Words & Sports

Play the Ball Where It Lies, in Golf and in Business

You hit what feels like your best drive of the year down the par five 8th fairway that bends to the right. The ball takes that perfect bounce, setting you up for an opportunity to go for the green in two. Those you are playing with all give the wow, great shot kudos. You feel awesome and can’t wait to get up to your ball to take your next swing. You just know that birdie is there for the taking. Maybe even an eagle? Why not! This is your day. After all, you have played beautifully the first 7 holes.

You hop in the cart and head to where the other players hit their drives. You still can’t see your ball because it’s so far ahead. The other three players in your group all hit excellent second shots. The guy you’re driving with hits his best shot of the day and is able to get the ball on the green in two.

As you begin to make your way to your ball, you are thinking maybe you need a 6-iron into the green, and boy do you love your 6-iron. Then a funny thing happens.

Your ball isn’t where you expected it to be. All you can find is a small rock. You begin to sweat, looking all around. It has to be here! The other players begin to look around for your ball, too. They’re as confused as you are.

After a few minutes, the driver of your cart finds it—20 yards to the right of where you thought it would be. It’s stuck in a mud puddle and there are two large oak trees between it and the green!

How could this happen? Everything was perfect and now your ball is stuck in the mud behind trees. The only thing you and your friends can think of is that the ball bounced off that rock and kicked right.

So, what are you going to do?

Are you going to sit around and mope? No time. There are other players coming up behind you. Are you going to magically reverse time and redo the shot? You’d like to, but it’s not an option.

You’re going to have to play the ball where it lies.

Sometimes disappointments and obstacles end up being gifts. Ryan Holiday, in his book, “The Obstacle is the Way,” gives examples where amazing people had amazing things happen, not in spite of but as a result of challenges—be it a difficult family, a speech impediment, or whatever else. Not like an unlucky golf swing is that kind of tragedy, but I’m drawing metaphors, here.

Anyway, whether your bad luck leads to something good down the road or not, you still have to deal with it. You still have to play the ball where it lies and do your best to go on from there.

There are events in life—or business—that will not go your way. You lose a sale, an important employee quits, the government changes a law, or a new competitor enters the market place. All of these and more can be crippling to your business. Your work goes into the mud with trees in the way and new anxieties and pressures come up. But you can use the crisis as an opportunity to re-focus and get back on the fairway. Even better, you can prepare yourself so when similar problems come up again, you’re in a better position to handle them. Maybe in the process you’ll discover opportunities you never would have had otherwise, all thanks to this amazing rock.

You grab that 6-iron, only this time you take a small swing. You connect with the ball, mud splatters up onto your pants, and your golf ball bounces ever so softly back onto the fairway about 20 yards to the left, right near that rock. You clean off your 6-iron, your buddies laugh with you at your dirty pants, and you set up to hit your third shot into this par five green—right as someone from that party behind you screams “FORE!”


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