My Outlook

Lessons that come even when we're not linked in

I am an expert golfer, provided the holes involve windmills, castles or glow-in-the-dark options. Mini-golf I can do. The big game—not so much.

            Creative and colorful courses often caught our eye on vacation with our young daughters, but even before that I was hooked. My family owned an 18-hole mini-golf course at a lake and not only was it a fun place to work, it also allowed time to develop some reasonably good putting skills.

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            But as for the big game, I have one—just one—golf tale. I was about 12 when my family joined up with other families at a regional course that also boasted a great playground and picnic area. We had done this before but on this particular day the two oldest kids were asked if we wanted to golf with the adults. I jumped at the chance. The other girl was less than excited but she agreed to go along.

            I don't remember much about the first hole but the second is seared in my memory. Thanks to some encouragement and coaching it went quite well for this golfing novice. In fact, I bested one of the adults (a non-golfer to be sure) by one stroke. But my friend was not enjoying herself and made it clear she wanted to walk back to the picnic site. I wanted to keep learning how to hit a golf ball but I went back with her.

            That was the beginning…and the end…of my time on the links.

            So I have amused myself the last couple of weeks with how much golf coverage I have been watching. Since its one of the very few live sports happening right now it stands to reason I might be drawn to it. I mean how much playoff hockey from 10 years ago can we continue to watch?

            As an outsider looking in I have found myself both fascinated and disappointed. Let's start with the prior. I am intrigued by how differently the same hole plays and how a pro can make spectacular shots one day only to miss the mark the next. It’s like when a soccer player misses an open net or a track star trips over a hurdle.

            It doesn't just happen in sports, of course. In the unfolding of a day we do things we wish we could take back. We forget to do what we intended to take care of, or we do it incorrectly. We are human beings who can accomplish something really well 99 times in a row but then experience the misfortunate of having something go sideways on us the next time we try.

            It’s called making a mistake, but apparently it has become untenable.

            A kicker misses a field goal and gets death threats. A TV personality misspeaks during an interview and has to hire personal security because of the backlash. A young server gets a coffee order wrong and is threatened by a man several decades his senior. Mistakes where apologies were offered but not accepted.

           We need to be allowed to make mistakes. It's not an excuse for negligence or disregard for others. Those take place on a whole other level. But the chance to make mistakes, to learn and move on to the next hole having gained the experience of pitfalls and errors is a necessary part of life. We need the chance to catch up to where we inadvertently landed and be allowed to focus on redirection.

            The other aspect of golf that fascinates me is the level of honesty that is expected. It may not always happen, but the expectation is there and I love that. Each player has to enforce the rules and apply their own penalties—even when no one is watching. While most people say they value honesty over other traits and characteristics, it's the one we see on the biggest decline.

            So that's what fascinates me. And the disappointment? Easily the fact that I don't golf. I let opportunities slip by or then turned them down when I didn't feel I had the skills I needed. But before I call a mulligan, I'm going to grab hold of its simplest of lessons: the need to bounce back from mistakes, and the importance of honesty no matter the consequence.

            I know the game only on its smallest scale, literally its mini version. But there's still something that can be gleaned. Taking what we know on a small scale and applying it to the big things in life is the best way I know of hitting the sweet spot every time. That's my outlook.

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