When You Lose Your Cool, You Lose The Game

Damian Lang

We face situations daily that require us to react either calmly or intensely. It’s like playing two games simultaneously: You have to be able to recognize what is happening – and plenty is bound to happen – and then determine your reaction.

There was a time when I would lose my cool while making business decisions, but I found it only cost me more in the long run. Here’s a great example. Lang Masonry Contractors’ bonding underwriters flew in from Chicago to discuss our bonding limits. When they told me they would no longer bond the company if I purchased a private plane, I became upset. My reaction was to snap at them and remind them that my personal life was none of their business. I believed I had another bonding company lined up if needed, so after a heated discussion, I fired the bonding company in haste.

At the time, my decision felt good. I relieved my anger and stood my ground. But one week later, my backup bonding company informed me that they had miss-calculated my debt levels and could not support any bonds for our company. Ouch!

Embarrassed, I crawled back to the bonding company I had fired, and told the underwriter I wanted to reconsider using them for our bonds. He asked me again if I would be purchasing a private plane. You can probably guess my answer. I was re-signed as a client, but my bonding capacity was lowered, I am sure due mostly to my arrogance. To this day, I haven’t invested in a plane, given this humbling experience.

Another example of a past frustration happened on the golf course. If you golf, you face adversity every time you play. Although studying fundamentals has improved my golf game over the last three years, I got stuck hitting in the mid- to high-80s and couldn’t seem to improve those scores. I would play well, until I hit a bad shot or two during the round. Then, I would grow frustrated and revolt for several more holes. This self-punishment kept me tense and worsened my game.

Seeking to further improve my game, I researched why casual golfers often crumble after hitting a bad shot or two. I found an audio program, “The Unstoppable Golfer,” by Dr. Bob Rotella. Dr. Rotella’s entire program was based on the mental aspects of the game. He didn’t mention anything about swinging the golf club. Instead, he explained that golfers must master their mental disposition to play the game well, as the mental side of the game is just as important as the fundamentals of the swing. Dr. Rotella says golf, like life, is played on a five-inch course: the distance between your ears.

So, I have begun keeping an extra score for myself, as though there is an additional player in our group. The first score is the actual number of shots I take on the hole. The second score is a G, O or B – good hole, ok hole, or bad hole.

If I keep my mind in the right state and stay calm, cool and collected after every shot – good or bad – I earn a G. If I am calm, but do not have my mind in the right state when I hit one or more of the shots on the hole, I earn only an O. And, when I get frustrated with myself and do not keep my mind in the right state, I earn a B.

Once I learned that it’s not how I hit a shot, but how I react to it, that matters, my game improved. I am enjoying the game much more, and I played my first round in the 70s for the first time in more than 20 years.

I do have to admit that the last time I played, I took a 15 on one hole. My buddies were all giggling as I hit four shots off the tee that went out of bounce. I am sure they were waiting on me to blow up as I had in the past. But I didn’t. I scored myself an O for okay on the hole since I kept my composure. This kept me in the game allowing me to play well on the back nine, winning our team bet.

Getting upset over a bad shot on the golf course ruins your score. Getting upset over little things at work can ruin your career. Coworkers, customers and suppliers want to do business with calm, cool and collected people. It starts by taking responsibility for your own actions and remaining calm when dealing with your current situation.

Make every reaction a new opportunity. When you are up against an obstacle, challenge or problem at work or in your personal life, just remember that when you lose your cool, you lose the game.

Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:dlang@watertownenterprises.com or call 740-749-3512.