Hopefully, you were able to read last month’s practice tip (July Update) – Tips for Improving (Part 1).
In this practice tip we discussed how we work with our students to create new habits rather than breaking old habits. It is essentially impossible to break bad habits (our mind / body is not set up that way)… but we are set up to be able to create new habits and ultimately make changes / create new movements, etc. we want.
We talked about a book we strongly recommend – The Little Book of Talent / 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyle
It is described as a manual for building a faster brain and a better you. It is an easy-to-use hand book of scientifically proven, field tested methods to improve your skills – your skills, your kids’ skills, your organization’s skills – in sports, music, art, math and business. The product of five years of reporting from the world’s greatest talent hotbeds and interviews with successful master coaches, it distills the daunting complexity of skill development into 52 clear, concise directives. Whether you are 10 or 100, this is an essential guide for anyone who ever asked, “How do I get better?”
This book is available at Amazon.com
The last instructional newsletter (Tips for Improvement Part 1) we talked about the following tips:
1. Staring at who you want to become.
2. Spending 15 minutes a day engraving the skills on your brain.
3. Stealing without apology.
4. Buying (and keeping) a notebook.
This instructional newsletter (Part 2) we cover the next 4 tips for improving your skills and relate them to you learning / working on your single plane swing.
5. Be Willing To Be Stupid
Feeling stupid is no fun. But being willing to be stupid – in other words, being willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes – is absolutely essential, because reaching, failing, and reaching again is the way your brain grows and forms new connections.
When it comes to developing talent, remember, mistakes are not really mistakes, but rather they are guideposts you use to get better.
This is a topic we discuss often at our schools and clinics. When you are making changes in your golf swing, it should be uncomfortable at first and you will not hit it well at first. You shouldn’t – many feel they are making “mistakes” and feel “stupid” when they do this. But this shows you are making changes and something EVERYONE will go through when they are making changes and creating new habits. If you are willing to make “mistakes” – miss hit shots when you first start to make changes, “willing to be stupid” as Mr. Coyle calls it…. you will create new habits. If not, the process will take MUCH longer, if not hindered all together.
6. Choose Spartan Over Luxurious
We love comfort. We love state-of-the-are practice facilities, oak-paneled corner offices, spotless locker rooms, and fluffy towels. Which is a shame, because luxury is a motivational narcotic: It signals our unconscious minds to give less effort. It whisper’s, Relax, you’ve made it…
The point of this tip is not moral; it’s neural. Simple, humble spaces help focus attention on the deep-practice task at hand; reaching and repeating and struggling. When given the choice between luxurious and spartan, choose spartan…. Your unconscious mind will thank you.
This is actually one of my favorite tips in the Little Book of Talent. Do I like fancy country clubs, fancy ranges, fancy practice areas – ABSOLUTELY! But, there is no question, my focus suffers big time when I’m in that environment. In fact, when I grew up hitting golf balls, and practicing in high school, in college and when I was starting on the mini – tours, 90% of the time I hit balls (practiced) in a field hitting my own golf balls out of my shag bag. And I guarantee my improvement was increased dramatically as my focus had to stay alert as when you are hitting your own balls, you must shag your own golf balls. If you loose focus, it is absolutely no fun shagging those balls….
I always recommend to my students (especially younger high school and college students) if you want to dramatically improve your quality of practice – hit your own golf balls – whether you are chipping, pitching, or working on your full swing, if you have the opportunity to hit your own balls – I strongly recommend it.
7. Before You Start, Figure Out If It’s a Hard Skill or a Soft Skill
The first step toward building a skill (creating a new habit) is to figure out exactly what type of skill you’re building. Every skill (habit) falls into one of two catagories: hard skills or soft skills.
Hard, High-Precision Skills are actions that are performed as correctly and consistently as possible, every time. Hard Skills are about repeatable precision.
An example of a hard skill is creating new moves / working on new positions in your golf swing. Golf swing fundamentals are hard skills.
Soft, High-Flexibility Skills are those that have many paths to a good result, not just one. These skills aren’t about doing the same thing perfectly very time, but rather about being agile and interactive, reactive and making timely choices.
An example of soft skills is working on things that will help you on the course / on course type situations. Hitting shots into the wind, moving the ball right to left, or left to right, hitting different trajectories on golf shots, working on your short game (creating different shots around the green), etc.. Soft skills tend to be more “feel” related and something that is reactive to the situation.
8. To Build Hard Skills, Work Like a Careful Carpenter
To develop reliable hard skills, you need to connect the right wires in your brain. In this, it helps to be careful, SLOW, and keenly attuned to errors. To work like a careful carpenter. Precision especially matters early on, because the first reps / swings establish a pathway for the future. Neurologists call this the “sled on the snowy hill” phenomenon. The first repetitions are like the first sled tracks on fresh snow. On subsequent tries, your sled will tend to follow those grooves.
When you are working on hard skills (working on your golf swing), be precise and measured. Go SLOWLY. Make one simple move (change) at a time, repeating and perfecting it before you move on. Learning fundamentals only seems boring – in fact, it’s the key movement of investment. If you build the right pathway now, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble down the line.
This is EXACTLY why Todd and myself have worked so hard on creating and implementing our training aids and instructional videos.
These training aids and instructional videos are set up to help you act like a careful carpenter. They help you take the guess work out of practicing. Even if your focus starts to “lax” – they will help you keep on path.
Do not guess, do not question if you are doing it right or not.
As we say at all our schools and to all our students – a majority of typical golfers have no idea if they are on the path to improvement or not. Our students do not and will not have this problem. By following a model, studying and learning proper movement and using training aids to check and check often, you can guarantee you are building those hard skills (fundamentals) perfect – like a VERY careful carpenter.
Watch our next Practice Tip(s) for continuation of this topic – Tips for Improving.