Are you a Professional?

Do the Work coverWhenever the word professional is used in golfing circles, it inspires images of players travelling the world and making money doing something that they love.  This is really the romantic view and whether or not it is the reality, it is the stuff of dreams for countless golfers.

History shows that success at the professional golf level comes to very few of the most talented and skilled.  For many of the rest, their attempts at becoming a professional in attitude and behaviour is really very amateurish.

In this article I wanted to find the difference between an attitude that is amateurish and the attitude that is professional.  Some of the best writing on this is by Steven Pressfield, particularly in his books Do the Work and Turning Pro. 

Pressfield’s definition of a professional is someone who doesn’t make excuses for themselves and gets on with whatever work they need to do to advance themselves.  That work could be the pursuit of any meaningful calling, a diet or exercise regime or any act requiring courage and commitment.  Along the way everyone meets resistance, which manifests itself in fears, doubts, distraction, self-loathing and perfectionism (to name a few).

Your job is to face down this resistance.  His metaphor of resistance is that it is an implacable enemy which fights to kill.  It is something that we may have to meet every day.

Rational thought will not overcome it.  Our allies are

  • Stupidity – a child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or madman.  It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and over think and hesitate.  Don’t think.  Act.
  • Stubbornness – once you commit to an action, the worst thing you can do is stop.
  • Blind Faith – this is the spiritual element of creativity.
  • Passion – once we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.
  • Assistance – by channelling our energy and creating momentum we can generate a support from others which will help us.
  • Friends and family.

When most people imagine themselves pursuing an exciting goal they see it all working out nicely in the very early stages.   They hold the belief that everything will come together exactly as planned.  As the time to act on this goal gets closer, the doubts begin to emerge and often those thoughts turn to what could go wrong.  Dwelling on the thoughts of what can go wrong can be all consuming.  At the very least they are a distraction from the task at hand, which is performing ‘in the moment’.  On the golf course that involves preparing for, and playing every shot without regard to anything associated with a negative outcome.

When it comes to acting on your goals, good advice is to start before you are ready.  Don’t prepare too much, but begin and then adjust your course as you go.  As Pressfield says, “the enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and 1 million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”

In the normal course of things when you are planning to compete in the competition you do things in the following order: practice and prepare your strategy, compete, review your performance.  When resistance gets in the way you consider the potential outcomes in advance.  That is almost like doing the review before you’ve hit your first tee shot.

The answer to questions about training must always be yes.  It is raining, should I go and practice?  Yes.  My game is not in good shape at the moment, so should I compete this weekend?  Yes.  You never know when a brilliant performance is going to come at the most unlikely time.

The opposite of resistance is to build on the passion which made you begin in the first place.  Then keep working.

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