Being the wildcard takes courage

When I was a child, I had the privilege of learning to play golf by Ian Baker-Finch. For those who don’t know who he is, he is an ex-pro Australian golfer who won The PGA Tour, British Open and The Open Championship in his career.

Whist I didn’t realise at the time, Ian was a brilliant golfer whose career teetered on the edge of ‘elite’ but he could never deliver the final punch to lock in his position.

His career had the potential to be similar to the likes of Greg Norman at the time – they even grew up together – but something kept him back.

In 1994 after he tied 10th in the PGA tour, his game completely fell apart.

Now, according to most public reports, Ian’s game fell apart due to psychological barriers. He would step up to the driving range and hit perfect ball after perfect ball but then would get into the game and the pressure would have him shooting into the trees.

The pressure of performing whether in your job in a private office, on a stage or on the TV in front of thousands can be crippling. Having recently performed my first concert and not normally being prone to stage fright, I was frustrated that my flawless practices still produced what I felt was a skittish performance.

I recall being at a lunch before I left Australia with my grandparent’s friends and Ian came up in conversation as we reminisced about ‘the old days’. When I enquired as to why he fell off the map, I was surprised to hear the response that I did.

One of my mates at the table who used to play with Ian as friends mentioned that he had a very unique stroke. It wasn’t conventional but in some weird way, it worked for him. However when Ian’s fame started to rise and his sources of influence started to include experts and advisors, he was encouraged to ‘improve’ and modify his stroke in order to be ‘better.’

When he got onto the course, he started to doubt his judgement and abilities despite all his own practice, so he would try and tweak to their advice rather than relax and let his own game flow. He wasn’t comfortable or accepting of being him so his game paid the price. It made me wonder about how many people in life unwittingly sabotage their game not due to lack of ability but pure self confidence and self belief. Maybe they’re listening to the ‘experts’ and critics instead of themselves?

I took that story and put it under my hat. I’ve learned in my short twenty-eight years that there are a million ways to skin a cat and none of them are right, wrong or indifferent. When you consider how many versions of car, shoes, transport systems, foods etc exist, who’s to say this one is best and that one is worst? It’s whatever works for you.

I wonder what Ian’s career would have looked like if he didn’t listen to those sources of armchair experts and he stuck to what he believed in? After all, it was him out there hitting the ball, dealing with the wins and the losses. It’s his name now in the books and not theirs, so why did he care so much?

You might have a weird way of doing things that others don’t understand; have you considered that you might just be the very wildcard who changes things?

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