About 20 years ago I fell in love with golf. I devoted time, money, waking thoughts, and a lot more. In return, I received huge amounts of frustration, a sore back and tan legs with ghost-like white ankles and feet. Nevertheless, I can’t untangle myself from this relationship; we’ve gone too far together.
There is lots I like about golf. I love the social aspect of it. I like spending 3 or 4 hours with a group. I find the competitive nature of the play just right. Golf is a great excuse for being outdoors in beautiful settings which change with the seasons. When you play golf, you cannot allow other thoughts – like business or personal matters – interfere. You must be solely devoted to playing.
Golf also begs comparisons to life. One such comparison had a profound effect on me.
I drew a little diagram to illustrate my point.
I often found myself in this predicament. The golf ball is in the fairway. You can see from the diagram the direction I needed to hit the ball to get to the flag. In the lower right hand corner of the diagram is a pond. Ponds must have a magnetic pull on my golf balls, because so many of my shots land in the water.
If I hit the ball even vaguely straight, there is no danger that the ball will go in the pond. The water is too far to the right. I’d have to work really hard to get that ball in the pond. Yet, I used to stand over the ball and keep thinking to myself, “This ball is going to go in the pond. I just know this ball is headed for the pond. I might as well walk it over and throw the damn ball in the pond.”
I would then hit the ball towards the flag, but for reasons that defy physics, the ball would slice severely (goes right) and land in the aforementioned water hazard. After years of doing this with some regularity, I had an epiphany. I was willing the ball into the pond. I don’t know technically what I did to cause the severe slice that changed the trajectory of the ball to swing that far right, but I created it all in my head.
My epiphany was that whatever force I used to think the ball into the pond, I can use to think the ball towards the green. Maybe even onto the green.
And, it worked!
I started hitting the ball straight even when the pond was right next to me. I conquered my fear of ponds and play a lot better golf now.
I now appreciate the incredible power of negative thoughts and how they become self fulfilling prophecies. I started to understand that when you think bad results, bad results happen. Once I started thinking positively about what could happen, my game improved, my business improved and my life improved.
When I’m working with people on public speaking issues, I’ll often hear them tell me that they are not born speakers, that they are miserable presenters, and, that they are completely intimidated in front of groups.
I now know that they say these things with great assurance because they cause it to happen every time. If you think you are going to do a poor job in a presentation, you will. Guaranteed. If you think the audience won’t appreciate what you have to say. Ditto. You are right again.
Now think positive. Let’s believe that you have a great presentation about a subject the audience wants to hear and needs to hear. You must believe they will appreciate the message, the messenger and value of the talk. If you believe that, you are already on your way to becoming an infinitely better presenter.
I’ve seen a relationship between people who believe they will bomb in their next presentation, and their high level of anxiety. Conversely, when people believe they will hit the ball straight and true, they are much less nervous.
You must believe. The biggest obstacle to becoming a stronger presenter is in the fairway right between your ears.