Words & Sports

3 Uses for Patience in Golf and Business

I remember one summer evening in Charlotte, looking toward the 2nd hole with my then five-year-old daughter, waiting to take a shot at the green. There is a three-some in front of us, but I’m quite relaxed and in no rush. I am with my daughter, the weather is great, and we have snacks. We wait about 10 seconds and then suddenly my daughter decides it’s been long enough and runs off to play in the giant sandbox (sand trap) nearby.

Why not? We were there to have fun!

But it got me thinking. A lot of people approach business the way my daughter approached golf when she was five. We want the sale now, we want to close on the deal today, we want to make our money right away. Yes, yes, and yes. But you don’t shoot a sub-80 round of golf on one shot, and you can’t build a viable company in a couple of days.

Love it or hate it, everybody knows golf is a game of patience, and most people have been told to have patience in business. But waiting can get a little difficult when there’s an appealing sandbox to play in nearby, so let’s take a good look at three specific things you can actually use your patience for—in business and in golf.

1. Practice

Golf requires practice. You practice your swing, you practice putting, you play a lot, and you get better. Doing well in business requires reading, studying, watching others, and trial and error—basically, practice and training, just like golf. If you just jump in, impatiently expecting yourself to perform like a pro without having practiced, you will fail.

2. Go Around Obstacles

In golf, there’s this flag—the object is to get the ball towards the flag. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Often, driving the ball in a straight line towards that flag is exactly what you don’t want to do. You need to layup, or go around a tree, or over water, and you can’t get to the hole quite yet. Similarly, in business, there may be people you need to talk to before you get to the CEO of a prospective client. You might have to strategically go after small contracts where you can prove yourself before going after big ones. You might have regulatory obligations to fulfill before you can even open for business at all. If you have enough patience to travel an indirect route, instead of just aiming straight for that flag, you have a chance of winning.

3. Enjoy the Game

Golf involves waiting. Lots of waiting. The round itself can take over four hours, and that doesn’t include going to the course, getting on your golf shoes, checking in, going to the driving range, and waiting for the first tee to open up. And then for every shot you wait. It’s enough to drive you crazy—unless you take a deep breath, look around, and enjoy where you are. Without patience, it is stress. With patience, it is an enjoyable moment. This is the process. Like your business is a process; maybe you aren’t closing the big deal today, but if you put in the good work and you show up every day, you’ll get there. And in the meantime, you get to simply enjoy your life.

Patience isn’t just waiting for something to happen (though it often includes that, too). Patience is being willing to put in the time and the effort necessary to make something happen. If you’re so obsessed with your final goal that you can’t pay attention to what’s happening now, you won’t make it. Worse, you’ll miss out on enjoying the day. So, be patient. Work hard. Play in the sandbox. You will get there.



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