am certain that I could be happy playing three rounds of golf every week if money was no object. I could easily imagine putting together a remote work agreement that allows me all the time I would need (if not the cash), and have taken a few, small steps in that direction. If it all works out, I’d be living part of my dream life.

Another example is cooking. In our home, cooking together with my wife is a romantic and intimate pastime. Food is life, and sharing a kitchen is play; these are fundamental, not abstract, human needs and concepts. So our plans – a large kitchen with high ceilings, huge granite countertops, a big gas stove, a flat-top grill, beautiful Tuscany tile and an amazing array of copper pots and cast-iron cookware – these plans are never far from our minds. That’s what we expect our future to look like.

Pipe dreams? Maybe. But I think pipe dreams get a bad rap. Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have always imagined.” It’s a better plan than just letting life happen to you.

Food is Life

As much as we enjoy cooking, we also share a special fondness for interesting restaurants. Our tastes in restaurants coincide very well; we’ve been married for eight years, and I can’t remember a single restaurant about which we disagreed. In order to be interesting, it cannot be a national chain, it has to be reasonably priced, it ought to be something none of our friends has heard of, and it must be something we can recommend to people and brag about our discovery. Extra points for quirky, cozy, funky, rustic or bohemian; more bonus points for having a patio, live music, a lending library, a history, friendly waitstaff, local art or an excellent craft beer list.

So we plan to make finding these places a part of our life and our future. Our intent is to dine our way across America, and maybe learn something about the countryside while we’re at it. This originally started out as our plan for spending our retirement years, but the more I consider it the more I realize that there is no reason to wait that long. It’s just a matter of becoming location independent.

Having these dreams, plans, goals – it’s important to keep them in mind so that you know what direction you wish to travel. But it’s equally important to monitor your actions, tasks and behavior to make sure they are propelling you in the same direction as your dreams. Henry Ford said, “Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.”

One more point about the concept of “retirement”. We have no intention of letting retirement be a time of inactivity. We see it as a time we are finally able to “do” without limits. To accomplish and to experience. To live the big life. The word “retire” means to withdraw, to retreat; these are antonyms to what we have in mind.

At first I thought I needed to start using a different word. “Dis-retirement? Un-retired? Encounterment years? Big life?” Then I realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking that it was something in the future, distinguishable and separate from our life now. It’s not! I have no plans for myself at age 45 that I cannot see doing also at age 55, 65 or 75. There is no line of demarcation where we will transition from being not retired to being retired. Instead, we are going to keep on moving, building and doing the way we are now, with an eye towards the next new, fun thing. Living the big life and always setting sail towards bigger and bigger shores.

How about you? What are your big goals for a big life? Are you doing things consistent with those goals? Has your retirement planning been based on a specific date, or have you decided to take on some big life in small doses before that date comes? Leave your answers in the comments section, below.

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(See parts one and two here.) The previous six lessons have played out; now let’s tee off on the seventh on our way back to the clubhouse.

Sometimes things just go wrong (but it won’t keep going wrong)

I’m not a golf pro, and I don’t watch golf on television where the analysis is constant and often very technical. So sometimes a shot will head in a completely unexpected direction. I’ll watch my ball travel out of bounds and stand there gawking, baffled as to why it happened.

When you know what you did wrong, it’s a simple matter to begin to correct it. But where do you start if you’re clueless about your mistake? It’s important not to let that kind of thing derail us. I’ve found that if the problem is that subtle, it’s often just a fluke. It probably won’t happen again. Just drop another ball and swing away. This is even more important in life off the golf course.

Sometimes things keep going wrong

In part one, I talked about the “death spiral implosion” that can occur when one bad shot follows another. If you combine this phenomenon with not knowing what went wrong, it can be enough to make you want to quit altogether.

My approach for times I don’t have a specific “fix” to apply to a recurring problem is to become unconventional. In the movie “Bull Durham”, Susan Sarandon’s character has to get the pitcher’s mind off his streak of wild pitches. She makes the pitcher (played by Tim Robins’s) don a garter belt under his uniform, and he becomes so distracted that he stops worrying about wild pitches and begins firing the ball right down the middle.

While I don’t recommend stowing garters in your golf bag, any unconventional play can work. Bet your caddie that you can hit the next shot 50 yards using just your putter. Keep a sleeve of pink golf balls in your bag and tell the guys, “I’ll use these, since I can’t seem to get past the ladies’ tees anyway.” Tee up the next shot barefoot. Once the tension of your “losing streak” is broken, your “A” game might just return.

Good times are better with a friend

If you’ve ever tried to play a round of golf by yourself, you’ll know there are a several things that make this a very different experience. Your mind wanders; you tend to rush to the finish (and each shot, as well); the temptation to take mulligans and do-overs becomes intense; and it’s somehow just not enough that you’re outdoors enjoying beautiful weather in a beautiful setting.

In fact, solo golfers are so rare that their presence is disconcerting – even alarming – to other players. Inevitably every twosome or threesome they see will invite the soloist to join their group. It’s as if they consider it offensive to be alone there, or some evidence of sociopathic behavior. Or maybe it’s just that the groups understand what’s being missed, and compassion is the thing that moves them towards an invite.

Humans are social creatures, and almost everything that brings humans happiness has a social element to it. It’s just more fun sharing the fun with a friend, and the friend in turn makes the experience more remarkable and enjoyable.

The 19th hole: Conclusions

Like life, the game of golf has elements of work, play, integrity, meditation, problem-solving, philosophy and friendship. Some days you struggle, some days you’re golden, some days you get rained on. If you pay attention, you can get a lot out of it. And usually there’s a beer or two involved.

If I can derive so much philosophical insight from just one round of golf, how much better would the world be if everyone spent some time on the course every week?

(See part one here.) Who says golf is a waste of time? Sometimes you can derive the most inspirational lessons from a round of golf. Here are more of the nine life lessons that I pulled out of yesterday’s game:

Integrity allows for apples-to-apples progress tracking

I admit that in my younger days I often “fudged” my score, but only when the golfing gods were being particularly mischievous and unfair. I mean, I know that missing a 3-foot putt means you’re supposed to putt again and count both strokes, but in my mind it shouldn’t have counted as a miss because I could try that putt all day long and never miss it again.

Then I played a couple of rounds with someone who had the same philosophy, times ten. I realized that if I wanted to keep up I was going to have to cheat on an unprecedented scale – and that made me very uncomfortable. The only way this was going to work for me was to do the exact and complete opposite – and fanatically track every stroke and penalty knowing he was going to “win” the round. Then I could always claim a personal win, knowing my score was right and his was not.

The surprising thing was that I found I didn’t end up in situations to fudge things as often as usual. And I had an accurate record of this game, and all those that followed. My game improved, also my mindset, and there was a serenity and sense of honor that I wanted to experience more often. These days I play it straight – although sometimes it enters my mind that some golfing gods, gremlin or higher being is intentionally screwing with my game, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to record the score fairly instead of accurately.

Minor changes are amplified the further out you go

When you line a putt up wrong, it may only wrong by an inch or two when it’s rolled two feet, but by the time the ball has rolled thirty feet you’ve missed the hole by a yard. This is even more evident when you’ve lined up wrong from the tee box, because there’s a long way to go before it stops travelling in the wrong direction.

If it were possible to steer a ball in flight, golf would be a strange game indeed. The earlier you can determine that you’re off course, the sooner you can institute corrections. Fortunately, life allows for constant course correction. We are not locked into an inescapable trajectory – we can decide a new direction the moment we realize we’ve botched our aim.

Fixing it yourself feels better than someone telling you how to fix it

The guys I usually play with had been somewhat helpful in showing me how to compensate for a wicked slice that has consistently plagued my drives. Unfortunately, these “solutions” meant making accommodations for the slice instead of fixing the problem that was causing it. What I really wanted was to undo my bad form, not learn to live with it.

I came into Sunday’s game ready to try a couple of new ideas that I came up with and tested at the driving range the previous week. The results were amazing on the range, and even held true in the field under the pressure of an actual game. I was proud of my new improved skills and even prouder that I figured it out on my own. It was also great to have an audience who could appreciate it.

This is not to suggest that the help from my friends was useless or unwanted. I have asked for help on occasion, and not just out of desperation. Fixing it yourself sometimes means asking for help.

Stay tuned

for the final round as we’ll tee off from the seventh hole next time.

George (my father-in-law) and I had a terrific day on the links yesterday. This was the second consecutive day we played on the same course, which accounted for how much better we both played. I’m not at liberty to discuss his scores, but I had a season high 95 (46/49) on Sunday, and a blistering 92 (42/51) on Monday.  If I were to continue playing every single day and improve my score at this rate, I could be a scratch golfer in a week.

I began to reflect on why our golf experience was so much fun. Here are the first few of the nine life lessons that I pulled out of yesterday’s game:

Plan for comfort

The temps were in the nineties, and our tee time was 1 pm. Georgia in the summer teaches you that reasonable people stay indoors during the hours from lunch to dinner. When it can’t be avoided, dress comfortably.  A lightweight, light colored shirt (I’ve recently become an advocate of the shirts made of that “wicking” material) and a comfortable pair of pleated shorts (with big pockets for my tees) keep me relatively cool, and I could concentrate on the game.

Play for endurance

It was 2:30 by the time we’d finished nine, and even with comfortable clothing the cumulative effects of the humidity and sunshine were about to make themselves known. Perhaps there’s a way to train for that kind of endurance. I haven’t discovered it yet, but making ourselves as comfortable as possible from the start surely helped us last as long as we did. Our scores and our comfort levels plummeted around the 14th hole.

It’s more fun when you’re playing well

Isn’t this true about almost anything we do? And we’re happier when we think we’re good at something, too. Playing well feeds back on itself, in turn causing you to play better. It happens so often in everyday life that we don’t often notice it. Musicians call it “being in the groove”. The happiness we experience at making a good shot creates a more relaxed, less anxious mood, which is essential for making the next shot.

However, the same is true when you begin to do poorly. It’s not unusual to see a golfer duff a shot only to go on to botch the next three, more exasperated each time. This kind of death spiral implosion is never fun to watch and less fun when it happens to you. When you find yourself dipping into the vortex of bad play, the only way out is to create serenity in your mind – lie to yourself, if necessary. Remind yourself of why you love the game and how good it felt when you were on the upward spiral of good play.

Stay tuned

and we’ll tee off on the fourth for next time.