• Joe Wilson

4 lessons I learned from golf applicable to career success

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Golf, much like a business or career, is a game of analysis, patience, skill and adaptability. And if your handicap is anything like mine, frustration!

The path to success in many cases, whether in golf, business or life in general, doesn't come without these fundamental qualities. After taking up golf during the lockdown, I've identified an interesting correlation between the game of golf and the game of success.

Have you ever met a person that has picked up the driver for the first time and rattled a 350-yard bullet, landing 5 yards from the flag like it was second nature? The answer is likely 'no', as much as that was the initial thought when I first hit the driving range (needless to say that couldn't be further from what happened).

Career success, much like golf, is a journey of self-discipline, fuelled by the focus and desire to keep driving your business forward, laying-up your next milestone and putting your goals one after the other.

Here are 4 lessons I learned from golf that can be applied to career success;

Perseverance - Take the rough with the smooth.

To 'be successful' is quite an enigmatic quality as it can mean a different thing for everyone. Whatever you have identified as your metrics to success, fundamentally it's never an easy, painless and straightforward journey.

How many times have you felt like you were finally getting ahead, only for one bad swing to land you straight in the long grass of life?

As businesses gradually recover from the legend of lockdown, we are collectively hacking away at the rough, in the hope of landing back on a level fairway of normality.

It's easy to let one setback have a detrimental effect on years of hard work and perseverance. A golf buddy of mine recently told me;

"Every hole is a new opportunity for a fresh start on the tee, don't carry old negativity into a new opportunity."

If you let yesterday's setback creep into today's game, you are already starting on a higher handicap. Playing catch up from past setbacks can have a negative knock-on effect that will inevitably result in a frustrating round of golf.

Execution - Follow through is imperative.

Picture this, you're deep in the bunker, about to take a flop shot to land you as close to the flag as possible. You've calculated the wind direction, the lie of sand and the backswing amount.

Pretty much everything you need to ensure a near-perfect execution.

You line up your shot, lift your backswing, bring it down, and at the last moment you don't follow through with your shot. The ball dribbles a yard or two off to the left. Still in the sand and you've dropped a shot.

If you don't follow through with your plans and promises, you'll be destined to remain in life's proverbial bunker. Continuously rolling back to square one after every failed follow-through.

You may think you have the best idea, the best product, the best business plan that you could possibly have. However, unless you take action and follow through with your vision, it will remain just that.

If you promise the world to your client and don't follow through with those promises, your client will ultimately lose faith and trust in everything you tell them. Your credibility can take a knock as a result.

"A plan without action is not a plan, it's a speech." - T Boone Dickens

Integrity - Play it as it lies.

Have you ever found your ball in such a precarious spot that it seems almost impossible to recover? Kind of like that scene from Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore" when the ball lands in the alligator's mouth? Well, I'm in no way condoning alligator wrestling on the golf-course however this is a fantastic example of 'playing where the ball lies'.

Sometimes it seems very easy and tempting to just nudge the ball, cut corners, even CHEAT to get back on track. However, integrity on the golf course is just as important as integrity in business.

Customers deal with people which they feel they can trust. No matter what situation arises, your client will expect you to be transparent, open and honest. Otherwise, the relationship is likely to break down. Resulting in the potential loss of a client.

Nudging the ball away from the tree or kick it a few extra yards when no one is looking, your integrity and honesty is likely to be jeopardised. Although your golf buddies may not see it the first or second time, it just takes one instance for your entire golf game to be brought into question.

In business, honesty is a significantly decisive attribute that can make or break a great deal, your next sale or your reputation as a whole.

So, play it where it lies (except if it lands in an alligator's mouth).

Accountability - Keep your own score.

Golf is a solitary sport, a game of measuring yourself against your previous round. It's about bettering yourself and constant improvement. When you watch the pros, you only get to see the final product of a players game. What you don't see is the countless hours behind that success.

It's easy to look at success and overlook the hours on the driving range, the countless rounds, all the dropped shots to get to the level you see in the competitions.

Similar to your golf game, your business or career is your sole responsibility. Holding yourself accountable for the things within your control and not allowing the things that aren't, govern your emotions. The game must be played regardless of the conditions, rain or shine.

It's too easy to compare your own success to that of others. Whether on the course or on the job.

One thing to take into consideration is that you often may not know the journey behind that success, therefore how can it be compared to your own? Someone who looks successful on the outside could be struggling behind the scenes. A business that is expanding may have had extra help or funding that would explain a sudden boost in growth.

Healthy competition is great for development, and it's uplifting to have colleagues, peers and golf buddies present throughout your journey. However, they should never be used to fuel self-doubt as a result of the comparisons you have made.

Conclusion - Final words from the Clubhouse.

Golf, much like life, is a continuous journey of improvement. You may eagle two holes, but next time you'll be determined to eagle three. The same with your career, never chase perfection, chase improvements and development.

Lessons are learned in the pursuit of development.

Chasing an idea of perfection is an easy way to become discouraged when things don't quite get there as quickly as you'd planned. Identify at least one area from each round that you can improve for the next time and see how you flourish.

Take it easy, don't be so hard on yourself. Celebrate and show gratitude for the smaller successes and watch the bigger picture present itself.


Thanks for reading and I hope you took something from it, please leave any feedback or even share it if you like! Subscribe to our blog to always stay up to date.

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