What Golfers Can Learn from Elon Musk

By Bradley Turner Keiser University College of Golf Director of Online Golf Instruction – MBA, PGA

The all-important trilogy…golf, life, and business. How you handle one area reflects how you may take another area. Golf is a game that mirrors that of life and the business world. In all three, participants are faced with endless problems that need to be solved and opportunities to be exploited. As a golf coach, I have always been interested in the success stories of athletes, coaches, and business leaders. The latest newsmaker in the business world is the billionaire entrepreneur, physicist, rocket scientist, and technology innovator who started Tesla, SpaceX and is soon to own Twitter. He does not have time to play the game of golf, but for those of us who do play, surprisingly, we can learn a few things about golf through the business and life philosophy of Elon Musk.

Push Forward Despite Fear

I feel fear quite strongly. It is not as though I have an absence of fear. There are times that when it is important enough and I believe strongly enough that I do it despite the fear. It is normal to feel fear, there would have to be something mentally wrong if you didn’t feel fear. Elon Musk 

Fear is one of the top-stated reasons golfers do not take golf lessons. The fear of getting worse outweighs the potential to get better. If you contemplate taking golf lessons, you clearly see the need for help. To enjoy the game, you do not need to be a low-handicap golfer, but all golfers enjoy a well-struck golf shot. Studies have shown that the most addicting aspect of golf is the collision of the golf club with the golf ball. That feeling of impact provides an intrinsic reward to every golfer, and they want that feeling more and more. Do not let fear hold you back from the challenges of learning the game and the enjoyment of compressing the heck out of a golf ball.

Maximize Useful Net Output of Actions

There is only a certain amount of time, and within that time, you want the best net outcome. So, for all the set of actions you can do, some will fail, some will succeed, you want the net useful outcome of your actions to be highest. Elon Musk

Most Americans experience the “time crunch” of balancing work, family, sleep, household responsibilities, and leisure activities. If you want to improve in golf, the sport requires golfers to spend a good portion of time practicing. One hour a week or ten hours a week, whatever you can commit to, make sure your efforts are going towards the best golfing output. As Musk implies, you want your practice time actions to be spent as efficiently as possible to improve your golfing results…your score!

Failure is Essentially Irrelevant

In physics, you are taught to question yourself, and you are prepared to assume that you are wrong. And then you have to prove yourself “not wrong.” The physics framework is great for learning things that are counterintuitive and not obvious. Failure provides the feedback as you become “less wrong.” Successful businesses are not afraid of mistakes because every business makes mistakes. The key is to acknowledge the mistakes and fix them quickly versus denying mistakes. My physics training really helped with this in my businesses. Elon Musk

Golf is counterintuitive to most who start playing the game. Hitting a poor shot is an opportunity to understand why that poor shot occurred and then take steps to fix the mistake. Too many golfers come from the mindset that “my swing fails me” versus what they can do to reduce the failure rate. It would help if you did not strive to eliminate failure in golf. If you apply Musk’s training in physics, the more you fail, the more likely it is that you can find a solution to the problem. Remember Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that will not work.”  Do not fear failure; instead, work on failing less, which is the secret to long-term success.

Do the Tough Stuff

I think if you are going to be successful in almost anything, you have to do the tough stuff as well as the enjoyable stuff. Do the boring things and the non-boring things. And if you don’t do the boring stuff, the company will get in trouble. If you don’t do your chores, then bad things will happen. It is more fun to enjoy the meal than clean the dishes. But you have to clean the dishes.  Elon Musk

There are a few golfers I know that love practicing more than playing. I am not in that camp. There are many times that I have planned on practicing, only to be easily talked into playing a round of golf with my golf buddies. In Musk’s analogy, doing the tough stuff is necessary if you want to make improvements or corrections in your game. Doing the tough stuff, such as preparing physically and mentally prior to a round or honing your short-game skills before a big tournament, will prepare you to perform to your potential. Still, I wouldn’t say I like doing the dishes, but it feels good when the tough stuff is done, so I can enjoy the fun stuff, too.

Hard Work

A challenge for entrepreneurs is to avoid wishful thinking because you want things to be true even if it isn’t true. A rigorous self-analysis of your idea can make the difference between success and failure. Then be tenacious and work like hell every week to make your business successful.  Elon Musk

When golfers try to improve a specific golf skill, it is very unusual for someone to acquire that skill immediately. The reality is that it will take time and effort to be able to perform a golf skill at a high level. Golfers should also be rigorous in the self-analysis of their golf abilities. Unrealistic assessment of carrying distances is one of the most common errors we see with higher handicap golfers. Another example is the insistence on chipping with their favorite lofted wedge when they demonstrated their inability to use that club properly. Golfers can be wishful thinkers on the course but wishing the ball close to the flagstick is not a sound performance strategy. If you want to improve a vital golf skill like lag putting, honestly measure your current skill using a standardized skill test. Discover your baseline skill and then be tenacious in your actions to improve your lag putting.

Elon Musk has been one of the most influential and disruptive minds over the past decade. He has been successful and will likely continue to change the world with his innovative mindset. Implementing Musk’s advice to push through the fear of failure and work hard to do the tough stuff will lead businesses and golfers to successful outcomes.

If you’d like to study with Bradley Turner and other PGA Master Professionals, contact the College of Golf today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. Required fields are marked with *.