"Win or Go Home", The Mental Game

mindset Jun 21, 2023

I love stories of people overcoming adversity. Recently, I got interested in the Netflix docuseries Full Swing, which does a great job of showing professional golfers in all aspects of their careers. Some are riding high right now and can do no wrong, while others are struggling to make the cut in a tournament.

There is no other sport I can think of where mindset can make a huge difference in such a short amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I love most sports and to be great at them you must have a winning mindset. But golf is different. You don’t have any teammates to bail you out if you hit a bad shot. You don’t have referees or umpires to blame if you miss a 3-foot putt. You don’t have anyone to blame but yourself for shanking it 30 yards off the fairway. It’s all about you and your mindset, and one bad shot can not only ruin your day, it can also ruin a career. If you don’t know how to overcome the negativity it becomes like a cancer that spreads to all aspects of your life.

The most recent episode that I watched featured Brooks Koepka who, until some recent injuries, had been on a tear.  He was on a roll, winning majors left and right. Then the injuries hit, and his game took a slide. With a ton of hard work and specialized treatments, he overcame the injuries, but the negativity of falling so quickly stayed with him. He was missing shots that he would normally make in his sleep. The physical aspect of his game was healed, but his mental game had not, and the result was that he went from great to mediocre in a very short period of time.

The show does a great job of showing Brooks behind the scenes with his coach, his agent, his wife, and his Dad. His wife says she doesn’t know what to do with him when is in this negative state of mind, which adds pressure to his situation. His Dad doesn’t know what to tell him but gives him encouragement. His coach and agent try to get him back in the game with workouts, changes to his swing, and other distractions. Brooks himself knows that he must improve the mental aspect of his game. He says, “When you’re at the bottom you can either just lay there, or you can figure the f__ing shit out.”  So he keeps working on all aspects of his game, trying to figure it out.

These top athletes spend millions of dollars on equipment and getting their bodies in top shape, but the really great ones understand how mindset changes everything. Brooks figured it out, he overcame the negativity. In fact, he went from #13 in the world to #3 in a matter of a few months and won another major. Hopefully, he continues on that streak and continues to improve. But he knows, deep down, that he must keep his mental acuity at its peak, or he can easily fall back into the trap of negativity.

The difference between these great athletes and the rest of us is complicated. Most of them have the drive to succeed that most of us don’t. Their definition of success is different from ours. Brooks says in the show that once you taste winning, you not only WANT more, you NEED more. “You win or you go home, that’s it.” They don’t consider second or third as being successful. It doesn’t matter how much money they make, or have, they must WIN, or they are not successful. 

I often use professional athletes and businesspeople as examples when coaching. I reference their mindset, drive, preparation, and execution. But I also use them as an example of how you must define your own success. Are you driven so much that you must win every time? Is winning, or being #1 your only definition of success? I coach that there are as many definitions of success as there are human beings. We are all different and only we can decide what success is for ourselves. No one else can tell you what success means to you. Yes, there are standards that society puts on us, but you must define success on your own. Is success a happy family? A lot of money? A big house? For some, success may be to live within their means, not working 80 hours a week, and being able to do the things they love, with the people they love being with. For others, it may be that they must be #1 in sales, or they are not successful.

Take a minute and think about what your definition of success is at this moment. Your definition will change with life, so determine what your success looks like right now. The most important part of defining success is knowing that you can achieve it. You must know in your heart, and your mind, that you can do it. Once you determine what success looks like, take action! Make a plan to get there, and then execute that plan, work it, keep going, and never give up.

Remember that the real secret to success, the secret that all of the great athletes, businesspeople, and those successful in life know: There will always be challenges, your plan will never work out as you originally thought. There will be speed bumps, roadblocks, and flat-out failures. Golfers will hook a drive, real estate agents will lose out on a high-end listing, and you will most certainly feel like a failure many times along the way. The great ones don’t let that deter them, they keep going, keep practicing, and continue to KNOW that they will succeed.  That is the real difference between those who are successful and those who are not.

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