More lessons from golf…

Taking notes (getting the most out of each lesson) 

I admit it, I am a note-taker. I keep a bound journal of each of my golf lessons and sessions on the practice range, just as a way of noting how things went, what I’ve observed, what I’m trying to focus on, and what’s working (or not). I think the act of writing on the page also helps me remember those points better.

I noticed this at my last golf lesson: while 30 minutes seems like a short amount of time, and the 4 or 5 key instruction points would seem to be easy to retain, I still drew a blank when I stepped off the mat and tried to record those points at the end of my lesson. Unlike my students, I don’t have the advantage of a 3rd person taking notes for me during my lesson, but it really reminded me that if I want to keep track of all the comments from my instructor, so I can really work on internalizing them when I practice, I need to find a way to record them in real time during the lesson. My golf pro doesn’t use video (yet), but I am tempted to start taping my lessons!

Accepting the non-linearity of learning

I sometimes find myself repeating the same mistakes during practice and being unable to identify what those mistakes are – all I see is the ball’s path and/or feel the failure to make good contact with the ball during my swing. And when I’ve done this many times in a row, I begin to feel frustrated and negative thoughts creep into my head (mostly anger!).

One thing that my golf pro has said that I try to remember during those moments is that he made a big breakthrough when he eliminated both of the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum with respect to his shots. He stopped getting overly hyped up and self-congratulatory about his great shots, and he also stopped getting overly down on himself and negative about his missed shots. He just kept on going, making a note of the things he wanted to repeat and those he wanted to change, and accepting all of the highs and lows as part of the process.

This reminds me of the calm way my violin teacher used to respond to me as a soloist, after both great performances (the ones you wish were recorded for the world to see!) as well as the “bombs” (the ones you wish you could forget forever). We always seemed to share just a calm knowing – there was no need to describe how great something was (it was simply felt) or to point out the slips or mistakes that haunt every performer (and replay in our minds for too long afterwards). She was always there with a big hug or sometimes just a look and a smile that to me symbolized tacit acknowledgment of the courage it takes just to step on any stage and put yourself out there. She never explained herself, but the feeling was one that no matter what, the point in performing (and, perhaps by metaphor, in pursuing our dreams in life) is to keep on going. By fully committing to something, you already believe in the objective, and rather than focus your emotions on whether you are achieving that 100% of the time, the important thing to retain is the value of striving for that goal, over and over again. I now believe that this is the mindset of any true champion in sports, arts, business, and life. You keep on going, with an absolute awareness of what you’re doing and your goals, but with complete dedication to your own journey.

When I called this section “non-linearity” I also meant to address the idea that it’s unrealistic to expect perfect stepwise progression of skills from day to day or week to week. With something that involves highly coordinated, complex muscle movements, like golf (and violin), early progress needs to be measured by working on small things one at a time, and stepping back months later to see and feel how things have begun to come together. I am striving to enjoy my own journey…and all of its highs and lows!

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