here is no rewind button in life,” says Isaac Gamede, “so there is no point in regretting your last action, because it is undoable. Where you are now is the best place to launch your next action.”
Isaac is the guy who carries my bag while I pretend to be a golfer. He has been a caddy for 26 years, and we have been walking the course together for the past year and a bit. If he had chosen his parents well, and had been born at a different place and time, I would pay handsome money to watch him play. Oops! There I go again with the “if only, would have, should have”.
“Second thoughts are the worst,” says the man from Alex. “Choose a spot and then go for it. If the result is not what you had wished for, move on so you don’t hold back those behind you.
“There is no point in being angry with yourself and the world because of a bad shot. Beware of perfection. It is the greatest killer.”
Sometimes we disagree. When faced with a hazard, I try the safer route.
“Kubo kaGwala akukhalwa,” I remind him of the African adage. “The family of the coward never mourns.”
“Yes, but they never feast either,” he is quick to remind me.
“So take your chances,” he says. “If your ball hits a tree and drops into the water, tough. It’s called bad luck.”
Too many of us live a life of fear. We are happy that we sleep on a bed and not the pavement, as if that is in itself an achievement. We’re too scared to lose what we’ve accumulated.
Many companies stagnate not because the market has changed, but because the managers have lost that go-getter spirit. Fat has accumulated around their waist and success has escaped through the open fly.
When I’m feeling all gung ho after a great shot and all I see is opportunity in front of me, Isaac is quick to remind me that in life there is no free lunch. Let us look at possible traps, because in a well-designed course, they are hidden in plain sight. What happened to cellphone maker Nokia, the star of yesteryear?
“Play your own game,” he says, quietly. “Don’t worry about what your fellow competitor does. If he hits a bad shot, it’s no cause to celebrate and, likewise, if he hits a great one, there is no reason to panic. Instead, take it as a call to unleash your best game.”
There are many businesses that are unfocused and seem to follow what their competitors are doing. I saw a Jet store selling washing powder the other day. There are many reasons this is a bad idea. First, supermarkets have more buying power with suppliers, so they will always be cheaper. Second, they have taken care of the little inconveniences, so they have the appropriate plastic bags, which are very different to those that are used for clothing. Third, soap powder tends to leak and that will make the clothing store dirty.
“Play to your strengths,” Isaac always reminds me, which, I must admit, is a bit of a challenge for me because the entire game of golf is not my strength.
Many managers mislead their people by telling them to work on their weaknesses. There is no point in wasting time on trying to improve what you are bad at, because at best you’ll only be average. Instead, spend time sharpening your strengths, then you’ll be better than most.
“Practise. Practise. Practise. But remember, practice does not make perfect. It only makes permanent. Any flaws or bad habits that you have will not be eliminated by practice. They’ll be ingrained.”
Hordes of apprentices practise the bad habits they learn from their bosses, such as being late when meeting with their subordinates, or not pitching up at all. Their vocabulary is devoid of magic words like please and thank you.
In a company, it may take years to know the true character of a man. The peaks and the valleys are often too far apart, but golf can reveal that in a matter of hours. Women should take their future husbands out for a round of golf before marriage.
So what is the purpose of golf beyond being a yardstick for measuring human crookedness? Remember that golf is a four-letter word, and like other four-letter words such as life, love and hate, the magic is somewhere between the planning, the accident and the consequence.
Many of us are a product of love and affection between happily married parents, but there are many others who are the long-term evidence of a one-night stand; the walking leftovers of a good party; the bite of the forbidden fruit. We’re all here now and, as Isaac observes, there is no rewind button, and so we have to play it as it lies, or pay the penalty.
In the words of Payne Stewart, a professional golfer: “But in the end it’s still a game of golf, and if at the end of the day you can’t shake hands with your opponents and still be friends, then you’ve missed the point.”
We should extend this thinking to our work. In the end, work is part of our life. The pay cheque, the promotion and the Christmas party are not enough to keep you coming back. If, at the end of the day, we can’t shake hands with our colleagues and competitors, then we’ve missed the point of work – perhaps the whole point of life.