Take your shot. One miss is never going to end your game.

I wasn’t much of a golfer pre-pandemic, but with most everything closed for an extended period, and a big desire to do something (safe) outside, I’ve taken it up with much more rigor in 2020.

Now, golf is a hard game, made even harder when you happen to be a head case like I am. When I was in Little League as a kid, whenever my team would lose I would take all of the equipment, throw it into the woods, and run away (this is unfortunately true). So, I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns on the course as I’ve tried my damndest to get better.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For me, something that has never clicked has been my driver. When I hit it off the tee it goes everywhere except where it is supposed to. I was talking with my uncle, an avid golfer, about this and he said something I was not expecting:

It doesn’t matter. You can always make it up on the second shot.

Of course, he was right, on a long fairway, a great drive followed by a bad approach OR a bad drive followed by a beautiful second shot will yield roughly the same result. Surely, putting the pieces completely together is what we strive to do, but that isn’t always possible. Every shot can make up for the last one, all the way throughout your round. And when the game is over, we only talk about and remember the brilliant shots, the ones that really dialed in.

So why, oh why, do we give so much feigned importance to that first shot?

OK, hopefully you recognize this is more than about golf. In our careers, in our opportunities, we bow to the fear of change so often. We resist taking a big cut at our lives lest we hit a shitty shot. But here’s the thing, there’s always a second shot to make up for it.

I once saw Dr. Oz speak when I worked at the Hearst Corporation. Dr. Oz is a media mogul, but he also makes time for an ungodly amount of open-heart surgeries every year. And he said something similar about the work of a surgeon: making a mistake mid-surgery is really scary, but it’s never the first mistake that will really harm a patient, it’s a compounded series of mistakes. Even when you make the wrong incision, you still have a chance to fix it, nearly always.

Making mistakes is scary. Change is terrifying. But if you just keep taking safe shots you may never know what it feels like to hit a birdie (which, in golf, I don’t know about either!). Take a big cut. If it doesn’t work, you have more shots ahead of you. At the end of the round, you’ll only remember the good ones anyway.