A Good Lesson

A young Arnold Palmer near the beginning of his career

I loved watching Arnold Palmer play golf when I was younger. Even long before I played myself or fully understood golf, I always appreciated and respected his approach towards the game. There was a tenacity and passion in how he played, as if he was aggressively attempting to grasp something the game did not want to give him. Even his swing, although imperfect to the legion of would-be golf analysts, to me was a microcosm of how to approach the game of golf, and of life.

There was nothing smooth and graceful about Arnie’s swing. He aggressively punched at the ball as if punishing it for some previous transgression. He always seemed to be searching for something that he hadn’t yet found, and he refused to settle. It’s not that he took wild, unpredictable risks; no one becomes the best at what they do taking that approach. Rather, he took calculated risks based on an experienced, educated guess.

Most of the time, that approach worked just fine.

Arnie believed in the old adage that states: With great risks comes great rewards. If he needed to hit a 250-yard shot perfectly in order to clear a water hazard, by God, he was going for it. He had the determination and more importantly, the self-confidence to reach for goals that others might consider too risky. It was that attitude that was mostly responsible for his success on and off the fairway. It also made him fascinating to watch, which led to the forming of his legions of fans lovingly refered to as “Arnie’s army”. There are countless other athletes who are probably just as talented in their respected sports, yet somehow we aren’t drawn to them the way Palmer pulls us in. To me, the reason for that is his approach towards the game, but not just the game of golf. The game of life as well.

It seems to me that the most inspirational, succesful and exciting people all share some similarities to Arnold Palmer. Those are the people we want to watch. They make us motivated to live our lives a similar way. Whether it’s opening your own business, changing career paths later in life, or taking a chance on a relationship that seems like a longshot, the people who take calculated risks are the ones who seem to end up happy and successful. They are also the ones we tend to want to emulate. Some of us will take those risks; most of us won’t. It is easier said than done, but I think it is something worth shooting for.

Arnold Palmer has played golf with and against some of the best players to ever play the game. Yet despite these intimidating opponents, he continually took risks on the course. To me, it was not to intimidate his opponents or show them or the crowd his maximum capability.

It was to prove it to himself.

I like that attitude. 

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