Do you play golf? Do you like it? How good of a player are you? Is it fair to suggest you may not be as good as you would like to be, yet you still like getting out? Think, for a moment, of the last time you played. Was it a corporate function? Was it with friends? Who were you with? Where were you? What was the weather like? What was your best shot of the round? How does thinking about that shot make you feel? How does thinking about that shot make you feel about golf? What is the first shot you think about when you think about your last round?
Chances are, if you’re like the many who do enjoy playing some golf in spite of how you score, you’ll remember the good shot(s) of your past round(s). In the activities we enjoy, it is the pleasant experiences we tend to remember. Thinking fondly of these is what drives us to want to play again. It’s what feeds our addiction to the activity. If we’re a recreational golfer, it’s likely that plenty, if not most, of our shots leave something to be desired. We have plenty of chunks, skulls, whiffs, and worm burners in us. As fun as it is to watch others hit these, we don’t like it so much. Yet, we remember our good shots. The way you nailed that driver off the first tee in front of the Starter and the group waiting to play behind. How your ball looked flying high, arching ever so nicely to the left, a power draw exemplified. The balance of your foursome complimenting your shot instead of your shirt for a change. That’s what keeps you coming back. One good golf shot. I’ve heard of this idea expressed as the One Good Golf Shot Theory, but unfortunately can’t recall where it was presented.
In mid July, I enjoyed a round with my sons. The last time I had hit the links was with them Thanksgiving weekend of last year (2019). I used to play a lot of golf and the course nearby our home has been good to us. We’ve enjoyed being members over the years and two of my sons have worked there. Our eldest is presently a member and our middle son enjoys working turf care. We played mid afternoon on a Sunday where the course was quiet. The weather was nice. We teamed up as two right handers playing against two left handers. There was lots of sarcasm to spread at each other’s performances. One benefit of playing much less is that our expectations for performance are lower. Just making contact and keeping the ball in play becomes the objective. I’m not worried about tracking fairways hit or greens in regulation or number of putts. Just move the ball in the direction of the hole. I create a low expectation of trying to play bogey golf and assign a personal par per hole of one stroke higher than the official par. I play par 4s as par 5s, for example. This reduces the performance pressure and makes the game fun for this fair weather participant. I surprised myself with a few actual pars and plenty of personal pars. There weren’t many blow up holes. I outshot my expectations. None of this mattered. The point was being out having some fun with those I care most about. I had a handful of shots that were pure and solid. One in particular stands out. It was a tee shot on the signature hole. The fourteenth hole is a Par 4 with an elevated tee. There’s a water hazard on the right side running the length of the hole. One’s tee shot has to carry a fair distance (which is aided by the elevation drop) of gnarly grass. The left side of the fairway is protected by trees. The hole is short enough that the big dogs think they can give it a go. The risks just don’t seem worth it, but the elevated tee is too tempting. The views from the tees are spectacular. Mountains form the perimeter of the picture on both sides. It was from this spot that I swung my swing of the day. I selected a boring utility club with intent to just put the ball in play and stay out of trouble. My swing swept the ball neatly from the tee sending it sailing comfortably over the fescue. It landed in the middle of the fairway close to the 150 marker. The shot felt good, looked good, and ended up good. That single shot was enough to get me interested in coming out again.
Contrast the common sense idea that we are compelled to repeat what we enjoy experiencing with the reality of how we approach our lives in general. Particularly, our work lives. Oftentimes, we dwell on the disappointing. We wallow in our weakness. We focus on what’s frustrating. Aaargh, our system’s are down. I can’t believe it’s happening again. What am I supposed to do now. Nothing seems to go right here. Instead of letting our thoughts cascade into the Niagara Falls of negativity, perhaps, we could shrug it off and focus on something we can do instead. Systems down? Good. Now I can pick up the phone and call customer Charlie to say hi and set up a meeting. Or, Systems down? No big deal, I remember when we didn’t even have systems and we had to do everything with paper. That really wasn’t that long ago. Systems down? Oh well, let’s adapt. It’s really quite impressive what our up time us. Sure, it can be better, but we’re up 99.9X% of the work time.
Taking time to find things gone right (TGR) instead of things gone wrong is both more pleasant and more productive. We seem to be inherently able to do this with respect to the things we enjoy like golf. Let’s try to apply it to our work. Some years ago, a RCMP officer from Richmond, BC came up with the idea of Positive Tickets. As a community police officer, he saw almost a combative posture between police and public, particularly with the youth. The good youth shied away from police all together. While the bolder, more deviant driven youth would push the limits and test to see what they could get away with. This Canadian officer thought that things could be improved by trying to recognize and reward good, positive behavior. He took initiative, developed the idea into a program, got a few other officers on board, and gave it a go. His team offered recognition and reward in the form of positive tickets to youth found behaving in constructive ways within their community. They were able to measure over time, objective improvements in crime reduction and improved community sentiment. This program has been formalized and copied in other cities and countries with repeatable results. The program has been so successful that the officer that developed the idea of Positive Tickets has since retired from police work and offers his services and system to communities and businesses looking to apply the idea.
It feels good to be recognized for doing something well. At the heart of much marriage misery is a poor Losado Ratio. This ratio is also known as the Positivity Ratio and is determined after studying couple’s conversations. It measures the balance between positive comments and negative ones. The ratio represents the number of positive statements to negative ones. A low ratio under 1 is a reliable predictor of relationship difficulty. Happier relationships show higher Losado ratios. A healthy dose of positive comments over negative ones suggests a solid relationship. This ratio correlates with productive environments in group settings as well. Higher positivity ratios are seen with groups that work well together. Our RCMP officer increased the ratio of positive recognition to negative in communities and crime decreased while community sentiment was enhanced.
Scott Adams in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, writes about the benefit of taking a Dale Carnegie public speaking program. He was amazed at how useful the course was and how some people who were utterly terrified to participate grew during the short program. He observed that the distinct characteristic of the program was the use of praise instead of criticism. Adams’ eyes were opened to the “transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism.” He notes the “powers of praise” as “an amazing force”. “Adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise you realize that withholding it borders on immoral. If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise.” That’s strong support encouraging an effort to find things gone right. Train your brain to look for things going well. Try to find one good golf shot for yourself in your work day. As importantly, try to catch others in the act of doing something right and heap upon them praise publicly. If you’re still spending time working remotely, it may be difficult to see other’s contributions as visibly. When we’re remote and isolated, a kind word and recognition for something we’ve done well will be even more welcomed.