Get Out of Your Own Way!

The human potential is an amazing thing.

Dr. Andy Walshe has spent a career trying to understand it…in athletes, musicians, leaders and others who want to perform at their best.

He has spent time with Olympic ski teams, and many well-known athletes and performers. And for seven years, he played an integral role in the Red Bull Stratos project which culminated in 2012 with a successful (and record-breaking) high-altitude free fall from 127,000 feet by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner.

I spent time with Andy last week during a meeting at the Kauffman Foundation where he presented many of his research and findings over the years, including some great stories from sports and performance arenas.

Dr. Andy Walshe presenting at the Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, MO February 19, 2020.

What stood out for me most is that while Andy and his team are quantifying human potential like never before, they are also validating one of the key concepts that Moe Norman used to talk about.

A few of my takeaways:

  • There is a difference between Perceived Risk and Actual Risk.
  • Managing Risk and pushing yourself past fears is a key to realizing your performance potential.
  • Andy and his team are beginning to quantify in new ways the profound benefits of proper rest (read: sleep) on high performance.
  • Responding moves you toward your goal. Reacting gets you stuck.
  • We are capable of so much more than we think…if we can learn to get out of our own way.

Yes…there it is! “…if we can learn to get out of our own way.” Moe Norman used to say all the time: “You just gotta get out of your own way.”

The challenge for most golfers is that:

  • They worry about the risks ahead. (“What if I hit it in the water?)
  • They struggle to interpret events in objective ways. (“Oh crap, I hit it in the water!”)
  • They fail to take a “winning or learning” mindset onto the course. (“I hit it in the water…I’m such a loser!”)

And while much of the game of golf is about mastering a physical skill, a great deal of thriving and performing at one’s best on the course is about managing the thoughts, feelings and emotions that are part of the experience of playing the game. (Don’t ignore this!!!)

At Liminal Collective, the organization that Dr. Walshe leads, they challenge the athlete’s fears by putting them in a room with a bear, or a box of snakes. (Yikes!…I know!!)  Or they help the athlete grow their self-concept – their sense of what is possible for them –  by teaching them to hold their breath under water for 4-5 minutes…all within the course of a single day-long training experience.

Moe Norman knew about human potential on the golf course. And while he didn’t have the language or the scientific understanding that Dr. Walshe and his team have uncovered, he had a way of facing his fears on the course – and of getting out of his own way.

What did Moe do?

  • He sought to play with an alert attitude of indifference.
  • He learned to tune-in to his feelings and emotions…monitoring what was supporting his performance, and what was impacting it negatively.
  • He learned to care a little less. To be indifferent to the outcome, even if it wasn’t aligned with his objective.
  • He learned to play from his authentic self, and not let his ego take over. He learned to get out of his own way

What can you do?

Much the same.

  • Become more aware of your feelings while playing the game… and the thoughts that drive them.
  • Reframe your interpretations about the “bad” things that happen on the golf course. See if you can label the “bad” situations on the course as a gift or a learning opportunity, instead of “…more proof that I am a terrible human being.”
  • Respond to what happens on the course. Don’t react. Let objectivity and curiosity drive your behavior. Don’t let your ego – and all that it “needs” create knee-jerk reactions.

And as much as anything, commit to improving your skill set. (But recognize where you are on your skill journey at any given time. This perspective is important in fast-tracking your development.)

It’s warm in Florida and Phoenix! See you there soon!

All the best & have a great week!


Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

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