As readers of my blog will know, The 146th Open Golf Championship is taking place right on my doorstep. A full twelve minutes walk to be precise.
For those readers of my blog – and I know who you are – who normally skip the sporting related posts, I would humbly suggest you read on. This post is really about the stuff I saw today that I could take into my daily life and my approach to work and home life. The sporting bit is just the colour in the drawing. As I have written before, golf is a great metaphor for life as today proved.
Today was another practice day (the second of four) and so the crowds were smaller than on the championship days – the days the four rounds of competition are played (Thursday to Sunday). This means you get the chance to get really close to the action and to see the players – some of them the biggest names in the sport this year or for many a year – interacting with their caddies, coaches and support staff and to see them going about their business with very few people to block your view. It was fascinating. Here’s what I saw.
Practice properly – make every moment count
There was no going through the motions; no, just hitting balls. This was planned, diligent, focused practice. This was a brilliant illustration of the preparation that goes into playing tournament golf. It was fantastic to see the level of concentration, the attention to detail, the ongoing discussions about what just worked or didn’t. I saw today a total and complete determination to make the next shot better than the one before by concentrating and treating every piece of work – every swing, every time a shot was lined up, everything, with professionalism. It told me that the hours of practise are not about quantity but quality, about making every minute they spend in the office count.
Be yourself – play your own game
The field for this week’s Open contains around 150 players. I hazard a guess that each player is unique; with different personality traits and approaches to life. I saw that writ large today. There were players playing the course alone, some with just their caddies, some with caddies and coaches, full entourages of support staff, other players, friends, wives, girlfriends, mums and dads and others. There were groups of players, some banter, some in silence, note taking, mobile phone surfing and various gadgets in hand. It was a reminder that as we are all unique; all ourselves, we should approach our work in the best way that best suits us. No need to do what others are doing just because that is the majority approach – do what works for you, how it works for you. Be yourself.
Make time for others – you’re not that busy
It was a privilege to see some of the finest golfers of the last 25 years gracing the links in Birkdale today, including personal favourites, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIllory and Ernie Els. It was also great to see, despite the high stakes of their work this week and the pressure – mostly self-imposed – to succeed, so many of these great names of golf taking lots of time out to speak to fans, signing autographs and posing for selfies – thanks Ernie! It was a reminder that no matter how busy you are; how much pressure you feel under at work, there is always time to stop for a chat, to walk that bit slower through the office, to be available to others.
Enjoyment leads to success
Top level sport – like all professions and jobs is a serious business. There are financial rewards, reputations and legacies at stake. There are mortgages to pay. It is not a game or a hobby to the blokes playing this week, it is their livelihood. It is for almost all of them what defines them. It is their identity. And yet, those who seemed to be playing the best golf and having the best results on the course or practice ground where those who seemed to be having the best time. I’m not talking about huge smiles on faces, laughing or larking their way around the course, but having an aurora of calmness, contentment and confidence. Those who looked assured and happy as they wandered around looked more in control of their golf. Happiness is the secret to success.
Most of the things I saw today were not rocket science or new ideas or ways of working. But seeing them up close, in this context, brought them to life. I am happy that I have large elements of all of these things already built into my life but there is always room for improvement. Always an extra percentage point or two to be found. An extra level to aspire to; more targets to be set and achieved. Every day is a school day and every day must be lived to the full.
Day three tomorrow. Non-sports fans, keep reading. Please be open to The Open.