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Refusal of the Call

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt

It’s been a little over six months.  Six months of learning about and living with myself in the face of torturous inadequacy.  My voice formerly felt like that of a critic, lacking the experience that notoriety was building.  Cowardice, vanity, and wrongful action: my blog became an echo chamber of discontent.

There’s no denying the past.   And in this case, there will also be no regretting it.  Failing is hard. It hurt with relentless agony. Watching goals slip through your fingers with every swing, every round, and every day.

Failure became my reality until my ego said, “ENOUGH!  Quit and you can’t fail anymore.”

What hurt more was giving up.

Somewhere in those six months since, the quiet voice of confidence grew.  My ego had forgotten this patch of grass, while my heart was building a garden.

At first I took a serious break from golf.  Work kept me busy, and I enjoyed having most of my weekends back.  When I finally got back to the course, I wasn’t keeping score. Truly playing golf instead of tracking and judging.  It wasn’t pretty and, once again, it didn’t matter. Duffs, blades, shanks, fats, tops, dinks, boinks, plops, and every other horrendous sound of mediocrity.

Soon golf started finding its way back on my TV.  Golf books started opening up by themselves, begging to be read.  I was enjoying the game again.

Eventually the thought of starting the blog back up crossed my mind.  I shuddered, at first, and closed the discussion before it could do any damage.

Enjoy the game.  What else do you need to get out of it?

After a few months of just playing, I started passively tallying my score.  To my surprise, I was breaking 80 with quite a lot of regularity. Even bad rounds were just a fraction worse than scores I strived and died for five years ago.

Those glimpses of encouragement beckoned like the siren’s song.  And the blog was still there.

Waiting like your dog after years away at college: tail wagging, smile across his mug, letting out little whimpers of joy.  He remembers you the way you were. Forgetting how long you were gone, but happy you’re here now.

There was a passage in Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday that felt like it was speaking directly to me:

“So why do you do what you do?  That’s the question you need to answer.  Stare at it until you can. Only then will you understand what matters and what doesn’t.”

Before I could start the blog back up, I had to know.  But I didn’t. Believe me I stared at the question for weeks.  I put it on a note in my journal and looked at it everyday. Hoping that a light bulb would pop on, reminding me.

Paragraphs on paragraphs were written, all poor excuses for why I do what I do.  Why do I golf? Why do I blog? Why do I care?

Somewhere in there had to be the answer.  I reviewed my old About page and felt the words weren’t the truth anymore.  Or at the very least that truth didn’t have a purpose.

My swing coach recommended Extraordinary Putting: Transforming the Whole Game by Fred Shoemaker to me when I was going through some putting woes.  In my highlighted notes was a quote from Shoemaker’s former teacher:

“If you didn’t have a purpose in golf before, you now have one: to find out how to create golf as an endless fascination.  Because only then will you really learn. We only learn what we want to learn, what we’re interested in learning, and learning is a function of fascination.”

It still wasn’t my truth.  There was something else to share.

Making this blog about a journey that goes nowhere is nothing.  Not because I didn’t accomplish my dreams, but because I didn’t learn any truths about myself.  Like traveling to another country and complaining about their language, what’s the point?

Right there was my nagging ache.  Instead of doing this for me or some arbitrary goal, I need to do this for truth.  Not for results, but for understanding. Not to teach or to be some voice, but to free thoughts from misinformation, opinion, and judgement.

Truth becomes the only thing that matters.  The present moment being the purest truth. Completely objective.  Everything is as it is, there is nothing else. When I started finding it again through scoreless, hacker golf, it revealed itself everywhere.  From there it expanded into where we are today.

I lost that truth.

So where do we go from here?

I need a little time to collect some data (haven’t done that in a while).  As I’ve said before, you don’t know where you’re going until you have an idea of where you’re starting from.  October now be “Taking Stock-tober”.

In the meantime, I want to share lessons from the book Every Shot Counts with you.  Mark Broadie wrote an absolute gem on the creation of the strokes gained statistic and how it can help you start to make changes to improve your score.  If we want to make actual progress, our approach needs to get back to the facts.

If any one thing changed my mind about golf or this blog, it was Every Shot Counts.

Eventually I may take up lessons again.  It seems foolish to pursue this without guidance, but I don’t feel I’m alone.  I have resources and feedback systems waiting to be used. The difference this time around is that I don’t want answers, I want better questions.  

One of my learning hurdles was information retrieval and retention.  It’s easy to fix your swing when someone gives you the answer, but what happens when you have to find it yourself?  Could that be the real secret to lasting success? When answers are readily available, I don’t internalize them. This is my way around that.

Whatever challenges you face along the way, the lesson you learn is yours alone.  Someone can go through the same gauntlet and experience a completely different message.  That uniqueness will help you grow. Embrace your obstacles and listen to what they teach you.  My previous failures are now an opportunity with new vision.

I do owe an apology to Jon over at Practical Golf for disappearing into the abyss.  His site has been an incredible inspiration and endlessly informative.  Please accept my sincerest apologies for my absence.

The amateur tour that I was a part of will no longer be part of my plans.  For various reasons it doesn’t fit into my world, and that’s all it takes to remove distractions now.

My first attempt fell short.  As Holiday wrote in Ego is the Enemy:

“It was a reminder: You’re not as good as you think  You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused. Do better.”

So there you have it.  I’m back with fresh eyes and a willingness to learn like never before.

Welcome back to the Subpar Golf Blog.

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