I’ve never been very good at golf. I’ve always played different sports and I could usually pick them up fairly easily and be adequate without a great deal of practice.
I would play a couple times a year. My friends would call when their 4th player canceled or they were desperate. They knew I was a hack and was likely to spend as much time in the woods as on the fairways.
I recently decided I wanted to get better at golf. My uncle John talked very highly of a golf instructor on Long Island named Victor Romano. John insisted that if I was serious about improving, that I drive out to Long Island and take lessons with Victor.
Victor is a wizard. In the matter of only a few lessons, he has helped my swing immensely and has fixed some major flaws. I still have a long way to go but I’m starting to see improvements.
Victor has a metaphor for golf improvement he calls “moving the bell curve”.
The metaphor is one of a 100 golf shots. Every swing a golfer takes, they reach into this metaphorical bucket and take out a ball. Ball #1 is the best shot they could possibly hit that day, given their skill level. Ball #100 is the worst. Plot those 100 shots and you get a representative bell curve of that golfer’s current skill level.
When you’re starting out, the bell curve is very wide. The #1 shot is probably OK and the #100 shot might be a complete whiff.
As you gets slightly better, the #1 – 5 shots are quite a bit better but the worst #90 – #100 shots are still embarrassing shanks.
As you continue to improve, the #1 – #5 shots get even better, the medium shots get a little better and the worst shots aren’t quite as bad but #99 and #100 are probably still ones you would rather forget.
This is true for me and it’s true for you and it’s true for Tiger Woods. When Tiger Woods shoots a 76 (a terrible day for him), he hit some of the worst shots possible on his bell curve.
After working with Victor, my best shot (my #1) is almost as good as Tiger’s worst shot (his #100). That means the best shot I can hit out of 100 is comparable to the worst shot Tiger Woods hits.
The point of Victor’s metaphor is this.
Golfers always make excuses for the way they played a certain hole or a certain round. If they shot a great score on the front nine but played poorly on the back nine, they blame it on exhaustion or the fact that it was getting dark. If they hit a huge slice into the pond, they blame it on the fact that they pulled their head or that new wedge that they just haven’t figured out yet.
Their skill level is at a certain point. On a bad day, they hit more balls from the higher end of their bell curve.
The purpose of practice, in golf and many other endeavors, is to move the bell curve.
Chris Brogan and Seth Godin write new blog posts every day. Some posts are better than others but their last 100 are significantly better than their first 100. Through practice, over time, they have dramatically moved their blog quality bell curve. Following their lead, that’s what I’m trying to do as well.
Pick a skill in your business or personal life, what is your #1 ball? What is your #100?
How can you improve and move your own bell curve?
[Photo credit: Paul Gallegos / PR Photos]