Posted by: Christine Donovan | July 18, 2009

Learning from the Sand Traps of Life

I’m not a golfer (although I’ve spend countless hours at “social” golf when pressed), but I tell a golf-related story in my seminars that I thought would be helpful to you as well.

Years ago, when I was a manager at Walt Disney World, we were expected to participate in the annual division golf tournament.  Of course, we could opt out, but then we would miss a major opportunity to network and team-build.

Luckily (for me, and many others), we played “best ball,” meaning that each foursome had to submit only the score of their best golfer.  That made the playing field even – since most of us diveted more than we bogeyed.

One year, we had a “ringer” in my assigned foursome.  We hit the mother-load with a national, top-rated amateur on our team.  I believe  his name was Tom (It was 20 years ago), and I had the pleasure of sharing a golfcart with him that day.

It didn’t take a U.S. Open Champion to notice that by the 12th hole or so, Tom found himself in a few sand traps… but interestingly, was still averaging an at-par (or below par) score.

After one sand-trap birdie (his, not mine!),  I had to pose the question, “Tom… you seem to get into a lot of sand traps.  Could that be intentional?”

Phil Ritson

Golf pro Phil Ritson with student

He laughed and explained that yes it was.  His golf teacher had been Phil Ritson, the head golf pro at Walt Disney World,  who happened to be an expert at playing out of sand traps; Phil had taught Tom to do the same. 

As Tom explained, “Phil taught me to be such an expert in sand traps, that I always had a choice whenever I had a bad lie ( ).  I always know that if I aim for the sand trap, that‘s the best place for me to be.  I know how to get out of sand traps.”

I watched Tom play for the remainder of the tournament, and if I remember correctly, he finished in the top three (There were other “ringers” playing as well!) 

I learned a great lesson that weekend, and have tried to apply it to some of life’s challenging situations:

Most people avoid doing difficult things:  the things that don’t come easily, things that scare them to death, things they could fail at….essentially, the “sand traps” of life.  Generally speaking, those sand traps run the gamut from public speaking to facing a difficult coworker or neighbor, and of course there are many more-severe examples.  But in any event, they are things we avoid.

Keeping those sand traps in mind, let me pose this question to you…

What if you became an EXPERT in your sand traps?  How might your life change?

What if, instead of dreading public speaking, you became an expert in it?  What if, instead of avoiding difficult people in your life, you became known as a peacemaker and a straight-forward, no-hidden-agendas person?

Try it!  Go ahead.  Make a list of the things you hate to do, the things you avoid, the things you just don’t do well, and then choose a couple situations where you could become an expert.

 How would your life change?

 I’ll have some suggestions in the next post….

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