When you choose your best ball story, you will be surprised

There were three men waiting as I hustled to the starting point with my golf bag bumping new bruises into my right leg with every stride.  Truthfully there were about one hundred and twenty men and twenty-some women, but only three men were on my team.  Yes we were dreadfully outnumbered but I was prepared for that.  I wondered what they thought when they saw me.  My new golf bag was really pretty with the bright pink stripes but it was almost as big as me. I imagined they were thinking crikey we don't have a blessed hope of winning today with Nana on our team.  As those thoughts of inadequacy banged against my worthiness, I put on my smile, hauled out my strongest handshake and greeted my teammates.  They were stuck with me because Teneo Consulting had chosen to support the tournament, and we were going to have fun.

Fun, what a novel concept I had arrived with.  Having fun, supporting a client's event, raising funds for MS, meeting some nice people, and gaining some business exposure were on my list for the day.  I hadn't given any thought until that morning that I might not have fun or that the people I was paired with would be anything but nice.  Thank goodness, or I would have terrified myself out of going entirely.  Those thoughts didn't arrive until I was sitting in the parking lot in Fort Saskatchewan trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the directions I had been following.  In the parking lot, alone, as the fear of being late climbed into my spirit, several other fear-friends arrived.

Suddenly I was beset by fear of not being wanted, of not being enough.  What if my team mates were unkind, rude, or worse yet amateur golf professionals who felt the need to correct or coach? The internal conversation was turning into a battle of common sense against the fear-friends.  It was a best ball tournament.  No one was going to win any large prize purses.  We were all there for similar reasons.  My team would eventually discover they were lucky to have me.  Threads of the conversation wrapped themselves around each other in my brain.

In my experience, golf is fifty percent technique and fifty percent fear management.  There is nothing like standing on a tee box while total strangers watch and your mind races through your stories.  Mine usually start with what the hell was I thinking when I registered in this tournament? As if dealing with your own stories and cast of fear-friends isn't enough you add new stories that you have concocted on behalf of strangers whose hands you have shaken less than ten minutes prior.   You are alone.  Everyone is watching.  You prepare your mind and body to swing a big old club at a ridiculously tiny little ball with the hope that you will hit it, and it will travel straight and far.  And just like that the first drive is over and the day has begun.

All day we picked the best ball to play except for when they took two of my drives because they had to!  Oh well, I was proud of those two drives and there wasn't only two of those.  I drove pretty well for me.  My fairway game sucked but that didn't matter I could just pick the stupid ball up.  One of my teammates would have a nice long fairway shot. I had a few good chip shots that were used and I was proud of.  Slowly as we moved through the day the fear-friends were silenced as I kept trying to intentionally choose the 'best ball' story in my head.

My stories switched from not being wanted or not being enough, to being the person that was interested in my teammates.  I wanted them to remember that I had kind and genuinely interested in them.  I wanted to make them feel comfortable and to help them have fun.  After I was done asking the standard best questions for networking that Forbes recommended in a 2016 article. I tried one of two from Harvard Law School networking tips.  Then I added my favourite question, "What do you love about your work?"

Try it sometime.  The answers are fascinating.  I have learned that many people have not thought of their work that way.  They have a job, they have responsibilities, they need money to pay the bills, they have to work.  Period. When you ask you will get the deer in the headlights look, the stammering answer, and/or sometimes the honest, "I don't know." Once they get over the initial shock, and trust me if you are observant you can watch the shock register on their face, they will come up with something.  Usually it isn't their best ball answer and they know that.  They often take a mulligan.  They take another swing and add to the first answer.  That's okay because learning to think a different way takes practice.  Learning to overcome our fear-friends is a lifelong tournament.  Now I have a new way to think about golf tournaments and my fear-friends.  I will choose the best ball story and if it isn't quite good enough I will take a mulligan and try again.

So tell me friends - what do you love about your work?  

PS - We had fun and my teammates were wonderful!