Kind, but no hero.

May 10, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

I received this article from several associates. They know I am interested in integrity and golf so, in Avatar lexicon, thanks for “seeing me.”

This is the story of two collegiate golfers going into the playoffs; the winner would get into Nationals. One of the players was already going to the finals because his team had won. The other, though he’d had a wonderful golf career, had never gotten to the finals, and being a senior, this would be his last chance. The story tells how the player who was already going to the finals intentionally hit his tee shot out of bounds by 40 yards, suffering a penalty, and the other player went on to win the hole and get into the finals.

The Giving Trees by Terrance Osborne

I think my response to the article surprised the people who sent it to me. Here it is. I’d love to know what you think.

In my estimation, the player who purposely lost made it too obvious by hitting the ball out of bounds by 40 yards. My issue is one of intention. Hitting the ball so far off line brings attention to himself and his act, and so the gift is about the giver not the receiver. It’s like keeping the price tag on the present for all at the party to see one’s generosity.

The player could have simply three-putted to make it appear that the other guy won. This way the winner gets the pride of victory instead of knowing he was given charity. With this approach no one but the “giving” player would have known. That would take courage, humility and grace and would have earned my deep respect and gotten him no glory.

Imagine being the player who performed this act in such a selfless way, reading in the sports section, if it even made it being so mundane, how he blew it on the payoff hole. What a joyous story that would be!

False idol.

April 7, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Shot like he’s Jesus.

Emotionally stripped, revealing nothing.

Accusatory visage, deflecting introspection.

Words from the father from another world.

Just false.

To perform better later, perform better now.

September 18, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director & CEO @NYCA

Golf Pros — and these are the best in the world, physically and mentally — score better on Thursday than on Sunday. The average score at a PGA event on Thursday is always lower than on Sunday.

Why the difference, why is it higher?puttinggreen_practice_1

It’s the same course, the same equipment, the same competition.

The players themselves are the ones who change and obviously not for the better.

It’s because the players are thinking differently on Sunday. They are adding another element beyond playing the game well: winning.

Thursday is the day the tournament begins and it ends Sunday.

You cannot win or lose the tournament on Thursday but on Sunday you will.

As they get closer to the final hole the golfers think beyond the hole, beyond the shot – no longer about just hitting the ball in the direction they want or even getting a low score which, as you know if you play golf, is hard enough.

Maybe it’s the trophy, the jacket, the check, the fame, the approval of their peers, their parents – all this comes with winning and not if they lose.

And so the act of hitting the golf ball becomes so much different than the act hitting a golf ball.

And the scores reflect it.

Their need to win saps them of their ability to play well enough to win.

They are getting ahead of themselves. They are thinking about the results of the tournament and putting their energies outside ‘the ropes’ and so diluting their powers to affect the outcome which they care so much about.

Winning is not part of the golf action: the back swing, the down swing, the contact, the follow through. It is another state entirely, and when the two are forced to combine, it causes confusion and distraction and inefficiency and unhappiness, as well as errant golf shots.

This is true in all endeavors, personal and professional. The more we encumber ourselves the less well we perform. We restrict ourselves under the pressure we put on ourselves unnecessarily.

We must stay in the present moment in all we do.  If we just hit the best shots we can we have the best chance at winning. It’s all we can do. And anything else is harmful to the cause.

My son, Alex, wants to be a CFO of a multinational corporation.  Today he is an undergraduate at a prestigious university’s business school. If he wants to run that big, complicated company, the best way for him to do that is to pay full attention to his studies today. That focus on the professor, the assignment, the studying will get him eventually to a place where he can do a good job leading the corporation when that time comes. Not before. This is difficult for anyone with a dream, especially a young energetic entrepreneurial person like him, to understand. He must succeed now in his school work in order to succeed in the now of his CFO role once that now comes.

The golfers can not pick up of the trophy until the final shot is completed. So best to complete the final shot first, completely, and then pick up the trophy and then kiss it completely. In that order. And then cash the big check…. No confusion or distraction here. Simple as back swing, down swing, contact, follow through on Thursday. Certainly there is happiness in the flow. Oh, and less pressure because you accept the moment’s offerings.

In my profession we have award shows – hundreds of them, perhaps thousands. Awards are nice and recognition is vital for self esteem. But when you think of winning an award as you create, you dilute your ability to do great work. Your energy is going to two distinct channels and not doing justice to either.  

So focus on the task – stay in the present. Enjoy the shot, the memo, the PowerPoint, the conversation, the hand-holding, the salad, the view, the moment, yourself, life.

And Thursday will be just as great as Sunday as Monday as 9:33am as Now.