My Lesson in Acceptance

How good of a student are you? How willing are you to accept the feedback you get from your coach? Consider cultivating Acceptance as a key mental component of your Single Plane Swing journey.

I was on the Graves Golf Academy range with Tim Graves and GGA master instructor James Bell recently at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Florida. We were in the middle of a 5-Day Alumni Camp…and chatting through a short lull in the action as we were waiting for a group of students to make their way back to the range from the clubhouse.

Tim and James started playing a few games on the range. Tim shouted out: “Highest shot!” and he and James went head-to-head attempting to hit the highest shots with their 7 irons. I was down the range a bit working on my swing – but still within earshot. The banter between them was fun – but the competition was real: each of them wanted to “win” in that moment.

Soon after that, Tim announced: “Lowest shot!” It was a very breezy, with winds steady at 15-20mph. Both Tim and James are Oklahoma golfers…so they both know how to hit it low. But the Tim Graves “stinger” is something special. Advantage Tim.

I got excited because I’ve always wanted to learn that shot. So…from down the range I shouted: “I’m in on this one guys!” And then I started hitting shots. The first shot I hit was awesome – at least I thought it was! The ball felt so pure on the clubhead – and it took off straight into the wind. Then it went up, up and up. Not exactly a low stinger.

So I hit another one. Again – very pure and dead straight and to me it was a great looking ball…but like the first ball, it was way too high.

Then it happened… a challenge so candid and so abrupt that it frankly shook me up a bit…but ultimately taught me an amazing lesson about acceptance – and about how to be a better student when I am being coached.

The challenge from Tim at the end of the range. “Terrible shot!”, he said.

“Huh?”…I thought to myself. “How could that be a terrible shot? I just hit it so pure and straight. Why was he leaning in so hard?”

Tim shot back again. “Brutal!” “You’re dead with that shot!”

Wow…this felt a little harsh.

My sensitive little ego that wants people to like me attempted to make sense of his approach, and I tried to laugh it off a bit by saying to Tim. “Hey…quit being so mean to me!”

And then Tim did something that was brilliant.

He responded with: “Oh…so you want me to treat you like a child? Go easy on you? Tell you that you are hitting the ball just fine? That you are doing great? Fine. But if you want to really learn how to be a player, you are going to have to figure out shots like this. And right now, you aren’t even close.”


In retrospect, I believe he was saying: “You are not listening, Paul. You are not accepting my feedback. You are not hearing me that the shot you just hit will not work in these conditions.. because you are too wrapped up in your own ego. You need to learn to hit a different shot.”

GGA Co-Founder Tim Graves leading the instruction in March 2019 at the GGA Academy in Lake Nona, FL.

He was right: my ego definitely went into action trying to defend my honor and credibility. (And part of me wanted to run back home to my mommy all at the same time. For reals.)

But then something inside me woke up and I began to think that this just might be an amazing learning opportunity for me; that I should accept what Tim is saying as the truth and deal with THAT…instead of trying to satisfy my ego or my emotional sensitivities.

I decided to stop defending my inability to create the shot I was attempting and to surrender to the moment. I remember thinking that – as uncomfortable as I was that second,  I was about to grow as a golfer – and maybe even as a person.

I think Tim had a sense that I was uncomfortable, but that I was also game for truly learning something. (Another sign of a great coach.)

Tim walked over and challenged me (athletically and mentally) in ways I had not been challenged before. He told me what to do, but he left it up to me to figure it out. I think he believed that I was capable of getting there – but not without more focus and intentionality around the thing I was trying to achieve: hit it low, powerful and boring and with compression.

I began listening to what he was saying. Objectively, and without judgment.

“Lower. Do it again. Lower. Come on. Get down and into the ball. Watch my hands. Do this.”

Soon I was getting closer and closer to producing the low “stinger” shot Tim was teaching me. My shots were no longer ballooning up into the wind. And even though they weren’t as low as I wanted, they were behaving more like Tim’s shots, low, boring and straight.

I had finally figured out what it felt like to move down and into the ball with very “hands-forward” shaft lean…and could see a much different ball flight as a result. I wasn’t producing a shot that looked exactly like Tim’s…but I was MUCH closer than I had been.

How had I accomplished that?

accepted my reality. I stopped pushing back on my coach. And I started to say: “How does that look?” and “Better?”

When we bring acceptance to our experiences, we learn to see our reality more objectively – and without judgment or personal sensitivity.  The way it looked for me that day was this:  I dropped my need to defend myself – so that I could be a better listener and a better learner.

Tim taught me a great lesson that day…certainly about how to hit a 7-iron as low as possible – but much more about how to ACCEPT feedback from those who are trying to help me. He had the instinct to lean on my a little in that moment, and I am very grateful that he did.

As a coach, I want to be as candid as possible with my clients…as brutal as it may seem for them in the moment. And as a student of the GGA swing model, I want to LOVE the idea of feedback instead of dreading it or being fearful of it. Embracing feedback will make me better.

As you prepare to work on your golf game more regularly…and to get feedback from the GGA team – in videos or in person at our live instruction schools –  remember that ACCEPTANCE is a powerful paradigm to operate from. It is what will help you become a better student…and ultimately a better player.



(If you want to really learn what cultivating acceptance can do for your own golf game, join us at our two-day Alert Attitude of Indifference School in Chicago in June!)


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.

4 thoughts to “My Lesson in Acceptance”

  1. Having been on the receiving end of Tim’s coaching I understand the defensiveness. I reacted much the same. It was hard for me, as an adult, to feel scolded, chided, when I was learning something new. I admire your willingness to let go of your ego and be open to feedback.

    1. Hey thanks Jim! I have learned that there is gold in there when Tim is coaching. But I have to set aside my ego in order to hear the message properly. It’s been a great learning experience for me.

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