We have all heard this phrase, especially if you have been in any sports auditorium or locker room. “Working hard” is echoed throughout the halls at any practice or overheard at most pregame inspirational speeches. It is there to remind the athletes that even though they may have been born with natural abilities, in many cases, this won’t be enough. I used to think this was so accurate, so true, yet as I started to break down this quote I discovered there is much more to how this really needs to be framed. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard isn’t enough.
A great example of this was when my middle son, Ian was 12 years old. As many of you know, especially if you have been part of our story the past few years, Ian loves golf. I write about this often in my new book, This Ones For You-An Inspirational Journey Through Addiction, Death and Meaning. Golf continued to be such a huge part of our “therapy” after our oldest son, Seth died of a heroin overdose 10/4/16. I always told Ian that chipping and putting or “the short game” was the most important part of golf. The very popular saying to validate this is the often overused but so true, “drive for show, putt for dough.” Most elite golfers, college and pro, can hit the ball far. The golfers that play and cash checks can chip and putt. Knowing this I decided to invest in a short game clinic and signed Ian up for the Dave Pelz Short game school in Palm Beach Gardens at the beautiful PGA National Golf Course, home of the PGA Honda Classic.
We arrived on a typical beautiful, sunny Florida morning eager and excited to get Ian professional guidance and help with this crucial part of his game. I remember Ian being nervous and anxious as we took our seats at the class joining about 10 other eager students. Our instructor for the 3-day clinic was really good and very patient with his approach and methodology. At one point he had all the students write on a piece of paper their top 3 putters of all time. As each student went around the room and read their answers it was clear that many thought the same way. Tiger Woods, Jack Nickalus, Bobby Jones, and Tom Watson to name a few were the most popular answers. After a few moments, the instructor said that no one got the right answer. I looked at Ian and laughed and said, “this ought to be good!” It was then he said, “the correct answer, should be YOU!” If YOU don’t believe you are the best putter in the world then you need to change your mindset. The belief in yourself was so powerful in that moment. Lessoned learned.
However, the real teaching moment came when our instructor had us all get up and go to the window. Off in the distance was the driving range and putting green areas where at least 80 people were warming up to play their round of the day or practice for an upcoming tournament. He had us watch for about 5 minutes and then go back to our seats. He then asked us if we had noticed anything? Not really, just many people “working hard” on their golf games. He said, “yes, they are working hard but they are working dumb.” He said, “now go back and count how many golfers are on the range and how many are chipping and putting?” The ratio was 65 golfers were on the range pounding golf balls and 15 were putting and chipping. That’s only 23% of the golfers working on a part of their game that matters the most. The majority of the golfers were working hard, just not smart. They were working on the wrong things! Putting accounts for about 40% of all golf shots and about 70% of all shots inside of 100 yards.
Often in life, we equate “hard work” with “good work.” More often than not you are better off working less on something but more efficiently in the most important areas. Smarter not harder. This one moment in the class was the main point I took from the three days we were there. So, I would suggest to you that when you make plans to tackle personal goals like exercise, dieting, your business, or a hobby, you may best be served spending less time “grinding it out” and more time on where you need to be.