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Tiger and The Dip

Yesterday, fresh back from vacation, I was hard at work taking 3 business colleagues to the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.  I know, rough life.  It was my first in person visit to a PGA event, and I must say that I was blown away by just how good the pros are.  I was also reassured to see a couple really bad putts, awful chips, and more than one “snowman” hit the scorecard.  (Just good to know that even the best in the world sometimes play golf like me).

Anyway, there were several thousand people gathered at Muirfield to watch some great golf at one of the worlds most beautiful courses.  While there were 120 golfers playing, clearly most were there to see one guy.  Tiger Woods.  Tiger did not tee off until noon.  We spent the morning, like everybody else there, checking out the course and enjoying some great golf.  Never having been to a PGA event before, watching the lesser known pros play in the early rounds was much like I pictured going to a golf tournament would be.  There were small groups of people, politely gathered at the tee boxes and some camped out at the greens calmly watching and appreciating the event.  It was serene, polite, and peaceful.

At about 11:30 Tiger was practice putting, and a crowd started to build.  By the time that he went to tee off at 12:35 there was a rock concert type energy surrounding him.  It was palpable.  The 10th hole, where he was teeing off, was lined with people 5 to 10 deep from the tee box to the green.  In fact the area surrounding the green was probably 25 to 30 people deep completely surrounding the green.  When Tiger hit – people cheered.  When Tiger made a long putt, people screamed.  The vibe felt more like being at an OSU Michigan game than a PGA tour event.  It was amazing.

Yes, Tiger hit some great shots.  Yes he hit some long drives and sunk some clutch putts.  Yes, he was fun to watch.  However, he did not have the best round of the day.  By Tiger standards he did not have a great round at all.  (note that I said by Tiger standards cause the guy is amazing.)  Yet 80% of the people were there to see him play.  Why?  He is the best in the world.  He is amazing.  He has the potential to do things on the golf course that no other human can do.  He is exceptional.  People want to follow and watch and learn from and cheer for exceptional – not just good.

The difference between the crowds following every other group of golfers and Tiger’s group could not have been more different.  From size to intensity to diversity – Tiger was clearly the main attraction.  He is the best in the world

While all this was going on I was reminded of one of my favorite books by Seth Godin – The Dip.  In the book, Seth provides an in-depth discussion of why it is important to be “the best in the world.”  He uses the ideas of the Paretto Principle and Parkinson’s Law to talk about why the best gets so much more attention than the next best or the 10th best.   Not only that, but he states that to be the best in the world, a person has to quit doing anything that does not contribute to that goal.  Tiger and the experience at the Memorial  is an extreme illustration of The Dip.

Tiger is so focused.  Tiger is so determined. Tiger is so amazing, that everyone in the world knows that he is the best in the world at his craft.  He has dedicated his entire life to it.  He has been blessed with physical talent, developed emotional strength, and honed his skills to such a level that when people go to see golf, most really go to see Tiger.  He pushed himself through the dip, and became the best.

Were the other 119 guys there that much worse than Tiger?  Nope.  They are all phenomenal.  They are all very, very good golfers.  People could have gotten within a few feet of most of them.  People could have probably spoken to many of them and interacted with them.  People could have studied their game, missed the crowd, and saw some very good golf – but most did not.  Most opted to see Great over Very, Very good.

Think about what you do.  How can you take the very, very good work you do, and make it consistently great?  Might you hit some in the rough? Yeah sure.  Still, if you are dedicated to being the best, you take that chance, learn from mistakes, quit things that don’t work, and push on towards being the best.

Yes, of course, sports analogies are over-used and over-rated.  Still, watching Tiger got me thinking more about what I do, how I can become better, and what it might mean to one day be the best in the world.

So, if you can ever see Tiger play – do it.  If you think you might want to learn more about The Dip, read it.  And, if you can become the best in the world at what you do – DO IT!