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Dr. Helen

The Authentic Swing

October 12th, 2013 - 7:00 am

I just read Steven Pressfield’s new book The Authentic Swing: Notes from the Writing of a First Novel and found it to be well worth my time. It is actually a book about writing novels and he uses the metaphor of golf to teach readers how to use the rules of that game to apply to being a good writer and finding one’s voice. That said, since I have little interest in writing novels, I turned to the fascinating analogy of how golf applies to the personality. Golf is a game played by an individual where honesty, an ability to play the game alone without help (except maybe from one’s caddy) and an authentic swing are necessary to succeed. I always wondered why business men were always taking clients to play golf and now I understood: it is to assess how they play the game. Are they honest or are they a cheater like Bill Clinton? Do they quit easily or do they stick with it? Do they show up on time ready to play or show up late and complain? It’s a pretty smart way to get a snapshot of a potential hire’s work ethic and personality without a Rorschach and given that some pre-employment screening can potentially be illegal, golf can be a useful way to see how a potential employee approaches life and possibly, your business.

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All Comments   (10)
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Reminds me of M. Scott Peck's "Golf and the Spirit: Lessons for the Journey" still available at Amazon used for a buck. Every hole was an aspect of life. My favorite was The Unplayable Lie.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do they show up on time ready to play or show up late and complain?

In my experience, the ones who show up late and complain get made senior executives.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I sail. I always say that I have a 'reasonable handicap: 39 -years!'.
In fact, yacht racing is good training for golf. I have a sailing friend who raced for years, never played golf, then ended up in a job which basically required him to play golf in order to 'make the sale'. His major comment about it was that, if he had not learned patience and fortitude from having sailed all those years, he would not have been able to learn to play golf. It's more than just hitting the ball.

Myself, I am partial to Mark Twain's comment: Golf. A nice walk in the countryside, spoiled.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can see how using golf as a form of employee screening would be effective, especially if the course is challlenging. There was an article in Cigar Afficianado years ago about this course outside of Las Vegas. The pictures were stunning, but you have to have a million dollar line of credit at the casino to play on this course. Talk about an exclusive club.

In the early 1900s, when a company was considering promoting an employee to management, the senior managers would take him to dinner and buy him a steak. They wanted to see if he would salt the steak before tasting it. If he did, he wasn't considered management material. The reasoning behind this odd test being that an effective manager always assesses the situation before making a decision. Maybe the steak was already salted, but he wouldn't know that if he didn't taste it first.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, so, they miss out on promoting a guy who can really manage, because he always likes his food super salty, regardless of whether there is already some salt in it.

But I guess a bit more direct: You make it sound like that was the common practice. Any link for that? I'd really like to read about this practice in the early 1900s, apparently among lots of companies. Any help is appreciated!
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
No I don't have a link. One of my professors mentioned in a business class 25-odd years ago. I thought it was a strange way of evaluating someone's talent, which is why I remembered it.

I don't know how common the practice was, but apparently a lot of companies did use it, or the professor wouldn't have said anything about it.

You have to remember that the late 1800s and early 1900s were the height of industrialization and most men did not go to college, much less finish high school. So the only way to measure their abilities was on the job training. You'd be surprised how many highly successful CEOs of major coporations never attended college and had no formal training. They started out in the mail room and worked their way up. Or they joined the military and received training in logistics, communications, supply, etc., and then went to work for a company.

My grandfather dropped out of school after the third grade and went to work plowing fields with an ox until he was 18. He saved his money and walked into the business school in San Antonio, passed the entrance exam and earned a degree. He became a bank manager. He was able to do that, because he read every book, newspaper and magazine he could get his hands on and helped his sisters with their homework every night. Also the curriculum was much stronger back then. I took a course on the philosophy of education for my teaching license, and we studied curricula, syllabi, assignments, and tests going all the way back to Plato. You wouldn't believe the curriculum for the 8th grade in the 1920s. It would be the equivalent of a PhD program today.

So in that environment companies didn't really have much of a screening process to help them decide who to promote to management, other than work experience and on the job training. I think the salt test is a little weird, and I would have failed it for sure because I like salt. I'm sure there were other odd ways companies used to determine promotions. But, hey, if a man with a thrid grade education can plow fields for a living, get into business school and become a bank manager, anything is possible.

These days it's all about pedigrees, which schools you went to, what your GPA was, and who you're connected to, none of which I would consider an accurate measure of management skill, because it is not always the case.

Look at Richard Branson. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16. He has dyslexia, and academics just wasn't his style. He started his own business, a student publication appropriately titled The Student, which he sold to schools all over Britain. You have to think about the irony of a dyslexic dropout starting a magazine for students. He simply hired good people. Five years later, he was a millionaire.

Once he bought Virgin Records, he knew that the revenue flow would allow him to branch out and start other businesses, hundreds in fact. Unlike Donald Trump, he has never declared bankruptcy. Branson realizes that some businesses will succeed and others will fail. So if a business venture is unsuccessful, he pays his creditors and quietly withdraws from the market. That's management skill.

Once Branson started Virgin Coke. He wanted to corner the soda market in England. Over in the states, this low-level manager at Coca-Cola noticed that they were losing market shares and wondered why. Suddenly, it occurred to her that Branson buying up prime shelf space. So, she came up with a business plan, prime shelf space, aggressive advertising and took it senior management. This what we have to do. A few months later, Virgin Coke was out of business.

A few years later, this woman was at a party at Branson's mansion in Miami. He was there and they got to talking. He was saying things about his successes and failures, and then he said that the one he didn't understand was Virgin Coke. He thought he really had a corner on the market for that one. A little drunk on champagne, she laughed and told him that she did it and explained how.

Branson hired her on the spot and tripled her salary. That's management skill, and that's how business is done.

A salt test? A champagne test? A golf test? Who knows how many other tests there are. People do the strangest things.

All I know is this. A 3rd grade dropout became a bank manager in the early-mid 1900s. A 10th grade dyslexic dropout became one of the richest men in the world in the late 1900s. Neither of them played golf. But they did like their salt. And champagne is always a game changer.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm kind of envious because you seem to have an incredible amount of time to just read one easy going (non-technical) book after the other. Nice setup - wish I had it.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ironic comment! "Do they show up on time ready to play or show up late and complain?"
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting concept, using golf as a, sort of TAT. In my family, we were taught "...there are 2 kinds of people in the world, those golf and those who sail. We sail." Wonder what message that would send to a potential employer/client?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to golf AND sail. (Not at the same time.) Now I do neither. What would your family have to say about that, I wonder.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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