One of the reasons I like to watch sports is that it’s the easiest way I know to experience moments of greatness. I love to bear witness to these moments. You can’t help but be affected by them. I know a lot of people get sick of the sports and battle metaphors that get over used in business, but when you witness someone achieve that zen-like moment of greatness, a little can rub off on you if you let it. This post is not about sports though. When 22 year old Rory McIlroy tapped in a short put to win the US Open Golf tournament last Sunday, he finished teaching a lesson in perseverance and overcoming failure, like I have never seen.
Whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer, executive or employee, you have probably faced professional failure at some point. Chances are you haven’t faced what the then 21 year old went through just two months ago.
Quick Backstory for the Non-Golfers
Back in April, then 21 year old Rory McIlroy had a 4 stroke lead going into the final day of the Masters -one of the 4 most prestigious annual tournaments in professional golf. He still had a 1 stroke lead going into the back nine, then he fell apart. He completely imploded, and finished 15th. It was painful to watch. Can you imagine? He was half-way through the final round, about to achieve a career pinacle few will ever achieve, at 21! Then he “choked”. In front of just about everyone in the world with an interest in golf, and millions more that would hear about it because of the way it happened. When it was over, he did something amazing considering the circumstance. As he was leaving the course after his final shot, he was interviewed. Somehow he held it together. The way he handled that moment garnered him a lot of positive attention and turned a loss into a win.
Think about that for a moment. What were you like at 21? Pretty much all I can share is that I was in college, in New Orleans, LA. This kid was composed, and thoughtful, and handled that moment with grace.
Art is Everywhere If You Let Yourself See It
Art can be sports, music, theatre, even a sales presentation. If you pay close attention, you will notice when things rise above, and achieve that level of art. When it happens, and you allow it to affect you, it can charge your batteries like nothing else. If you happend to be watching the US Open golf tournament this past weekend , you witnessed art.
It was never in question. McIlroy led from start to finish, and won, shattering records. Can you imagine what was going through his mind on the back nine of the final round? The self-doubt, the pressure? If you watched him play, you would have seen none of that. He was focused and confident. How did you handle your last big public failure? The one who goes first, generally makes it easier for those that follow. Seeing someone do something hard or scary lets us know it’s possible, and makes it easier for us to believe we can do those things.
Steven Pressfield wrote that the difference between being an amateur and a pro, is the ability to put aside Resistance, and do the work. That’s what I got to see last Sunday. I saw a 22 year old professional with the talent and the balls to put a failure that would send most of us into sweatpants and ice cream, out of his mind and do what he knew he was capable of doing. I’ll bet what happened at the Masters in April, made Rory McIlroy a better player. I know that seeing what he was able to do last weekend made me better at putting failure behind me, just for having witnessed it.
photo credit: ltbeyer