Last week, I went to visit a long time friend of mine who turns 81 this year. He resides at a country club here in La Quinta during the fall, winter and spring months before heading back to Jackson, Wyoming for the summer. His wife and him have trained with me for over a decade but this year lethargy had taken over, meaning he hadn’t paid a visit to the gym since his arrival, or so I make up… His wife on the other hand is what you would colloquially refer to as a “fanatic”. She trains with me religiously and usually hits the ground running (in the gym) the week they arrive. Whenever we’d meet I would often ask her how he was doing (having dealt with some back and shoulder issues) and when he’d planned to stop by until I reached the conclusion that my best chance of actually seeing him was to stop by his house. So during one of her next training sessions I shared that I was contemplating seeing him at his club and maybe we could “hit balls” (a term used by golfers when they go to the driving range to work on their shots). If you knew his personality, there was little chance he’d resist the opportunity to witness me embarrassing myself. To no surprise, he agreed, undoubtedly drawn to the proposition of watching me fail miserably as most everyone does when they start getting their feet wet in the game of golf.
So needless to say I made my way over to his club where we chatted a bit at his house over coffee before heading to the range to hit. Little did I know, my good friend had planned for me to have a lesson with the head pro. This took me by complete surprise. Not only was this an incredibly genuine and kind gesture, but I knew the pro and had worked with him on some injuries several years back. For those of you who don’t know, golf can be an incredibly challenging and difficult game to learn. There is a high amount of coordination, focus and nuance all taking place at the same time while trying to perform this seeming simple task of trying to send a ball just feet away from you where you want it to go. Not only is it hard to make contact with the ball but when you do it certainly doesn’t go where you want and the harder you try the farther that perfect sound of the club face making clean contact with the ball’s little white dimpled face eludes you. Nonetheless, I fell in love. The scenery was beautiful, everyone at the club was nice, encouraging and friendly and I really wanted to get good. There is a saying in golf by I don’t know who but it goes “if you want to experience frustration, try golf” or something to the extent.
Some may be surprised that there was little to no frustration on my part. A quote comes to mind from my Sensei Saulo Ribeiro which goes “frustration means you think it’s easy”this is also something I pass along to all of my school’s white belts because every skill brings with it a process where you must learn, in a way, to be detached from the outcome. I say “in a way” because there is naturally a human desire to win or perform well. However, this illusory notion that you start out good at something or natural is a complete and utter myth. And for those who think golf is frustrating, you should try Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, winning the Tour De France or Weightlifting and I’m talking about the sport, not the clown show in most public gyms where huge egos with less than impressive qualifications and skills gyrate weights around while grunting and making noises. What I’m getting at is that perhaps if you are 7 feet tall while you might be genetically pre disposed to having an easier time in the game of basketball, needing to only jump a couple inches off the ground to dunk or block most shots, at the intermediate to highest level talent alone is not what separates the best players or the most talented musicians. This is evident in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Daniel Coyle’s talent code as well as what my eyes have seen in over a decade of athletics and training. While many are looking for a secret or shortcut there is something the highest achievers and best performers do… PRACTICE. And they practice well for more hours and with higher focus. So especially in the early stages of development it’s essential to enjoy the learning process and respect that it’s normal to err and mess up. The road to mastery is long so it’s best to have fun and be appreciative of the fact you get to participate at all, there are plenty who do not and we must always be mindful of this fact. Enjoy the road less traveled friends.