I played golf with my brother-in-law a few years ago. He hadn’t played much and was struggling. But no matter where his drive went, or where he found his ball, he would not take a mulligan or improve his lie. “Go ahead and move the ball,” I told him. “Why suffer?”
“No thanks,” was his reply. And he hacked the ball back into the fairway.
That round made a big impression on me. For one thing, I was a poor-to-fair golfer and I’d take mulligans from time to time, or take a favorable drop, or the like. But what my brother-in-law taught me that day was that I would never know precisely how well I was doing at golf if I didn’t follow the rules.
And if I didn’t know how well I was doing, it would be hard to improve. I had to confront the brutal facts (as stated in “Good to Great”–wait, didn’t I discredit this book just last week??) before I could move forward.
I tried to take that lesson into my business life as well. How were things going, really? Was I using excuses to mask weaknesses I myself needed to address?
In short, to be great at business you can’t take mulligans. You’ve got to face reality and try to improve.
It was a very valuable day on the golf course. After I cut down on the mulligans and played the ball where it lay, my scores, predictably, got worse. Over time they’ve come down. And, best of all, they’re real.
(Photo: “Tee Time 3″ from Garrison Photography via stock.xchng–note: NOT my brother-in-law)