Whether in sports or business, it’s the difference between success or failure. This is a story that could happen to anybody, but for purposes of illustration, I will use a very gifted family.
Two millennials are playing golf. They are sons of a former semi-pro pitcher who starred in the College World Series. Despite their limited business experience, they are killing it in their respective fields.
The older son is an attorney, recruited out of college by New York’s largest law firm. He’s on the litigation team that argues eight-figure lawsuits. The younger son is a corporate account executive for one of the largest, most competitive recruiters on the planet. They both earn high six-figure incomes and enjoy all the trappings of successful executives twice their age. And mental toughness plays no small role in their lives.
The golf round starts out with a friendly bet, but after three holes with the score tied, they opt to make it a cumulative bet, plus side bets on hitting greens, making one-putts, longest drives, making sandies, etc.
Perseverance, determination, mental toughness, call it what you want. They are now on the 18th hole and the score is tied. If one of them can win this hole, he will earn about $100. But it’s not about the money, is it?
The tee shot is over a typical small pond. It’s an easy enough shot with an iron, and with a driver, the pond is a mere distraction.
The adrenalin is flowing, and they both know they can win this match. The older brother tees off first. He tees the ball a little low and tops the shot. The topspin caused by the miss-hit results in a short, low trajectory with the ball dropping into the middle of the pond.
Dismissing the error, he knows he can still win. He tees another ball higher to prevent the same error. But this time, his clubhead swings lower and slides under the ball, grazing it slightly. The ball goes fifty feet in the air, but only 25 feet forward. It lands with a splash, and the younger brother starts laughing and comments, “I was about to call the infield fly rule, but I realized what you were trying to do. I’ve never seen anyone hit a flop shot with a driver. And now I know why.”
Suddenly, all the attributes that made him successful, dissipate. Enraged, he tosses his driver. The $400 club windmills across the pond, but unfortunately falls short of the opposite bank. With his anger still bubbling, he takes his golf bag and throws it into the pond.
He then challenges his brother. “If you can hit your drive across the pond, I’ll concede the match.”
Bursting with confidence, brother number two steps up to the tee takes a perfect practice swing, stands over the ball a second or two, and takes a mighty swing. The ball travels on a line drive, six inches above the ground, and crashes through the brush on the near bank. But the velocity of the ball carried it into the pond. He quickly grabbed another ball, only to repeat the same shot.
Knowing how easy it was for him to win the match, his anger far exceeded his brother’s. And tossing his clubs in the pond was not going to assuage his fury. He had to make an even bigger statement.
It proved to be an expensive day when the fines and cart recovery were added to the cost of the clubs, greens fees, beer, and travel.
Author’s Note: Most of my writing is based on actual events, but in this case, it contains a healthy dose of conjecture.