Golf and the Entrepreneurial Mindset: What I learnt

The typical entrepreneur is known to have pockets overflowing with ideas. They find it
hard to stop thinking about the Next Big Idea. So how does this play out in reality? The
answer is, it depends – on their ability to focus and not get distracted. 

Some experts say that distraction costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year in lost
productivity. Understandably, this can be intimidating. It has a direct implication on the
ability to think clearly, focus on priorities and lead a business to success. Distraction has
made an entrepreneur’s job even more demanding. Barraged with non-stop emails, long
meetings, the expectation of being available 24/7 and much more, the struggle is real. So
here’s the real question: What can you do about it?

I found an answer recently. 

Late January or early February this year, I was playing golf with a friend of mine. We spoke a
lot about new age challenges and how to combat them. It was a great conversation and I
carried it along as I took my position behind the tee. Soon enough, my focus zeroed in on
my put. I had started playing golf knowing it increases the ability for course correction,
mental strength, especially tenacity and many more. That day, I came across yet more
advantages. There’s a strong relation between playing golf and running a business i.e.
knowing when to focus on immediate vs. long term challenges. 

Lesson I

The right strategy is key, depending on the stage of your company. Driving a business is a lot
more like playing a game of golf where you have a par. In other words, you have limited
shots to achieve your goal. You may try one shot that goes awry but not all of them. In the
case of the latter, you will be left with no scope to win against your competition. That is how
it works in leading a business. If your strategy generates consecutive success, you are bound
to excel. However, if your strategy itself is wrong, you are doomed to fail as all your (limited)
shots will be wasted in the wrong direction.  

Learning II

It is essential to remove distractions. The idea is to focus on what matters because the r
of your time vs. deliveries is running at a disproportionate rate. You must control your mind.
When your focus is, singularly, on the hole, your efforts reduce. You do not need muscles, or
aggression, to score an eagle in golf. Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist at the University
of California, San Francisco says, ‘the more you focus, the more your brain releases a
chemical called noradrenaline, which helps you concentrate on the task at hand’.

Lesson III

There are two ways to learn in life: 1. by theory and 2. by practice. For an entrepreneur, the
flow of feedback between strategy (theory) vs. tactics (practice) should be fast. This
demands the ability to differentiate between immediate and long term opportunities, to
stay calm and again, focused. In my experience, no other game gives you that sort of
immediate feedback with clarity in a shorter period of time. 

Creating value and positive impact is clearly, and rightly so, one of the highest priorities for
leaders  today. This demands the ability to have the right strategy, focus on BHAGs (Big
Hairy Audacious Goals) while executing short term targets to stay on the course. To get a
perspective, here is a recent article by The Economist that explains just how complicated the
CEO’s job is today. Thinking strategy needs to be habitual. The mind needs to be active to
create non-linear value creation. Once you create a strong strategy, tactics will become easy
for you. 

Why Does this Matter? 

Because the apparent communicates more than the reverse. Entrepreneurs need to be
aware of the oblivious, notice them, deduce solutions to combat potential business threats.
They must transfer their learnings to their teams and grow together. 

Some of you may ask me – Is golf the only way to get quick feedback between strategy and
tactics which you can apply in your business? The answer is NO. There is never only one way
to learn things. Maybe you have another solution? I would love to know how you have
learnt to differentiate between strategy and tactics in your environment. Look forward to
learning from you all.


About the author:

Shailesh Gupta aims to revolutionize the startup ecosystem by working with young entrepreneurs with great ideas to help them solve, strategize and scale. He is currently the Founder & CEO of YoloBus.