Tag Archives: golf

Life Shall Give Thee No Mulligans

Bonsai ballGolf is a delightful game.  Sure, it’s completely maddening and harder than almost any other sport I can think of, but when approach with a good attitude, it is treeeemendous.  And yes, that’s how I am spelling that word right now.  You want to spell it differently?  Start your own snappy blog but on this blog, we sometimes like to mess with English.  Just because we can.  We also like to use the pronoun “we” even though this blog is the effort of one person… me.  Again, see previous disclaimer on getting your own damn blog.

I got to play for the first time this past season on Good Friday and what a good day it was.  Granted, my level of play varied from “Sweet mother of God… don’t look straight at that shot since you may turn to stone!” to something akin to transcendent beauty (at least in my eyes).

One of the things that came up with the guys I was playing with was whether we would be using any mulligans since it was the very first round of the season.  For those of you not steeped in the rich tradition of golf parlance, a mulligan is just an exceedingly fancy word for a do-over.  Yes, besides being an utterly challenging game, golf thoroughly enjoys a language all its own that conjures up all sorts of snooty country club images.

The decision was to allow one mulligan per 9 holes.  I ended up using one after a drove one into some godforsaken part of the course from which the ball would never return, but my honestly?  I tend to hate mulligans.  HATE them.  I let one slide this time, but even then I didn’t like it all that much and for one simple reason:

When you give yourself do-overs, you never know where you really stand.  And that makes me crazy.

Perhaps I should explain.  If I am going to play a sport, I really don’t like shortcuts… because at some point and in some place, I may be competing… and there are few things worse than an inflated sense of self.  When I play golf, I want to count every single shot and I want to putt out every putt to completion.  When I lift weights, I don’t want to do partial lifts just so I can brag about all of the Interwebz about my  gargantuan strength (hence my vlog post on “Many Steps Back” where I talk about rebuilding one of my lifts after hitting an all-time best).

Maybe this is just part of my job as an ethics officer rubbing off on everything else I do, but I want to know how good I am as precisely as possible… not so I can measuring myself against others, but really so I can measure against myself.

And for one more reason – life gives no do-overs.  Ever.  The moments that slip past you will never return again.  If given the chance, do I want to half-ass it just so I can brag about an empty accomplishment?  Yeah, not so much for this handsome kid over here.

Are people who use mulligans somehow weak or bad people?  Oh hardly at all.  If it makes you enjoy golf all the more (and it’s not being used to cheat against others), go crazy.  You won’t find me playing morals police with how you choose to enjoy the game.

I just never want to fall into a habit… in anything… of relying on a second chance, especially one I created to give myself an insincere pat on the back.  I’m OK with less-than-perfect or even fall-on-my-face failures the first time around since even when ugly, they are all mine.

I will take owning my own failures every time over faking my own successes. Every.  Single.  Time.

Unconditional Confidence

One of the things I love most about reading is there’s always a chance I will have an epiphany or maybe even a more run-of-the-mill moment of clarity. It’s part of the adventure of reading a book, magazine, blog,cereal box or one of those uber-cool ancient scrolls from ages long past. Not that I stumble across many scrolls… or any. Point still stands.

One of my current reads is the book "Zen Golf" by Dr. Joseph Parent.  Dr. Parent is a PGA instructor who is also a Ph.D.in psychology and a student of Buddhism to boot. That’s a pretty full resume for anyone you can name.  The book, as its title so aptly suggests, is about using the fundamental teachings of Shambhala warriorship (a spiritual companion to Buddhism) to become a better golfer and also improve your own life in the process.

Zen Golf

I’m digging this book. No, seriously…

One section in particular has piqued my interest – it’s entitled "unconditional confidence"… and yes, it is in all lower-case ’cause that’s how those who are one with the Zen roll. Or e.e. cummings. Either, or.  Anyhoo, Dr. Parent writes:

Unconditional confidence arises from connecting with our basic goodness.  We believe in ourselves as decent people and in our golfing skills for our level of play.  This doesn’t mean we expect to hit every shot perfectly.  It does mean we can handle whatever the result is.  With unconditional confidence, our self-worth as a human being doesn’t depend on how well or poorly we strike a golf ball.  We see our nature and our abilities as basically good and the difficulties we encounter as temporary experiences.

As soon as I read that, I couldn’t help but expand it well beyond the boundaries of the game of golf.  How can you not expand it? It’s so apparent to hundreds of activities we undertake each day.

It’s all-too-often the case if we doing something wrong, mess something up, miss our exit on the highway, or hit a truly poor golf shoot, it becomes so much more than just a moment of error that should slide gently by without much thought.  Instead, we often lapse into something like “Oh my God… I’m such a moron… how could I be so freaking STUPID?!?!?”  We go beyond it being a simple event and it instead becomes a referendum on our worth as a person.

What’s so troubling about this is how easily it happens.  Right there… blink of an eye… BOOM!  Event happens and our instantaneous reaction (or at least mine, more often than I care to think about sometimes) is to judge ourselves on a far more serious and permanent basis than could possibly be merited.

This is, of course, utterly ridiculous and Dr. Parent nails it.  If we molded ourselves more into the form of a person exercising unconditional confidence, we recognize that we are good at our core, momentary errors are just that and we always can move beyond them to a better state.  Notice that unconditional confidence DOES NOT equal irrational confidence.  The former is how you bounce back because you believe in yourself… the latter is an artificial construct where we are only looking to kid ourselves into belief.  That’s sort of like the prizefighter who talks a gigantic amount prior to a huge fight to psyche himself into belief.  I think that’s a fool’s errand, at best.

So perhaps we can all take a lesson from a book on golf to be a little bit more about life.  We are good at our base core and the less we become clouded with temporary passing moments and believe in a larger sense of our intrinsic value as a person, the better we will be… and we might even end up as better golfers in the process.  Or so I am hoping for me.