Practicing Versus Playing

One of my goals this year has been to see if I like playing golf. (I wrote about this in an earlier blog.)

I found an instructor, bought a set of clubs, and have been periodically going to the driving range to practice. For some reason, I had it in my head that I needed to keep practicing for a while, before I should head out to play actual golf on a golf course.

And then my instructor had to take a break from teaching, and I got busy with other things. So it’s been a couple of months since I’ve hit the ball. But last weekend, I went to visit friends in Prescott, Arizona, and when they heard I had taken up golf, they arranged for us to play a round.

Needless to say I was a little nervous. In addition to the fact that I hadn’t hit a ball for two months, I also had never played a full round of golf before. Thankfully my friends were easy going, and we didn’t have to keep score.

At the end of the afternoon, as we were heading off to the last hole, I realized I had gained a few insights:

  1. It’s a good idea to take a practice swing before hitting the ball. It loosens you up and helps set the pace for your next swing (the real one). This is the same as other parts of your life, sales, for example; it’s always a good idea to practice your sales pitch before your actual presentation to get the right pace.
  2. Don’t wait too long between your practice swing and the actual swing – if you stand there too long, you will tense up, concentrating and thinking so hard. The same thing can happen in sales. If you are concentrating too hard to make a sale, or give a sales pitch, you can cause tension in yourself. It’s better to breathe deeply, relax, and do a quick run through before your presentation. Then, with the same rhythm, speak to your actual client.
  3. If you only practice (like go to the driving range) and never jump in and play (a round of golf), you won’t fully appreciate the entire golf experience. In sales, I would equate this to the person who spends an enormous amount of time preparing for a sales presentation, tweaking every slide, considering every possibility that will come up in the conversation, rather than using the information she has and enjoying the sales conversation.

In life, and in sales, just like in golf, there are hills and valleys in the conversation, sand traps, fast greens, and trees in the way. But the key is to use all the clubs you have in your bag, admit when you’ve lost a ball, enjoy the scenery, and at the end of the day, be grateful, not frustrated with the experience.

Thanks to my friends David and Paula Lund for so many life lessons on the golf course.

Happy golfing and Happy Thanksgiving!

My friends David and Paula

My high school friend, Paula and me

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