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Failure At Golf Or A Bad Perception Of The Result?

Échec au golf

The legendary Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots, yet he is still considered the greatest player of all time. Do all those missed shots make him a loser?

Humans attach themselves to champions and people who have the image of success in the eyes of society, which is completely normal because they often represent our ambitions, our dreams, and our projects, in the making and/or unfinished.

Recently, I had a conversation with a French triathlete friend, who also does trail running on rugged and mountainous trails, and we were wondering what failure is. Is finishing last in a race lasting more than 24 hours really a failure? Is finishing last in a golf tournament a failure? It's easy to get attached to the image of success without understanding what the last-place competitor is going through and without knowing what their goal of success is in their current journey. The "loser" has as much of a right to respect for his determination, the courage to finish when he could have given up, the surpassing of himself, and the pain and suffering he had to overcome to finish such a hardcore event. It reminds me of my first triathlon. My first goal was to get out of the water alive. I knew that if I could accomplish that, then I could catch up with the others in the other 2 events.

When you think about it, there are more losers than winners. No matter the sport, there is only ONE winner. In a company, there is only ONE president. So technically, we're all a bunch of losers! But are we really?

If we come back to sports and take into consideration that there is only one winner for each competition, this means that all competitors have more or less the same chances of winning in their category. What can differentiate first place from last place?

Here is what can make the difference: technical, physical, mental, strategic preparation, injuries, equipment, current energy levels (sleep and nutrition), attentional skills (concentration, focus, flow), stress and emotional management, without forgetting the luck factor. What we aim for during preparation before an event is that the athlete does everything possible so that 90% of his results come from him and 10% from luck.

Speaking about luck, here's an example from the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City where Australian Steven Bradbury won the gold medal in short-track speed skating. The Korean, American, and Canadian skaters were all favored ahead of him, but after a few laps, the 3 men tripped themselves up and slid into the wall. Luck favored Bradbury, who finished first and took the gold medal. The 10% chance of luck smiled on him that day.

Steven Bradbury, Salt Lake City, 2002
Steven Bradbury - Salt Lake City 2002 - photo:

Now, here's an example where an athlete looks at her results from a different angle, that of her evolution compared to her results from the previous year. Ainhoa Leiceaga, a high-level surfer from France, explains in her article that her final results from the previous season were better than the current season. She expresses that: “The results rarely reflect all the work done. Only we ourselves know what our real successes are.'' As she also explains you are not alone in training, the other girls train to win, and if you add the elements that are out of your control, the results constantly vary.

For you golfers, you know as much as I do that achieving the psychological barrier of breaking 100 is already a great achievement. Then we aim for 90, and then 80, and so on. The closer you get to shooting par, the slimmer the margin for error gets, and even more so under pressure. Imagine the professionals who experience this pressure at each tournament, having to make the cut and reach the weekend rounds, and then climb the rankings to earn their living.

What if you changed your perception of failure and instead focused on where you are in your journey?

Did I achieve my initial goals? If the answer is yes, even if you're not the club champion in your category, you have the right to be proud of yourself.

And if the answer is no, ask yourself: “Was my initial goal realistic? What do I need to get there?"

How we define success is different for everyone and in different areas of our lives. I encourage you to establish YOUR level of success according to YOUR needs and goals.

Michel Dubord

Mental Coach


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