I’m not a golfer. But if I were – (or maybe BECAUSE I’m not?) – I’d be a heck of a lot more inspired by Bubba Watson than by Jack Nicklaus or Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods (ahem.)
Golf has universal, published, indisputable rules of the game. It’s a magnificent way to teach the concept of ethics to kids (what do you do when you’re not being watched?). You learn the rules and you play by them. Simple, right?
But beyond the specifics of the rules, there’s also a rich tradition in golf. A ‘way it’s done.’ Decorum. Elegance. Ritual. Expectations. (You know this if you’ve ever tried to go to a country club in cutoff jeans & flipflops.)
Bubba is self taught in an industry where that “just isn’t done.” He’s a lefty – one of only three to ever win the Masters. People have said, “Oh, Bubba plays by his own rules.” He doesn’t, though. The rules are the same for everyone. What he does, rather, is play with little regard to the traditional path of finding success; he eschews the common approaches others have used to achieve greatness.
In every business, there are rules (taxes, regulatory compliance, shareholder reporting, etc.) and then there are the ‘ways things are customarily done.’ As I look out across the landscape of true innovation right now in events (peer retreats vs. old-school associations, TED, Ignite, SXSW (before it jumped the shark)), in consumer products (SPANX, i-almost-anything), in online communities (Pinterest, Instagram) – the success stories are being written by the Bubbas. Those who say, “well, I see the commonly accepted path, and that’s fine for them, but I’m doin’ it my way.”
Are you great at something? Bubba is. But he didn’t give in to the push to walk a traditional path to prove his greatness. He didn’t look at the odds against a self-taught left hander, he just followed his gut. That green jacket is on his back today largely BECAUSE he wasn’t on the traditional path. Don’t imitate him (it wouldn’t work) – rather, take some courage from his playbook to be your own person. Actively cultivate a trust in your own instincts. Stop listening to the very-loud voices that say you ‘should’ do it this way or that way. Those voices would have you believe that there’s only one path to success, and it’s a well trodden one filled with things like swing coaches, professional services, advisors, right-handed players, etc.
Be a ‘Bubba’: Swing wildly. Be authentic. Follow your spirit to the place where your passion and your uniqueness intersect.
And even if you aren’t in the proverbial green jacket at the end of the day, you’ll be the authentic version of yourself, which is the best prize of all.