Golf legend Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is played on a 5-inch course – the distance between your ears,” and, “Golf is the closest game to the game of life.” You could say the same thing about business.
My son Nathan is a fantastic golfer when he can keep his proper mindset. But all it takes is one bad shot, and his attitude toward himself and the game turns negative, which causes him to play poorly.
Nathan’s handicap is a 5 compared to mine at 13, so he spotted me four strokes per nine the last time we played. He started off playing well, but as any golfer knows, even the best players occasionally hit a bad shot.
When Nathan hit a bad shot, he got frustrated and started calling himself a terrible golfer and a loser. He continued to belittle himself for the rest of the game.
What he did not realize is that his negative mindset affected his performance. His mind and his muscles essentially started believing his self-deprecating insults, setting himself up for failure.
Nathan’s failure was my success. Due to his mindset, I won the first nine outright. He punished himself further by throwing $60 in my cart, paying me not only the $20 he lost on the front nine, but the $40 he would owe if he also lost the back nine and the total score. By surrendering, even though we tied on the back nine, he had already sacrificed all bets.
What Nathan failed to understand is that every shot a golfer takes is flawed in some way, even the best one he ever hit. A high-handicap golfer may pout and throw his club due to shanking a ball in the water, while a low-handicap golfer may have the same reaction simply because his ball slightly missed the green on the same shot. Both golfers have handicaps based on their past scores; the one who plays the best on a given day will almost always be the one who has the right mindset while he is playing.
Just like there is no such thing as a perfect golf shot, there is no such thing as a perfect business decision. You must resign yourself to the reality that there will be more failures than successes. Your approach to these challenges and failures is all part of your mindset, which is a huge factor in your overall success.
Human performance studies show that, in general, high achievers have a different perspective from those who underperform. Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University studied mindset, and her research concluded that successful people have a “growth mindset” while those who are constrained by outcomes have a “fixed mindset.”
Those with a fixed mindset believe they are only as good as their last performance. If it was good, they are happy. But if not, they can be deeply and negatively affected. Because their success hinges on the outcome, they can be emotional with lots of ups and downs. Consequently, they struggle to deal with mistakes and failures. They often give up when things are not going well and use negative self-talk to protect their ego.
On the other hand, those with a growth mindset have a long-term view of success and are keen to learn and improve regardless of the result. They can evaluate their performance objectively because they recognize failure and mistakes as learning opportunities.
The good news is your mindset is not fixed, so you can continue to work on it to develop the mindset of a champion like Bobby Jones. Look at how you currently view failure by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you see failure as an indication that you are not good enough, or is it a way to learn how to do better?
- Do you operate with fear of making mistakes because of what failure would say about you to others, or are you confident enough to make decisions and suffer any consequences there may be for making those decisions?
When a professional golfer hits a shot in the water, a good caddie would never tell him he is a horrible golfer. You should not talk to yourself that way either. Caddies know that the route to success is a positively focused golfer, not one who is engaging in negative self-talk or lost in performance regret. Be your own caddie and speak positively to yourself in business and life.
Take comfort in the fact that with proper nurturing and training, you can change your mindset. Start with a shift in your perception of failure. Skip the deprecating, self-loathing, and negative talk when you are not performing optimally. Instead, make it a learning experience on how to get better.
Remember, great mindset leaders are continually learning, failing, refining, and persevering. They are curious, not judgmental of themselves. Take time to evaluate what you are doing well and give yourself kudos.
Positive behavior imprints in your mind and solidifies your belief that good things frequently happen to you. Appreciating your successes is an appropriate use of positive emotion to create a strong memory that will ultimately contribute to a successful mindset.
Just like you will never become a good golfer without practice, this shift in your mindset demands practice and consistency. I encourage you to seek out training, take classes, and read articles and books written by people who have successfully done what you want to do. Be fearless in the face of failure. Eventually, you will become more comfortable being in positions where you might fail.
When you are in the right frame of mind, you find value in both your wins and losses. That is the only way you can embrace failures as opportunities for improvement and growth. It is all in your mindset and that all-important five inches between your ears.
About the Author
Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, 3 PLS Labor Services, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Company, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make job sites safer and 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 email@example.com, or call 740-749-3512.