You might not know the name Harvey Penick, but you might resonate with his pain.
Penick was a golf teacher, famous for writing his “Little Books on Golf”.
I won’t bore you with his backstory. Suffice to say, he’s helped more than a few big golfing names reach the top.
Like most teachers, he never made it to the big leagues himself though.
As a kid, I always wondered why that happened?
I’d be watching a tournament on TV, listening to these coaches explain why Faldo was pulling his long irons… or how Jose wasn’t transferring his weight in the backswing, so was coming “over the top” with his driver, and think…
“If you’re so bloody good… why aren’t you out there winning all the trophies?”
Of course, there are a lot of possible reasons why. Maybe it’s because:
– Life on tour is a whole different ball game from being a teacher. As a teacher, they’re based at their own club and don’t have to travel. Tour life, on the other hand, is a constant series of flights. Maybe these coaches have a family they don’t want to escape from?
– Having millions of TV viewers watching you miss a 3-foot putt isn’t the stuff dreams are made of. Maybe the pressure cooker environment of being in the spotlight isn’t for them.
With Penick though, I didn’t have to wonder why he never played on tour.
He revealed why in one of his books:
“I thought I was a pretty fair player and had nagging aspirations to join the tour until the Houston Open in the middle 1930s.
I was practising putting and one of the fellows said, “Harvey, have you seen this kid Snead hit the ball? He’s about to tee off now.”
I walked over to the tee and saw the new kid from West Virginia hit his drive. I not only saw it, I heard it.
It sounded like a rifle and flew like a bullet.
I knew right that moment that my future was not as a tour player.”
One shot was all it took to destine Harvey to a lifetime of teaching (nowt wrong with that by the way…).
Here’s the thing…
Sam Snead wasn’t just any ordinary player.
He was (and is) one of the greatest players to ever slip on the plaid pants*.
* That *feels* like a golfing metaphor…
Harvey Penick took one look at the world’s greatest golfer and thought “I can’t compete with that” and quit.
Having our dreams crushed after having a prodigy blow our minds is probably something we can all relate to.
When it happens, it’s easy to think:
In “winner takes all” markets (markets where ONLY the top few get all the rewards), seeing how you measure up against the top performers is a good strategy for gauging your potential for success.
That’s being realistic.
But very few markets are “winner takes all”.
Business, for example.
I don’t have to be the best copywriter on the planet to make a decent living bashing out words at my keyboard.
I don’t even have to be in the top 1,000.
(Good job too!)
I probably should have written this to you earlier in the year, what with all the “new year, new me” resolutions, but…
If you’re holding back from doing something because you’re not the best in the world…
Seriously, stop. Pick up an autobiography of someone who mastered your “thing”…
… and prove to yourself that EVERYONE starts from square one.
(My recommendation? “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin. Even if you don’t dream of being a comedian, you get to see the amount of work that goes into every “overnight success” you see on TV)
What one man can do, another can do too.*
* Probably Lincoln. Maaaaaaybe Gandhi.
Penick might have been intimidated by Sam Snead, but if he’d have stopped for a second, he would’ve remembered there was a day where Sam had to be shown which end of the club to hold…
A day where he took a swing and missed the ball…
A day where he invented a new swear word because he couldn’t get out of a sand trap…
Sam Snead played in over 100 of golf’s “major” tournaments (The US Masters, Us Open, British Open, and USPGA).
Wanna know how many he won?
Seven. Only seven.
So if you’re still hanging on to a new years resolution, but not taking action because you’ve just seen your “Sam Snead” crack a small, thermoplastic resin-covered ball 300 yards…
Think of what they looked like on their very first day.
Compare yourself to that.