A few weeks ago, at the 2019 Masters Tournament, Tiger Woods and the sport of golf lobbed a shot heard around the world. Tiger is back. Tiger won the Masters. The metamorphosis from the immature Tiger to the mature Tiger, the ego-driven Tiger to the wise Tiger, the intimidator Tiger to the competitive and efficient Tiger, had arrived. The grim and self-absorbed Tiger had morphed into “It’s all good” Tiger.
Those earlier years of Tiger hiding behind the optics of perfection and intimidation had taken their toll on him. He lost his edge. When who you are (identity) becomes what you do (purpose), you’re in trouble.
William Galston, a writer for the Wall Street Journal recently wrote, “At the peak of his career, Mr. Woods was a great golfer. But he was not a particularly good person.” Eventually, the invisible issues inside Tiger’s soul moved to visible issues in his body. His reduced moral and mental competency affected his physical capacity. Tiger showed us all that incredible wealth doesn’t make you, you.
Tiger hit bottom in 2017 when dependent on a variety of pain medications because of his ailing back. It looked like Tiger Woods and his woods would be stuck in the woods, forever. The pundits and most golfers thundered, “No way he could come back from this.” Then the seemingly impossible happened. Tiger won the Masters, his sixteenth majors title.
So, what Tiger did and what we can do is get back into the game of life after we have hit bottom?
Here are a few of my observations. Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners. Because of hubris and his past strategy of intimidation by overpowering, he wasted several years trying to drive the ball further than his opponents as in his younger days. He was focusing on other players half his age to prove to them and himself he could win again by overpowering. That strategy made his ailing back and knees worse. The young guys were going to win that contest most every time. He changed his focus from overpowering other competitors to winning the tournament.
In the game of life, there are no winners and losers. There are only winners and learners. Losers become learners when they learn from their mistakes and missteps. When he did that, he went from a loser to a learner and then a winner. The player, the team, the professional, the organization who learns this will maximize their potential at some point. Most times the only person you are playing against is yourself. If you get better, it gets better. It did for Tiger.
The Bible says, “for everything there is a season.” You don’t change seasons; you adjust to seasons. To live is to grow and to grow is to change. His season of overpowering the field was over. What did he do? Tiger switched strategies. He learned. He changed. He adjusted. He adapted to maximize his efficiency in his current season of life. He practiced for hours on accuracy. He leveraged his experience, wisdom, and intelligence into a winning formula. He had played these golf courses for years. He had the advantage. Now he needed to access and apply the advantage.
Remember what happened in the Masters Tournament? On the famous infamous twelfth hole, a par three, the leader of the tournament, along with several other close challengers, hit their opening shot at the pin which went into the Ray’s Creek and lost the tournament. Tiger hit to the safe side of the hole and got a par. That strategy changed the outcome of the tournament. Wisdom and accuracy won the tournament, not just strength.
There’s a lesson for all of us in this. To err is human. To admit it is superhuman. To change is almost divine. Sometimes good things need to fall apart so better things can fall together. Tiger’s perceived end was a new beginning in disguise. In Tiger’s case, this Masters Tournament may end up his most famous majors win. It was the end of a moral, mental, and physical long and winding road taking him to the top, to the bottom, and to the top again. He is the 'Comeback Kid.' Now we’ll see if he can be the ‘Stay-back’ Kid.
How can you know your mission on Earth is finished? If you’re alive, it isn’t. Be that Comeback Kid who finishes strong, not wrong. It isn't where you come from, it's where you're going that counts, no matter what stage of life you are in. And remember, the person who makes what they do, who they are, will eventually implode. A balanced life is what you are looking for, not just a career.
Tiger has changed. He learned golf is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Now he seems to enjoy the competition and the competitors. He’s more relaxed. He is letting himself out of the bag. After winning, he hugged his mother and his two kids and, it wasn’t just for optics.
Are you at a place in life where you are a master at what you do but not a particularly good person? Tiger didn’t defeat the giants in his life because of the way he fought, he defeated the giants because of the way he thought. Remember, giants aren't sent into our lives to destroy us. Giants are allowed into our lives to promote us.
Tiger learned about life from this. You can too! Hint: Learn from others' mistakes and your mistakes - the second mouse gets the cheese! Losers are in the mousetrap. Learners are enjoying the cheese. And isn’t it good that God made a world where you get a second chance, and a third chance, and…
Ed Delph April 29, 2019 CCC Wall Street Journal…Monday or Tuesday after April 8.