I like to pride myself on learning new things. I love to travel to historical places. I love to watch historical movies. I enjoy learning. It's fun for me. To expand our knowledge base is to improve who we are. However, I have to admit that sometimes I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to change. To change something about ourselves by learning an important lesson can take years. In some cases many years.
My lesson learned today starts with golf, but if you're not a golfer this is probably still worth reading. It's starts with golf, but forced me to evaluate some of my other behaviors.
I've been struggling to hit the golf ball straight lately. I finally had the opportunity to play two rounds on a real golf course this week, but fell back into a terrible hooking of my irons. No idea why, but it was happening. Ugh. Frustration leads to anger. Anger leads to tension. It's doesn't lead to a loose and gentle grip. It does lead me to my own small driving range.
The field next to the school gives about 120 yards of space to hit my sand wedge. The red square is where I put a mat to hit off. The goal box at the far end of the soccer field is about 110 to 115 yards. My sand wedge is the shortest club in my bag. I generally hit it about 110 yards. Perfect amount of space to swing away. To say it went poorly is an understatement. I was still hitting massive hooks and eventually caught a case of the shanks. Major facepalm. The shanks happen when you have the ball hit of the hosel. That's the part where the shaft connects to the club face. The ball ends up shooting sideways. I nearly hit the main building on the far right several times.
Deep breath. Try something different. Let's work on short game and midrange pitches. If you look back at the picture above I put a giant yellow circle in the middle. From my mat the front of the circle is about 50 yards. The middle about 60 yards. The back of the circle about 70 yards. I took turns hitting pitches 50, then 60, then 70. 50, 60, then 70. Over and over. I was taking short relaxed swings and getting the ball close to my intended distance over and over never hitting the same shot twice in a row.
Then it hit me. Here I am hitting 70 yard shots with a gentle 25% to 50% swing. What would 50% to 75% do? Hmm. Okay then. I took a smooth half swing and the ball goes 110 yards. Seriously? Yeah. Seriously. Same as my "full" swing. Not close. The same. Then I did it again. And again. And again. Big difference this time. They were all going to the same place. Not towards the building. Not thirty degrees left. Dead straight. I have 52 golf balls in my big cardboard box of balls. I hit all 52 of them with the same consistent half backswing. 46 ended up in this blue box.
Maybe the the most accurate group of golf balls I've ever hit. The 6 balls that missed were just a few feet from the box. I've been hitting golf balls now for about fourteen years. Most of the time when I swing, I swing to kill. How on earth does the ball go the same distance swinging with about half of a full backswing? I guess it has to do with having way more control of the club and hitting the center of the club face.
Now. Can I duplicate this tomorrow? Can I do this with a seven iron and have it go 175 yards? I think I might have to hit the full driving range tomorrow and see how it goes. Half backswing leads to much better golf? A possible golf epiphany that took fourteen years to learn? Perhaps. A life of golf is a process. Ups and downs. Hoping for more ups than downs.
So now I'm sitting on the couch reliving a painful memory. NFL network is replaying the Super Bowl from 2006 that saw Seattle lose to Pittsburgh in a weird game. Maybe the worst officiated football game in Super Bowl history. It was bad enough that the head official Bill Leavy admitted his two horrific fourth quarter mistakes while in Seattle and said that it led to many sleepless nights. The Seahawks play the Stealers (not a typo) this weekend in what should feel like a playoff game. Each team needs a win to have a good chance of making the playoffs this year.
As I sit here I can't help but contemplate learning. I'm 54 years old and know that I still struggle with some of the same issues that have haunted me for many years. I've got an anger issue. It crops up sometimes still. Not as often as it used to, but I have my moments. I've learned to hide it. I've learned not to confront others when I'm feeling it, but it's still there.
I had a bad moment last night that drove me nuts, but thankfully I was by myself. I tried to order a small box of ice cream bars. The cost (delivered) was about $4USD. About ten minutes after I had put the order in it got cancelled. The shop called me to let me know. The app I used in my phone showed it was cancelled. Not a big deal. It happens. However, they didn't refund the $4. In the past it's happened quickly. Like, in seconds. An hour later, no refund. I tried to call them. They answered, but no English. I could feel the anger level rising. I was getting legitimately pissed off over $4. My solution was to ask Aiyun to calm them because she would be able to have a conversation with them. Problem was solved in minutes. I thanked her many times. Her response was, "Of course, baby. You're my boyfriend." She's so sweet. I can't help but feel embarrassed. Again, facepalm.
Changing the golf swing. Changing behavior. Change. It has to start with self awareness and some humility. Knowing you're wrong and admitting it to yourself. Get older. Mess up. Learn. Grow. I hope all steps in a life well lived.