Adopt This Mindset On Your Road To Expertise

Updated: April 3, 2013

Jordan J. Caron

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Golf is fantastic sport. You’re out in nature and socializing with friends and new acquaintances. You might even be using the sport because of its incredible networking possibilities. After all, many successful business people play golf.

But more than anything it’s a great sport to help master the mind. There might not be another sport or activity that requires the same level of concentration and focus. And there might not be a sport that is tougher to play and become an expert at.

While this post will talk about my experience coaching golfers and become an expert golfer, I’m positive you’ll learn something from it and be able to implement a few of the ideas. Simply replace golf with whatever you’re trying to become an expert at.

What I want to talk about is the proper mindset required to become a great golfer. I will also talk about working efficiently, but the main focus will be on your mindset.

Mindset Matters

So often the mind sabotages golfers. That’s why we must learn to have our mind work with us, not against us. But how can you do just that? Keep reading and you’ll find the answer.

I see it all the time. A new student tells me how excited there are to take up golf. Many of their reasons are the ones at the top of this post: socializing, networking and even getting exercise. Yes golfers do burn calories!

But after a few lessons they would quit. Never to return again.

For my first few years coaching I wondered why. It wasn’t until three years ago that I figured it out. It came from conversations with people. I’m known as the golf coach so people always tell me they play or have at least tried it.

My goal is to find out if people still play and if not, what their reason is. In this case I get a few commons answers.

“I’m too busy” or “It’s too expensive”. Those are all legit answers.

Then there are answers that sadden me.

“I suck” or “I don’t like screwing up in front of people” or “There are too many things to think about” or “It’s too hard”.

These answers are legit too. But they can be overcome.

Prepare for a Difficult Road Ahead

In golf and other sports you’re attempting to become an expert at, you must adopt the mentality that’s its going to be difficult.

Failures are a part of the plan and embarrassing moments are directly in your path. Your mind will be cluttered with thoughts and efficient work will be required.

Once your mind embraces these challenges you’ll give yourself a better chance to succeed.

Here’s how you can embrace these challenges and succeed.

Dealing With Failure

There is a great line that Alfred says to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins and recently in the Dark Knight Rises.

“Why do we fall sir? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Think about that. Failing is all a part of it. Too many people can’t deal with failure and its sidekick, embarrassment.

They give up too easy. What’s worse is they don’t even try. Why? Because they don’t want to fail.

Michael Jordan has a great quote on failing.

Michael Jordan failure quote

So the first step is dealing with failure and accepting that you will fail. Everyone who is an expert has failed. The difference is that they dealt with those failures and learnt from them. They embraced them rather than running away from them.

Now it’s time to kick embarrassment's ass Chuck Norris style. Is making Chuck Norris references still cool? Anyways…

In the beginning you’re going to fail. And fail often. Shanking shots, hitting them fat, missing the ball completely and slicing like crazy.

Sure this can be embarrassing, however, once you realize that all these golfers that are better than you went through the same thing, you’ll be able to deal with embarrassment comfortably.

Another great way to deal with uncomfortable and embarrassing situations comes from Tim Ferriss. In the 4-Hour Workweek he lists some comfort challenges. If you didn’t read that book you should do. Here’s an idea of what the challenges are.

Unclutter The Mind

Now that you’re prepared to handle failure and embarrassment, it’s time to battle over thinking.

There are so many things to think about in golf. Golfers minds are busy trying to remember all things they’ve learned.

  • “Hold the club lightly”
  • “Keep your head down”
  • “Make sure the left arm is straight”
The list is endless.

The best golfers in the world and even those at your local course are able to play in a free and clear mind. At most they have one or two thoughts in their head before they hit a shot.

However nothing and I mean nothing is in their mind during the swing. It’s free and clear of everything.

Successful coaches know that, so they don’t overload their students with too much information. But it’s what the student does outside of the lessons that hurt them.

You see, golfers read too many golf magazines and listen to every bit of advice a golfer who is better than gives them. The corresponding outcome is a cluttered mind.

Are you doing the same thing? How can you limit the amount of information you take in?

Playing golf with a free and clear mind is difficult but here’s a few ways to do it.

The Internet is loaded with content. According to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt we produce as much content every two days as we did from the beginning of time up until 2003. You’re never going to be able to read it all. In fact if you’re trying to read everything you could harm yourself.

To begin you must kill the idea that you have to read everything. Leo Babauta has a great post on killing the anxiety of online reading. Doing so will prepare you for the next step.

From here find two or three experts who you admire. And listen to only them. Getting too many different opinions is great in theory but harmful. It can easily confuse you.

The last step is implementing a practice of either mediation, mindfulness or any other spiritual practice. Jonthan Fields has a great post 7 ways to hone attention where he talks about why doing this will help clear the mind and stay calm.

I’ve given you some good tips to help control the information you intact, but I want to suggest a post on my golf blog to help you on the course. Read my post on calming the metal chatter during the round to help you become more present and help stop you from overthinking.

Work Efficiently

Now that your mind is clear and you’ve prepared yourself for the difficult challenge ahead, it’s time to do the work. But you should focus on working efficiently.

Despite what Stanley Lee says in this post, I believe there are no shortcuts to becoming an expert at golf. That’s because it’s physical. Your body has to learn new movements. Then repeat them consistently. Along the way you have to master the mental aspects.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s look at athletes from other sports. They suffer at golf and I enjoy seeing this. Before you think I’m an ass, hear me out.

Super talented people aren’t above golf. Their talent can’t get them ahead. They’re just like everyone else.

Compare them to a complete golf newbie like Dan McLaughlin. He knows it takes time. His goal is to become a Professional golfer and play with the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. A lofty goal, trust me. But nothing is wrong with having lofty goals. After all, Tim Ferriss says there is less competition when you set out big goals.

The problem is Dan has no experience playing golf. So he’s taken the advice of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from Outliers to heart.

Now you don’t have to spend 10,000 hours like Dan. All you have to do is put in the work efficiently and embrace the challenge.

Too many of my students were unwilling to commit to practicing for 3-5 hours a week outside of lessons. And they came to me wondering why they weren’t getting better. There is only so much I could do as a coach. The duty lies on the student to put in the effort and practice.

Now on the flip side, I had students who practiced a lot. But they didn’t practice with a clear purpose. They would go out and hit balls on the range with no targets or goals in site and aimlessly lashing away.

Their thought process is any practice is good practice. The truth is: not all practice is created equal.

I prefer my students to hit 30 balls on the range with a purpose than 100 with no purpose.

For some students they might get more out of playing a full round on the course than practice. In that case it’s better for them to do that. They’re more efficient that way.

Efficiency is your friend. Don’t put in loads of work and effort if it doesn’t yield profound results.

To summarize everything I’ve written you must:

  • Prepare your mind for the difficult road to expertise
  • Unclutter your mind and reduce how much information you intake
  • Work efficiently towards becoming an expert
For the aspiring golfers I hope you enjoyed this post. For those that don’t play, I hope you got something out of this post anyway.

With that, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What mindset techniques or adjustments have worked for you? They can be non-golf related obviously because I believe that no matter what you’re trying become to expert in you can use the same techniques.


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