The Longest Drive … a lesson in golf and life

I was lucky enough to be included in a round of golf with some clients this morning at St Lucia Golf Course. We only played 9 holes and the format was a 4 ball ambrose. Whilst I have been playing a bit of golf and practicing much at the driving range of late, I have been pretty ordinary so I was more than happy we were playing an ambrose. To say I was chuffed with how I hit the ball today would be an understatement. Right from the first hole I was hitting my driver well and enjoyed a great morning with come quality blokes.

When we got to our last hole (18th) I had the words of a guy I have played a bit of golf with this year who is off a single figure handicap in my mind. His principal golf maxim is encapsulated in this quote:

“Think about your shot and decide on what you are going to do … then stop thinking and swing the club as hard as you can!”

Now there is some important background here: due to the combination of a troublesome hip and neck and nearly 20 years of lacking self confidence in my golf swing I have developed a way of getting my driver in the fairway by only hitting it at 80% power. It has worked for me for years and I have rarely strayed from it.

Today though, as I stood on the tee of the 18th and with some urging of one of my playing partners, I decided that I might as well have a go at hitting my drive at 100%.

The 18th hole at St Lucia Golf Course is a 302 metre par 4 with a very wide fairway and a great that is guarded at the front by two large bunkers that have a strip of grass about a metre and half width between them that feeds up to the green. The tee is a little elevated and the tee box today was right at the back of the available space.

Armed with the maxim above, I decided that the shot I wanted to hit was going to be a driver as hard as I could hit it which I expected would end up about 20 metres from the bunkers. Then I stopped thinking and swung as hard as I could. Off the club I said to myself that it was in one of the green side bunkers and the shot would have ended up there if it had not been directed at the patch of grass between the two bunkers. After a hard first bounce, the ball trickled up the patch of grass and rested on the fringe of the green (before it rolled back down to end up nestled between the bunkers a metre off the green). I have never hit a ball so far and had reaped the benefits of putting into the play the strategy my regular golf companion has been pushing to me for some time.

Now if you had read this far, you are probably thinking that this post is simply just a vanity exercise. Whilst I am chuffed about my drive on the 18th (and have told the story at least 10 times already which is a golfer’s perogative), the application of my friends maxim got me thinking about its application in other contexts.

What the maxim is really all about, in my view, is making decisions and then sticking to them without over thinking them. I know I, for one, am a chronic over thinker which at times leads to the procrastination I have already spoken of. Some times I wish I didn’t think so much and focus more on making a decision, sticking to it and, once said decision is made, “going hard” at it. That is easier said than done but is certainly something to strive to because I am sure that if we all focused more on execution of our personal goals rather than over thinking we would all be happier and being happy is what life is all about isn’t it.

I know it is only just golf and it is only just one golf shot but thinking about the thought process that lead to the result of the shot may well have given me some clarity as to how I might in the future avoid the procrastination that has dogged me. It is time to start thinking less and “go hard” me thinks!

Intuition: is it just hindsight in disguise?

A brief exchange this morning on twitter people showing their true colours and ones intuition being proven correct has gotten me thinking about intuition and how we use it, or indeed ignore it, in our daily lives.

Wikipedia tells us (and if it good enough for a member of Australia’s parliament it must be good enough for me as a source) that:

Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference and/or the use of reason. The word intuition comes from Latin verb intueri which is usually translated as to look inside or to contemplate. Intuition is thus often conceived as a kind of inner perception, sometimes regarded as real lucidity or understanding.

Put another way it is one’s metaphorical “gut instinct” about something.

Herein lies the conundrum for me when it comes to the concept of intuition: if it exists and we all have it why do not use it more in our decision making? I will pose this another way: the excellent detective work of Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS which oft revolves around his famous “gut” aside, when was the last time you or anyone you know, as far as you are aware, made a decision the first moment your intuition directed you, or them, in that way?

Conversely, when have you reached a decision and then reflected on that decision and exclaimed that you intuitively knew that decision was the one you had to make months ago but didn’t until another “thing” (be it conduct or data) arose to push you in that direction?

I know from my personal experience that in both my personal and work life the later of these two scenarios is what always plays out. That realisation got me thinking about whether intuition is really just our brains wrapping up hindsight into a different package. Put another way: if we make a decision and then say “well intuitively I knew I would be doing this” is that not just hindsight?

I readily concede that my brain plays tricks on me more than most so it is entirely possible that what I often think is intuition albeit discovered after the fact is indeed hindsight. However I am not sure that it possible to consider this point in the absolutes I am positing.

Additionally, another tangent that comes to mind here is whether intuition is merely a manifestation of experience. I know, for example, when I am put on a new engagement at work that I will have a pretty clear idea of how the investigation of the affairs of that particular entity is going to go right from the start and what I am going to find. Is that my intuition or the 14 years of experience I have guiding me? Or is it both?

I find this concept fascinating but concede that perhaps I am too wrapped in labels or wanting to be more Special Agent Gibbs than Sherlock Holmes (who famously exclaimed “Data!!! I can not make bricks without clay”).

I do know this to be true though: if I had have trusted what I believe to be intuition in some decisions I delayed making life may be significantly different. Then again: is that just hindsight talking?