How Today’s ‘Quick-Win’ Means a Slow Defeat

How Today’s ‘Quick-Win’ Means a Slow Defeat

It really wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to learn a new skill or trade, you would have entered into an apprenticeship – an extended period under the eye of a master craftsman, who taught you your trade. Of course it would not have been all plain sailing: you’d make mistakes, suffer setbacks, have times when you thought you’d never get on top of it. But ultimately, thanks to the sound principles and careful guidance of your master, you’d emerge successful and qualified.

Today, of course, apprenticeships have rather fallen out of fashion. And no wonder. They hardly fit with the ‘Why wait when you can have it now?’ culture we are all living under. In almost every sphere of life – be it smartphones, cars, houses and yes, even golf swings – the notion of having to earn it has become, well, old-fashioned. So ubiquitous that we don’t even notice it anymore, the marketing message of the 21st century tells us: “You’ll only be happy when you get X… and you can have X today.” It’s a seductive message for sure, one we’d like to believe… and sure enough, it gets us opening our wallets on a regular basis.

But let’s bring this back to golf. Even the briefest spin around the internet shows us the promises being made to us are becoming ridiculously, absurdly wild. ‘Cure your slice in five shots’… ‘Never duff an iron again’… ‘The only driver tip you’ll ever need!’ ‘15 yards longer instantly, guaranteed!’ You’ve seen them all. Equipment marketing is more sober, but even here promises of drivers that hit longer, irons that fly truer and putters that roll better fit seamlessly into the modern narrative: you can have it now. You don’t have to wait.

When we stop and think about all these crazy promises, we begin to see that each one is presenting to us a version of the future: one in which we drive it further, never slice, where the pain is taken away. It’s in this utopian world that all our dreams can be realised… winning that tournament, getting your handicap down to single figures, breaking 80 for the first time. Here, at last, we’ll be happy. Right?

Not so long ago, I worked with a player who had a life-changing victory – the sort of success golfers dream about. He was, understandably, euphoric. I came across him 10 days later; I’d never in my life seen a golfer looking so dejected. He was the picture of misery. It was a lesson for both of us.

The golfer was experiencing what tennis great Martina Navratilova meant when she said: “The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.” These great moments – moments professional sports players dream about, live for, work towards – do not endure. In fact they are gone in a puff of wind.

Note it well: the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ mentality that drives us towards buying into all this short-termist lunacy is a myth. Adopt it and we are heading for disillusionment. But moreover, basing our relationship with golf on a wonderful vision of the future makes us interminably, detrimentally, restless. We want that future, and we want it as soon as possible. We will not stick with anything if it does not yield instant results. And with so much free information out there, the opportunity to try something different is never more than a click away.

So let’s stop this nonsense now. Begin by questioning your experience over the past few years. What’s it really been like, constantly searching for the answer that will bring you to that future you keep dreaming of? If YouTube has transformed your game, then fair enough; but I’d wager you’re getting pretty fed up with searching everywhere for an answer that cannot be found.

If that rings true with you, it’s time to commit to a new approach, based on the following principles.

  • The path to enduring golfing development is well known; it’s all about committing to a few key principles and using them to stay on track. Every great golfer, from Hogan through Nicklaus to McIlroy, has demonstrated this. But in today’s ‘instant win’ culture, not many players are prepared to do it.
  • Accept there is nothing that can protect you from the feeling of poor shots. If you don’t see this as part of the game, you are heading for trouble.
  • Move away from those poisonous promises of golfing nirvana by developing a willingness to accept uncertain outcomes.
  • Today’s free, convenient, instant promises have taken the place of what we might have done – build a relationship with a coach and enjoy the journey, the process of development. Think of the experience as your own, golfing apprenticeship.
  • Above all, stop basing your decisions on some spurious vision of your future self as a golfer – the real driving force behind all this short-termist and ultimately self-defeating behaviour. Replace it with patience, acceptance and a willingness to invest yourself in the development of your skills. Here you can find some happiness that won’t disappear in a puff of smoke.

Dealing with Short-termism: Summing Up

  • Modern culture tries to convince us we can have what we want… now. Develop a healthy cynicism for anyone or anything promising quick wins or an idealised future. Instead, commit to a few key principles and use them to stay on track.
  • Apprenticeships have fallen out of fashion. But you can have your own by building a long-term relationship with a coach and commiting to a process of learning and development.
  • Short-termist promises conjure a vision of a perfect, pain-free golfing future. Put that to bed by becoming fascinated with the process, not the end-result. Commit to developing your skills and building your game. This is your best defence against the false promise of short-termism.

Guest Post, Author: Karl Morris, The Mind Factor