Networking with golf balls and bucket lists

Every year I try and accomplish something I have always wanted to do. I have kept a list of places to go and experiences to attempt. Sort of my bucket list, from the great film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The bucket list comes from the phrase "kicking the bucket", which refers to the moment the bucket is kicked out from under a hanging man. Despite its morbid beginnings, a "bucket" list is a wish list of things you'd like to see and do before you expire. There is the whole genre of 1000 places to see before you die etc etc. Anyway, I have a list and I recommend you make one too. I have already checked off the typical things like skydiving, race car driving, traversing the Great Wall, repelling a cliff. But it has also included riding the Goodyear blimp, a hole-in-one, attending the world's greatest sporting events…..My golf list included getting a hole-in-one, playing Pebble Beach, and someday going to Scotland to play St Andrews. The list serves as a road map of my incentives for good behavior, something to look forward to AND taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. This last week I played famed Pebble Beach golf course. Glenn bob and jk pebble

My best friend from high school, Glenn Carpenter and I (Glenn's in the middle and that's his Dad Bob to the left) have been conspiring to play the number one course in the world for a couple of years now. Glenn was able to get us on for a good deal on 10 day's notice. So we walked the historic links along the Carmel coast last Monday. Glorious time, no words can suffice! The actual game of knocking the ball around was very challenging, but the vistas and camaraderie were phenomenal. 

Golf has been one of the most powerful forms of networking for me. I feel very fortunate that my Dad taught me the game. Thanks Dad! I have played at least one round of golf with my father for the last 35 years. It is something that binds me to him. All of my kids have had golf lessons, my son Bobby plays and I hope we share this crazy game for the rest of my life.  

Golf has been the subject of great books and movies, Legend of Bagger Vance, Tin Cup, Caddy Shack. Tiger Woods has captured the imagination of the world. It is an unnatural game that either repulses or addicts. It is a game where the ball sits still and motionless and you struggle to hit it. It is a game, like no other, that tests your ability to concentrate, focus, and ultimately to execute. Robin Williams gives the best description of this confounding game and how the Scots invented it. (Warning the routine is filled with profanity)                       

When I was young I never realized the social power of golf. I have met and gotten to know thousands of people on a golf course. Whether planning a round with friends or relatives, or being matched up with a random "stranger" at the course. It is different than many other sports and hobbies. You are outside with nature–you and your colleagues share a desire to conquer the sadistic design and hazards of the course. (This excludes any distracting betting.) And there is always the 19th hole (the after match conversation/commiseration) So you could spend 4-6 hours together. It can be meaningful time. Golf, like no other activity, is part of doing business and fostering business relationships. Every industry I have been associated with (as you know that is a bunch) golf was there and it has helped me. 

Learned a few life lessons from golf that have translated well to my non-golfing life.

  1. Got game?–Golf is about what you have to offer that day. No team to make up for your weaknesses or mistakes.  
  2. We all start out equall–Computerized systems provide each player with a "handicap" based upon their ability and the course. At the outset, we can gauge our progress against ourselves and others.
  3. Positive pre-swing thoughts–The only way to succeed in golf is to envision the best outcome. If you focus on the hazards in front of you, your outcome will fulfill that vision. In other words, the law of attraction, that positive makes positive and negative attracts negative, is a certainty on the golf course.
  4. Etiquette matters–Being polite and respectful of others is an essential part of the game. 
  5. Sportsmanship and the honor system–You have to know the rules and follow them. And at the end of the day you are accountable for your actions. In what other sport do you have a player calling a "foul" on themselves?
  6. The course is not the range  (map is not the territory)–Every course, every shot is different because of the weather, the terrain, the lie of the ball etc, so you have to adapt your swing, your stance, your weight to the circumstances. 
  7. Can't be bad and slow–The two worst things on a course are slow play and bad play. But if you are both, you can ruin the game for everyone around you. 
  8. Keep Score–The only way you know if you are progressing is to keep track of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can improve. 
  9. Get over your mistakes–Have a bad hole, put it behind you as quickly as possible. Tiger takes 10 steps on the course and then forgets the last shot.
  10. Enjoy the walk–As I said golf is outside and usually, like this last Monday, I saw things I will never forget. Nature is so profound and so inspirational. Regardless of the score, you must constantly remind yourself about the special things around you and how fortunate we are to play the game.                                                                                                                               
Golf is a lot like life to me. I think I am a better person because of it. Sounds like a cheezy way for me to try and play more. Seriously, it has helped my career and my networking. You may have seen this one before but it serves as a good reminder to make room for the golf balls first–life, golf balls, and a beer  

What will rise to the top of my bucket list next year?

Thanks for indulging me this week. I will address the topic of "meeting people when you don't know anyone" next week.  Thanks for reading. John



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