You are in the middle of a speech in front of 500 people and you lose your train of thought, what do you do?
You are giving a presentation to a group of customers and you forget some key data, what do you do?
You are in an interview, and you can’t come up with a cogent answer to a question, what do you do?
The game of golf is full of up and coming superstars. In any given week, there are more potential winners than ever before. As we head into the final week of the Fedex Cup, which is the year end playoff championship for which the winner receives $10,000,000, the name on the top of the leaderboard is Jordan Spieth.
I have watched Jordan since he joined the tour in 2013. While his performance has been exceptional for the last four years, winning 11 tournaments and three majors, the thing that impresses me the most is his mental strength. Golf would seem to be a simple game. “Hit the little ball that isn’t moving” would seem to be one of the easiest athletic feats in the world. And to help you, everyone that is watching will be totally quiet so you can focus while you do it. Anyone that has played golf knows that it is beyond difficult. When a golfer’s concentration gets interrupted by a clicking camera, a talking fan, or any kind of noise whatsoever, the golfer usually gets angry, shows disdain and typically shanks the shot. Not Jordan Spieth. Jordan has developed his own “mental reset” button. When he needs to focus or gets distracted, he goes to his caddy, who holds his golf towel, at which point Jordan dries his hands. This very simple process clears his mind. It is his mental reset button and it allows him to refocus immediately. I’ve seen him use this technique after all sorts of course interruptions and its effectiveness is quite remarkable. If you had the pleasure of watching Jordan in the 2017 British Open, you saw his mental reset button on display in a big way. While leading on the 13th hole on the final day, Jordan hit the worst shot of the tournament and drove the ball so far off the fairway that it was near the driving range. That could have been the end of the tournament for him. Instead, Jordan reset his mind, hit a miraculous blind shot over a hill, and proceeded to run up that hill with a look of renewed determination. The sight of him running after his ball said a lot about how short his memory is when bad things happen. After that hole, he went on play the next 4 holes in 5 under par and win the Championship.
There is an application in business. We all play a sport for a living. Whether we are selling, marketing, human resourcing, financing, it doesn’t matter. We find ourselves in high stress situations and we will face times when we have a letdown, lose our place, forget a detail, are at a loss for words, etc. How many of us have seen a presenter lose his place during a presentation and then fall into a mental vacuum? It’s not a comfortable situation. Watching Jordan Spieth and his routine of grabbing his towel as a mental reset button has caused me to develop my own mental reset button and I can tell you that it has rescued me from some high stress situations. I highly encourage you to develop yours. It can be a word, a line from a song, quick prayer, a person’s face, a mental picture, or even a physical maneuver. I would, however, not recommend bringing a golf towel to your next interview!