Reflection in Practice: Lessons From The Invitational

golf ball closeup in fairway

A leader worth following is a lifelong learner. Constant personal reflection is one way to engage this pursuit. Any event can be a learning event if you keep your eyes, and brain, open to what is happening. There are always lessons to be learned.

Three days ago I completed our Country Club’s “Invitational” tournament, a 2-day member-guest match play tournament with various flights of handicaps. My partner — a BIB subscriber! — and I were in the second flight, which featured our current Club Champion, and a former Club Champion. This post is about the lessons I learned the last few days. I am sharing these lessons to not only model the reflective behavior I described above, but also because the lessons are worth sharing. They are listed in no particular order of importance:

Golf is best played with the target in mind. The more my mind shifts to the fundamentals of the golf swing, the higher my score becomes. I have found this applicable to business as well. Keeping focused on the end goal helps us more easily navigate the complexities of getting there.

I told my partner we would hit bad shots along the way —and we surely did—but our goal was to stay positive and hit a good recovery shot when we did.

Disappointment is toxic. I could not help but be disappointed when I chunked a chip just off the green Saturday morning and gift-wrapped the hole for our competitors. Nor, could I help being disappointed when I missed a 2.5-foot putt to tie the match on the last hole. But, I did not stay disappointed. I persevered by telling my partner our best golf was yet to come, and immediately hitting the practice green in-between matches. As fate would have it, later in the day I needed to make a similar putt on the same hole. Thankfully, I did the second time.

We should have lost our final match given how awful we played at the start. But we persevered and hung around long enough to give ourselves a chance to play better. And we did down the stretch, good enough to win 2 up. I have seen this same scenario in business — one more sales call, one more tweak to the design, one more…you just don’t know when it is going to “take.” Keep going.

Without my dad’s help, I would not have had the good swing thought I had, nor been able to make a ridiculous putt on the 15th hole Friday afternoon, or seen where I had to land the flop shot behind the 18th green —the shot that ended up hitting the flag stick and clinching our flight. I have learned in business, golf, and life, that he knows what he’s doing. Following his lead is not a bad play. Thus, I told him “thank you” on Monday morning.

Speaking of that flop shot, thanks to John Esposito for teaching me how to hit that shot. Nothing in life is solo. Thanks Espo!

Speaking of that putt on 15, Joe Renzi calmly got up afterwards and knocked down a 10 footer to tie the hole. I cheered loudly when he did because it was SO clutch. Yes, my partner and I were rooting for our competition to do well. Joe and his dad went on to beat us in the match, largely due to his amazing play. Cheering on others gives you a mindset that not only models the sportsmanship that makes golf great, but also frees the soul to be, and perform, at its best. There simply aren’t any studies showing that a vindictive and negative spirit outperforms a generous and positive one.

Finally, life is so much more than golf, work, or hobbies. As my partner and I gathered with our wives to go over for the closing dinner, we paused, and I prayed for the events that day in El Paso. To be someone worth following, you have to maintain perspective. No golf match is worth throwing clubs over. No business pursuit is worth losing a family over. Some things —faith, family, and life —simply matter more. Besides, doing well in the Invitational, as fun as it was, was only temporary. As I learned the following Monday at the office, life goes on….

I will close by saying this. I would not choose another person in the field to be my partner. Your friendship means the world, JK.

I can’t wait to do it again next year!