7 lessons golf taught me about change

I thought I hated golf.

Fine, I never exactly hated it, but as my family was obsessed with it, I didn’t play it. Just out of principle.

 Like I never “learned” how to drink coffee.

10 years ago I got bored while waiting for my parents and started hitting golf balls at the range. I heard clapping when I hit 50 m. They told me I was great, that I should give golf a try. I said no, “golf is just not my thing.”

Even if I secretly enjoyed it.

10 years passed. When I went home few months ago, there was a bit of tension. My mom had a golf tournament coming up and felt like she wasn’t improving despite all the effort. On top of it, my dad had filmed her the day before to show her what she didn’t do right. She was annoyed and said she saw no difference. My dad was sulking, because she didn’t want to listen.

Aha,” I thought, “I can try a bit of my coaching skills here!”

I asked my mom about her goal, what she already had done, and ideas how she thought she could improve her game. After a while she reluctantly said that maybe watching the video again would help. This time she listened what my dad had to say and saw what she did wrong.

“But there’s no way she’ll listen when we’re playing. She’s as stubborn as you,” my dad mumbled.

To prove him wrong, I forgot my “hate for golf” and did a deal with my mom: I went to play with them the next day open minded, willing to listen to my dad’s instructions. I had to show my mom how to receive feedback or I would have no credibility.

It was tough, but in 20 min I was hitting the ball 100 m. Oh the joy!

My mom had been observing me closely. When my dad asked her to change the golf club, she felt uncomfortable. Yet grinding her teeth she agreed to do it and after a small slump in her performance, she hit her record and got a birdie.

“Damn, I’m a good coach,” I thought “and golf is a piece of cake.”

Oh I was so wrong: Two days later when I went confidently to open the game – boom! I felt pressure. I needed to perform. I started over-thinking my every move, where my feet were, how hard I should hit, where the target was. I got stiff.

And the game suffered.

I went from a promising golf player to an useless person missing the ball or hitting it 2-3 m along the grass.

 More frustrated I got, worse I played. I stopped listening.

My dad walked up to me and said with a calm, encouraging voice: Stop, listen and relax. Just keep your eye on the ball, forget the rest. You have checked the direction it should go to, now focus. You know what to do.

I hit it 80 m to the right direction.

7 Lessons golf taught me about change:

What did I learn? That I’ve been very arrogant. I’ve told myself a story that I’m highly adaptable, yet even if I consider myself “an agent of change”, I’m comfortable pushing the comfort zone in the area I know: digital.

1. See things from other person’s perspective

Change is scary. It is not easy to wander to an unknown territory. Often us digital natives can’t understand why digital transformation is so hard yet we don’t know the world before digital. It’s tough to go from an expert to a beginner and try something new in an area we’ve never explored.

We experience same insecurities and frustrations that everyone else does if it’s in an area we’re not familiar with, in my case golf. Even a tough cookie can crumble. Have patience.

2. You can’t change people unless they want to change

Digital transformation starts with people, not with technology. It’s all about changing the mindsetWe might have the best tools and the best coaches, but if we’re not willing to change, we won’t.

We might not protest directly, but the most common way to resist change is by doing nothing until given specific instructions. This is particularly destructive for the company as it creates inertia in times when we must adapt fast or we lose the game.

We need to come to a conclusion ourselves that we must change for our own benefit. If my mom hadn’t admitted herself that watching the video and changing the way she played could improve her game, my story would have been a very short one.

3. Change the story you tell yourself

In business and life, we sometimes do things just out of principle. The more we tell the story “why we don’t do something” to ourselves and others, the more difficult our ego makes it to change it. It becomes part of our identity, like I’m not a leader type of guy, I don’t do social, presentations are just not my thing.

I enjoyed hitting golf balls ten years ago, but I needed a powerful excuse to save my face and change my story: helping my mom.

4. Don’t over think: act like no one’s watching

Exploring new areas and tools on our own time is very different than when we get observed on how we are using them. Something that was effortless becomes all of the sudden complicated and hard.

Additional pressure blinds us. What other people think about us becomes more important than what we are doing at the moment. We get distracted and lose our eye on the ball.

I played golf naturally until my parents started observing me and I started over-thinking my every move. When I relaxed, I thrived again. Stay focused.

5. Keep learning, keep developing

Only thing consistent in life is change. Just because we’re experts doesn’t mean that others can’t teach us to become a better version of ourselves. Sometimes even if we know we need training, our ego stops us: if I take this training other people will think I don’t know everything, they will think I’m a fake.

Think about it from another point of view: what if we go to the course to see whether we as experts could improve the training content? Shouldn’t we know what is being taught to our colleagues on our topic?

External training is useful to stay up to date on the latest trends and we can strengthen our position as experts when we teach colleagues the latest and the greatest.

6. Explore new tools

Just because we’re used to a certain system or tool, doesn’t mean that’s the best tool out there. Yes, at first doing tasks with the new system takes longer and no one likes to become a beginner again. However, after a while we might be able to do things much faster and achieve more.

My mom didn’t want to change the golf club as she had already been playing well with it. But the new one helped her to hit her record. And she by the way won big tournament 🙂

7. Lead by example.

How can we influence others if we don’t practice what we preach? We can talk about digital transformation, but if we ourselves use old tools, don’t think digital / mobile first and don’t do social – where’s our credibility? People pay attention more in what we do, than what we say.

I had to swallow my pride and listen to my dad’s instructions – otherwise my mom would have not done the same.

Extra lesson: Never take things for granted

I might at times be stubborn and I may not like all the lessons I get – but I appreciate every moment I still have the best coaches in the world by my side. Things change and this will not always be the case, so I want to thank them for making me who I am.

They’re not afraid to shake me back to my senses and keep my ego in check. They have taught me integrity, courage and the value of hard work.

My coaches. My heroes. My parents.

Best of luck x


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