Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Personal Strength of Commitment - It's All in the Follow-through

I once knew this guy who was passionate about golf. He was on the course two or three times a week, and as a result he was an above-average player. It was fun to walk around with him and watch him make shots.

One day he confided in me that he believed he could make it on the PGA tour. “I’m wasting my time in this dead-end job of mine. Even the lowest player on the tour makes six figures.”

He was almost forty, which seemed to me a little old to be competing with the hundreds of young, talented players who were already pursuing the same dream. I wondered if he’d thought it through. “It sounds great,” I said. “Do you know what you have to do to make it happen?”

“I need a sponsor,” he said.

“True. All the players have sponsors. Do you know how much of a stake you’ll need?”

“All I need is a couple thousand. I know a guy who’ll back me.”

“You might need more than that. And it takes more than money, right? Do you know what’s involved to get your card?”

“I’m not sure. But I know I can do it.”

I was a little surprised that, given his enthusiasm, he hadn’t figured out what was involved. I encouraged him to check into it. In fact, I did his homework for him. I downloaded the information off the web and gave it to him. 

Basically, you compete in “Q-School,” in which aspiring players pay to compete in a series of grueling elimination tournaments. Only the players with the lowest scores in the final tournament are given their PGA cards. It’s amazingly competitive. Many are called, but few are chosen. 

Q-School does a good job of identifying the best of the best. These high-achievers become replacements for the lowest-achieving PGA tour professionals, who lose their exemptions. To keep their card for another year, PGA professionals have to be among the top 125 money-winners on the tour.

“Do you think you can do it?” I asked after we talked about all this.

“Yeah, man. I can do it.”

“Well, in my opinion it’s a long shot. But you know, it’s possible,” I said, ”Even if you’re a little old. If you do what it takes. Have you ever won a local club championship?”

“No, but I can do it.”

“It seems to me that would be a good place to start. Work on your game. Win a couple amateur tournaments. That way you’ll prove to yourself that you’re ready to play at a higher level.”

A few years later he was no closer to achieving his goal. He just wasn’t willing to work on conditioning or put in the practice to improve his skills. He never did enter any of the tournaments around the state. Apparently, when he found out about the price he’d have to pay, he decided he didn’t want to pay it. 

He had the dream, but he lacked the commitment to achieve it. And that’s fine. I didn’t hold it against him. He’s a great guy, and there’s a whole lot to be said for fun out on the links with the guys.

Do you want to get an advanced degree? Do you want a promotion? Maybe you’d like to quit your job and start your own business. Make a couple million dollars? Or get married and raise a family? Do you want to own your dream home, free and clear? Lose 50 pounds? Quit smoking? Publish a book? 

All goals worth achieving come with a price. You may have to invest money, effort, time or some other resource. You may have to give up something to get something. Very likely none of it will be easy and you’ll have to follow through for quite a while—maybe years. 

To do what you have to do, you’ll need commitment. Know what’s required of you, then either make a commitment to do the hard things, or choose a different goal. Not everyone is ready or willing to pay the price. It’s a personal choice. That’s why not everyone’s a multi-millionaire or out playing with the big boys on the PGA Tour.

A Fortune Cookie...

Put it all on the line, and you’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.

More Fortune Cookies...

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Photo licensed for use on this blog by


Sean said...

Golf sounds brutal. There's what, 30 players at the national level? 40? And these are the best in the world. If you figure a golfer has 20 good years in him on average, that means that every year, only one or two are added to the ranks of the worthy. So how good do you have to be?

And even if you do manage to make it to that level, if you finish a four-day even 3 points behind the leader, you're consider an abject failure. Wow! It makes you wonder why half those golfers are even on the course.

Millions of people play golf. But if you're not the best of millions of amateurs, you're a failure. Somehow, I think that for most people, regardless of the level of commitment, they're just not going to make it.

Denny Coates said...

Sean, it's not quite that brutal. Instead of 30-40 who make the tour, it's more like 175. 50 of those come from new guys from Q-School and the Nationwide Tour. The others kept their cards by being in the top 125 on the money list. A few without cards get invitations to a tournament here and there because of a sponsor preference or because the golfer won the tournament in the past, etc. It's very much a merit-based system, based on earnings.

Man, you really have to have game to play in the PGA!

Beth said...

Many people like to hang on to a pristine dream that is always "out there" for them to think about. "I can do that." Making the commitment and mapping out a plan to actually take the shot (which may result in failure -- success is never assured), takes a particular kind of fire in the belly and willingness to follow that dream through hell if necessary.

I still love your Fortune Cookies: deceptively simple touchstones for deep truths.