The Meltdown

I was watching The Masters golf tournament on Sunday when Jordan Speith melted down on the 12th hole, hitting not one but two balls into Rae’s Creek. It was hard to watch. It was gut wrenching.

Jordan is the most talented young golfer that has come along since Rory McIlroy emerged five years ago. And Rory had a similar meltdown in the 2011 Masters.

My friend Bob sent me an email yesterday and said “No matter how bad you might feel today, I guarantee Jordan Spieth feels worse.”

To which I replied “you have to fuck up to get better.”

I have been playing the game of golf since I was 12. I took it up on my own. Neither of my parents are golfers. I don’t really know why golf was something I wanted to do at the age of 12. And I regularly curse the day I took it up. But I will say this about the game – it is a microcosm of life. You cannot master it. You can be brilliant one minute and god awful the next. That’s how the arguably best player in the game puts two balls into Rae’s Creek on two consecutive swings. Golf requires a mental toughness to be great. I see it in my friends who are way better than me. They have the ability to hit a horrible shot and completely forget it and just focus on the next shot as if nothing happened. I cannot do that as hard as I try. That’s why they are single handicappers and I am not.

Going back to Jordan and Rory, I think it is great that they had these meltdowns so early in their professional careers. These meltdowns teach you something important. It teaches you that you are not infallible and that you can fail spectacularly and get up the next day and continue to be the best player in the game. That leads to the mental toughness that is required to play the game of golf at the highest level.

And because golf is a microcosm of life, you can extrapolate this to everything that matters, your marriage, your family, your career, your reputation, etc. We are humans. We fuck up. And when we do, we have to get up the next day and keep plugging away at the game of life. And the sooner we figure that out, the better off we all are.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Barry Nolan

    Rory is on record as saying that it was the most important day in his career. He learned so much from it.”I learned so much about myself and what I needed to do the next time I got into that position,” he said. “If I had not had the whole unravelling, if I had just made a couple of bogeys coming down the stretch and lost by one, I would not have learned as much.

    1. fredwilson

      there you go. thanks for sharing that.

  2. Nathan Guo

    This is the failure of traditional education in America – You are not rewarded for taking risks and failing, but for getting perfect grades. Doesn’t prepare you for the real world

  3. JimHirshfield

    I don’t get out and work on my stroke and putz enough.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Yiddish puns go down like a dense matzah ball around here.

      1. karen_e

        Oh come on, you’re the official interdenominational spiritual-comical advisor of this bar and always have been! The crowd is just waking up and facing their first bowl of soup.

  4. Tom Labus

    That was just so brutal. It will haunt him a long time and those moments will be with him forever. Just when do you recover from disaster is an open question. Let’s hope it makes him a tougher and better player/person and I wish him all the best.

    1. fredwilson

      nobody died. i think he will recover quickly and be better because of it.

      1. Tom Labus

        Greg Norman, may never have recovered golf wise. Jordan is an amazing player with a great future. There’s good reason they have a bar at the end of most courses!!!

        1. pointsnfigures

          Different stages of their careers-and Norman did it more than once.

        2. JamesHRH

          Greg Norman’s father told he did not have what it took to be successful on tour….and never backed away from it. Norman is one of the all time mentally fragile players.Of interest, his choke shot – wide right, same as Spieth.

      2. LE

        It’s no fun if you win all of the time.It’s no fun if the weather is nice every single day. [1] [2]Of course it’s also depressing if the weather is bad (or the game is lost) nearly every time.Or once you achieve your goals and have no need to struggle anymore. The struggle is what is fun. The intermittent reinforcement. Success and failure.Michael Phelps went into a kind of depression after winning all of those gold medals (at a young age).I had a really really good year last year. I remember thinking “wow I wish this had played out over three or four years this sucks” (really). I was mentality preparing myself for something that I knew (because of luck and effort) that wouldn’t be the same. (So far, it’s worked..)Phelps:…[1] Boating on the Jersey shore is like that. Over the course of the summer the weather (weekends) is good only a nominal amount of time. As such you really appreciate the days when everything is just perfect. Back when I boated at least.

  5. Girish Mehta

    “26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed” – another guy who could, you know, play a little…

    1. fredwilson

      that really makes the point

      1. pointsnfigures

        Glad he hit them against the Knicks…. ; )

  6. andyswan

    The other big takeaway:Mistakes FEEL much bigger as they are being made.In hindsight, and to an outsider, the first ball into the creek on #12 with a 3 shot lead is nothing more than a blip that makes it more interesting.UNLESS you let it rattle you. UNLESS you compound it.Stay forward, stay cocky…win

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, but harder to say than to do

      1. andyswan


      2. LE

        Emotion (in anything) is a very delicate balance. To little and you are milk toast (and will never get anywhere in life). To much and you crash and burn.

    2. JamesHRH

      Or, stay disciplined.When was the last time Spieth changed his shot selection over the ball (he has said they planned a draw and he switched to a fade, which, given that he had hit his last 3 full shots weak to the right, is insane).Most young golf stars look like process robots for a reason.

  7. awaldstein

    I need to add to this as I agree but there is something else.We all screw up. But sometimes circumstances themselves crush us.The old saying in Hollywood that studio exec (and producers, and marketers and directors) will one day come to the office and be fired–is true.As great as we all may be, we are only great in the circumstance that allows us to be.Success is when they come together.

  8. Salt Shaker

    Spieth earned $880K for his meltdown. Hard to feel too sorry for him, but you could feel and see his anguish during the post-tourney jacket ceremony.Golf to me is the toughest sport to master. So many moving parts. I don’t play cause it’s way too frustrating.

    1. pointsnfigures

      If it’s about the money, it’s guaranteed to fail. (startup wisdom) I bet Speith doesn’t play golf for the money. It’s a very nice side benefit.

      1. Salt Shaker

        No doubt he plays for the love of the game, but the money can ease the pain. It can buy a lot of Tylenol, or better yet, at $880K many shares of J&J. He’ll learn from the experience.

    2. JamesHRH

      he lost, waaaaaaaaay more than that by not repeating as champ.

  9. markslater

    he’s an incredible 22 year old. The dignity shown in defeat, the admittance of the error and the significance of it….This young man is a sporting role model.If you watched Willets swing coming down the stretch – he looked incredibly loose compared to others…..The book has not been written yet on this young man, but his ability to stay within his swing on sunday was a marvel to watch as others around him succumbed to the immensity of a close sunday at augusta…..

  10. Lewis Gersh

    Especially true in venture, both investment and operator side, where you can experience it weekly if not daily.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Look who dropped by!

    2. fredwilson

      i love that cartoon and share it with founders and CEOs regularly when they’ve had a bad day

      1. LE

        I wonder with the “went to a good college” people that you invest in how you judge their ability to overcome adversity. One of the things that I noticed when I was in college was that the kids that aced everything in high school and got perfect or near perfect SAT’s completely fell apart in college when they had the same type high achiever competition. They never had experienced much failure or overcoming adversity (at least the group that I am referring to). Or working hard for that matter.I see this right now in one of my stepkids. Everything comes easy to him (academically) and I worry about what will happen if and when he gets into a good competitive college and starts to fail and has to actually put some effort in. [1] This was never a “problem” that I had, I always had to work hard (and all the time, always study and show up for class) so college was really just more of the same. Getting a B+ was no big deal (or even a B) but many of the others completely fell apart if they didn’t ace everything studying at the last minute.[1] Like the type of kid that easily wins the middle school math competition year after year.

        1. Twain Twain

          Don’t assume the all-star, all-As student does not have the toughest time in school.We do. The adversity we face isn’t any less, it’s more.We just learn coping mechanisms differently.

          1. LE

            The adversity we face isn’t any less, it’s more.How so? Isn’t overcoming adversity relative?And back to my point there is no question that for a group of kids that are best in their high school (with that competition even if a private school) the game changes in a top college (where they reject many of those kids if they are not super super special). Of course there are exceptions.

          2. Twain Twain

            More because kids can be cruel and direct that they don’t think you deserve to get As.They haven’t yet been socialised to celebrate the success of others or the concept of productive teamwork.Some of them do things like deliberately sabotage your work in class or throw your pencils out the window or square up to you so you’ll be intimidated, drop out and then they’d be 1st in exams.It prepares you later for corporate life where there can be people of the same types of arrested development.So you seek out the people who are secure enough in themselves to celebrate and champion the success of others.Because, often, the things they share are worth learning.

          3. LE

            I only worked for a corporation for a very short time in my life (in between doing my own thing for maybe 2 years or so).What I remember is one example or two where there was a disagreement with someone and I said “ok let’s ask Murray (the boss)” and the person freaked out at that suggestion (was a woman, ntim). Seemed to me to make sense as a solution but in the corporate world apparently I had broken some rule or something. Must be a tough life. That delicate balance of sucking up and not pissing off and building alliances. Seems totally stiffling to me.That said I got my first contract out of college by intuition and figuring out who to suck up to (both the mail room guy and the secretary to the CEO) and it was second nature didn’t even have to think about it. I made it clear that I was their slave (in terms of delivery of product) and they both (and others) supported me when they voted on the contract because they knew it was about them and meeting their personal needs. Later when a new purchasing head was brought in and asked me if I wanted to buy his used camera (I guess he wanted to be bribed?) I didn’t flinch and bought it. Didn’t even think twice thought “this is great”. Of course the work and the pricing was good or I would have never been given the opportunity.

          4. Twain Twain

            THIS: “I made it clear that I was their slave (in terms of delivery of product) and they both (and others) supported me when they voted on the contract because they knew it was about them and meeting their personal needs.”It’s funny. One of my best friends gave me this piece of advice at the start of my adventures: “BE A SLAVE TO YOUR MISSION.”And that’s exactly what I’ve done and do and learnt a lot along the way.

          5. LE

            Want to clarify that I didn’t say “I am your slave” (obviously) but I did several things that they would interpret as totally tending to their needs. I was johnny on the spot and totally catered to them so they knew I both wanted and could handle the business and that the account was important to me (vs. the large corporation that I was going up against (Xerox)).

          6. Twain Twain

            Eradicating our own egos in pursuit of bigger, strategic wins is one of the hardest lessons that few of us go through and can do.That’s what being a “SLAVE TO YOUR MISSION” means.We forego the instant gratification of $$$ salary, stability (career+home), self-esteem, fame, glory and more.Because, inside, we know there’s something much bigger than ourselves we’re working towards.

        2. Twain Twain

          Ditto, all the top CEOs and politicians also get the toughest times.Success on that level sometimes arises because of luck, the right patronage, communication artistry (e.g., “silver-tongued Devils”) etc and likely a huge amount of GRAFT.

          1. LE

            TOP CEO gets into new position but without the same team that helped him at his previous company (or luck or serendipity and so on). Marissa at Yahoo an example. Another Ron Johnson (Apple guy going to JC Penny and failing).My saying:”Business is about taking advantage of the low hanging fruit of opportunity”. Take away that low hanging fruit and all the sudden everything changes. [1][1] Which is not the same as saying that everyone can take advantage of that low hanging fruit they can’t.

        3. sigmaalgebra

          If go far enough in academics, then no matter how well did in K-12, college, Master’s, etc. eventually will no longer always be at the head of the class and at something significant will actually fail. If have been essentialliy perfect for 16+ years in school, that first failure can be devastating, seriously, for life.Some of why: The student can have seen themselves as perfect and the best, with that as most of their motivation, and then suddenly they no longer have how they have regarded themselves. For more, parents can motivate the child, give lots of love, praise, affection, emotional security when the child makes As. Then maybe the child is not working for the academics but for the parents, and when the child makes some Bs or lower, the child feels unloved, not worthy of praise, without affection, and without motivation. That can led to depression, less good academic performance, stress, clinical depression, and death. No joke.And if the parents or whomever are no longer around, then the child can be without motivation and lost on what to do and care about.Dad saw that danger and wanted my motivation to be from within me and for learning the material; he got what he had in mind but even overdid it a bit! E.g., in math and physics, I could be the best student in the class, often was, and still not give a hoot what the teacher or anyone else thought!Some aspects of the situation are well known in academics: E.g., buried in D. Knuth’s The TeXBook on his mathematical word processing software TeX is:The traditional way is to put off all creative aspects until the last part of graduate school. For seventeen or more years, a student is taught examsmanship, then suddenly after passing enough exams in graduate school he’s told to do something original.For a student, that original stuff can be a huge danger: (1) Maybe they never did anything original before and, instead, just did well at pleasing the teacher (girls are really good at pleasing people, often including K-12 teachers). (2) They can be totally unsure of what constitutes good research. (3) Maybe they have to go for weeks, months, or years without the usual praise and approval, honors from being at the head of the class, etc. The better the student was for those earlier non-research years, the worse the research experience can be.In a sense, for high end academics, that is, research, research, and research, it can be better if in the eighth grade the student, likely a boy, was really bright but was the naughty one in the back of the class playing blackjack with another boy and totally ignoring the teacher and the class. So, bright and self-motivated can be terrific even if get a C in eighth grade English literature — “On the shores of Gitche Gumee,” wherever the heck that was. What a total shovel full!Really, from the larger picture, this stuff of doing really well in K-12 is a bummer and maybe not worth even one late night session — the whole K-12 system just has next to nothing very good or worth very much work. For a kid to devote a lot of their early learning years just to making As in K-12 has to be heavily a waste.The extreme cases of waste are the news stories about K-12 students, apparently usually girls, who have taken some huge list of advanced placement (AP) courses, done charity work, were voted president of some organizations, had outside interests in violin, etc. — real, driven, maybe terrified over achievers. Being brilliant can be terrific; being just terrified of anything less than an A in K-12 is not. And, for those AP classes, the ones I’ve seen are at best worth something to start fires in the winter; instead, just do good versions of the college level material — the problem is that the US K-12 system mostly can’t teach such courses. For those girls, really, at least academically, they were ready for college in about the ninth grade. And, by the time they get to college, maybe they should start as juniors — sadly they will have missed out on high quality versions of all those AP courses but, still, should start at about the junior year. Maybe they should skip college all together and go for their Master’s and Ph.D. If they want to do something that can be really good, then the world of challenging research problems is waiting with plenty of challenge.Just because a person can do research doesn’t mean that they should devote their life to doing research. Research is not nearly the only candidate path in life.And, generally, this stuff of working ONLY for praise, approval, affection, emotional security from a parent or teacher, superficially, can look really good in K-12 but then can be a fast, long walk on a short pier in life.I urge being careful about motivation — set aside the extreme, tricky, terrifying, manipulative stuff.

          1. LE

            All great points.With respect to this:And, generally, this stuff of working ONLY for praise, approval, affection, emotional security from a parent or teacher, superficially, can look really good in K-12 but then can be a fast, long walk on a short pier in life.I broke out of that mold so many years ago I don’t even remember when exactly. But at a certain point, almost out of spite, I didn’t even tell my Dad how well I was doing (not to overstate things by the way but that’s the only way to make the point). I didn’t want him to have the satisfaction (in a selfish way) I wanted “me” to have the satisfaction. This was a direct result of never being able to live up to whatever standard he had. So I just didn’t tell him anything and he was super curious and I could tell it bothered him. I stopped telling him about deals I did and about what I was able to pull off.I noticed a certain pattern with parents. Those that don’t give you any praise (I had girlfriends like this and you know this is back in the day “earn the trophy” parents) were always willing to compliment you when speaking to their friends. They would brag to them because (my theory being) it elevated them. I used to hate that behavior.With my kids I totally emphasized doing well in school. It’s like it’s a non issue with me (and luckily they did well inspite of that).

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Dad was really big in education, had a Master’s in it, had it as the center of his career: He was the head education expert for the US Naval Air technical schools in Millington, TN, 40,000 students at a time in electronics, sheet metal work, engines, hydraulics, etc.He never looked at my report cards! In the fourth, grade, the teacher sent home a note that she would fail me if I didn’t complete the arithmetic workbook — it was huge, maybe 100 pages, same stuff over and over, and I didn’t see any reason to shovel that big pile of it. Dad gave me a little test and confirmed that I knew the arithmetic just fine and then sat with me and used a calculator as I wrote in all the answers! His criterion was just that I know the stuff.About the only things he saw about my K-12 performance were my SAT scores. My scores blew away those of my older brother who was supposed to be the much better student.As I had some successes in math and physics, I never told Dad, and mostly he never knew. In some cases, I didn’t just lead the class but blew away all the other students, and still Dad never knew.In college, it was time for me to take on some serious level math, and the school I was at, for just a college, had a terrific math department. So, I got a copy of Kelley, General Topology, dug in, and gave a prof a lecture a week! So, I was guaranteed to be the leader of the class! Later in grad school they dropped me into a course from the same book, and in the first lecture the prof said that the homework assignment was just to work all the exercises in the book. What a JOKE! I’d already worked about half of them, and that alone is darned good! I doubt if the prof had worked them all or would be able to without a huge effort! To heck with that silly class! I never showed again! At Christmas I gave the prof a stack of worked exercises — I was honest and didn’t give him any I’d worked in college. And I showed for the final exam. Dad never knew although at one point he did look at the book — I doubt that he understood anything at all. Gee, Dad, the Tychonoff product theorem is equivalent to the axiom of choice! And, sure, in some topological spaces, sequences are not enough to characterize closed sets but via Moore-Smith convergence nets and filters are! Dad never knew that, either!As I got to be in a unique, high position at FedEx, again Dad never really knew or appreciated the situation. I very much needed some high end business and legal advice; I didn’t get that advice, and that cost, maybe $50 million, maybe $500 million. Bummer. So, right, I learned the lessons, but the “full tuition” was a bit much.

        4. Donald E. Foss

          In my opinion and experience, the “Curse of the Gifted” is even worse than emotional inexperience with real competition. More schools are teaching peer learning at an earlier age now, and I believe it will ease some of the situations you describe.

      2. Twain Twain

        2 “Hell yeah!” out of 12 scenarios is too high a ratio. The reality is closer to 1 out of 90.When I examine my resilience and competitiveness with myself today, it’s all about lessons learned young. They taught me emotional management and to “keep a cool head amidst chaos”.When I was 15, there was a situation with the maths teacher that could have gotten me expelled. He tried to bully me into showing the class how to solve homework exercises that no one else in the class had completed.I suggested we wait until next class when more people would have done the exercises.He went off at me, the class started to get excited which fueled his ego even more and he said all sorts of mean things to try to shame me into showing the solutions on the blackboard.To which I replied, “F*** OFF!!! I’m not doing it,” got up and walked out of class. That was my meltdown.As soon as I shouted it, I felt awful because I knew I’d failed my mother. She’d taught me not to swear or to disrespect authority.I sat outside the Principal’s office with a mix of trepidation, shame and fear that I’d let my parents, my good teachers and myself down.The end result was he was fired.I graduated high school with the highest marks in my year, including an A in Maths (which was a tribute to the great maths teacher, who’d told my mother when I was 11 that if I continue to work hard and be bright, I’d get that A).It taught me 2 things:(1.) Authority is not always right and that includes your own, so constantly sanity-check it.(2.) The work you put in to get an outcome is about honoring the people who invested time & money into you and your education. Foremost in my mind, once the self-indignation of being personally insulted by that maths teacher had subsided, was, “My parents sacrifice so much to give me a good education. I HAVE to stay in school.”

      3. LE

        I heard last night that Bernie Sanders and his wife said that they didn’t know that campaigning for President would “be so hard”. That amazed me. You’d have to be living under a rock and come from another planet to not to think that running for President would easily exceed any of your pre-existing knowledge of what it would be like. I wasn’t exactly sure of the purpose of those comments. Sounded a bit whiny to me.

        1. scottythebody

          Explains why they didn’t think out some positions beforehand, I guess.

      4. JamesHRH

        I think this is a bit of a red herring.Young stars today are far more battle tested than ever before. TV, international play, college stars on Golf Channel etc.The only lesson Spieth learned is that you need to prepare for every situation. it was quite obvious that neither he nor Grellar had the presence of mind to stop on the 10th tee and say, ‘OK, do we really want to play prevent defence on the back 9 of Augusta on Sunday?’.Even for him, that’s a pretty unusual use case to plan out. I mean, there is no way they were mentally prepared for a 2-3-4-3 finish to the front and a 5 shot lead going in to Amen Corner.And it showed.Success can be just as stressful as failure.

  11. bpjauburn

    As the great Bobby Jones said, “Championship golf is played primarily on a 6″ course between your ears.” Jordan will be a great one. And he could define his career (just as everyone can in life) by how he responds to this adversity. As I tell my kids all the time, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Going to be interesting to watch.

  12. Rob Underwood

    I have had a couple epic quadruple bogies on the path of life. While I don’t take pride in them, they’ve provided me my greatest growth as an individual.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Snowmen on the scorecard

  13. Tom Sullivan

    Love everything about Jordan Spieth. I think the next time he’s in that position (tee box 12, Augusta, back 9 Sunday), it will be a real challenge to fight off the demons in his mind. I believe that he will. If you play, you know how terrorizing those negative last second swing thoughts can be. The kid will bounce back.

  14. Crocodile Bungee

    There is something about those discontinuous but solo sports that build stress in – baseball, golf, cricket. There is time to think and reflect between shots on the disaster or near disaster of the past, and the ones who can do their reflecting later – rather than in the middle – they are the ones who prosper in the long run. Interestingly, cricket batsmen often make very good golfers – sideways on and the lost shot ancient history. I wonder if it is true of baseball batters.Tough to watch Spieth go through that but he will win plenty of majors yet. It is more horrible when it is an almost good enough one who has his chance and drops it. eg Jean van de Velde at the Open – it makes my blood run cold thinking about it. Poor lad.

  15. drmarasmith

    My dad used to tell us “Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement” Make mistakes and learn. In working with athletes I see more and more motivated by a fear of failure rather than a need for achievement. My sense is that this stems from parents being so deeply insinuated into their kids sports experiences. But that is a story for a different day. Virtually all athletes acknowledge there is a mental side to their sport, but few integrate that into their training. As athletes understand the critical need for physical strength and conditioning to develop, improve and maintain skills needed in their sport, I help athletes with their mental strength and conditioning. Developing plans that included, intention, purposeful reflection and deeper understanding of the need for fluidity and agility of the mind. Let’s remember, the 12th hole doesn’t change anything about the incredible skills Speith possesses. The mental skill of moving on from a mistake, colossal or minute is critical. And it takes practice. Which comes from experience. The AthleteMinder app is a really great start for any athlete looking to work on their mental strength.

    1. LE

      by a fear of failure rather than a need for achievement. My sense is that this stems from parents being so deeply insinuated into their kids sports experiences.Aren’t both of those valid as a motivation? Fear of failure is a big driver but I don’t think personally that that’s a bad way to go.Off the top that is one of the differences perhaps in how kids are raised today vs. when I was growing up. Today it’s the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality whereas yesterday you actually had to do something to win your parents love and accolades (at least where I was, in my family, and anyone that I knew). More tiger mom let’s say as opposed to super nanny. If you brought home all a’s and one b it was “why did you get a b, study and work harder and get all a’s”.Virtually all athletes acknowledge there is a mental side to their sport, but few integrate that into their training.Most likely because different people have different levels of emotional response intensity and will handle the same stimulus differently (I am sure there are studies to back this up it’s not like I just figured something out, right?) After all one guy gets rejected by a woman and moves on and finds another date no matter how much he likes the woman. Another guy ends up killing her because of that rejection. Impossible to believe you could just tell the killer “don’t let it bother you”. He is reacting emotionally and it’s hard to control that really hard.When my Dad had his heart attack (I found him in the hallway) he was transported to the hospital and after being there a bit I went to school figuring there was nothing I could do . My sister ended up staying by his bedside in a vigil (he lived another 30 years or so from that event btw.) Not because she cared more about him but because she reacted differently than I did (and was raised in the same family) and it bothered her more than it bothered me (or my other sister). We are different in the ways we get rattled everyone is different. Would be hard for me to make my sister leave and for her to convince me I should stay and “care more”.

      1. Russell

        @le_on_avc:disqus @fredwilson:disqus This comment is way out of line. Talking about a man killing a woman has no place in a civilized discussion.

    2. Russell

      @drmarasmith:disqus Thanks for the thoughtful comment and contributing to the AVC discussion!

      1. drmarasmith

        Thanks Russell. I appreciate it 🙂

    3. pointsnfigures

      there are so many parallels between the mental toughness it takes to succeed in athletics and entrepreneurship. How did you get interested in that?

      1. drmarasmith

        SO many similarities. I think and write about it often – Mental toughness is the reaction and mental strength is the preparation. An athlete needs them both and so do entrepreneurs. We have guillotined the head off the body for athletes – I am trying to reattach it 🙂

    4. PhilipSugar

      The first quote which I use is from Mark twain. The second which I love is when I stop hating losing more than I love winning I will quit. Uconn coach

    5. Twain Twain

      Thanks for AthleteMinder tip! I’ve been looking for fitness apps as I get back into shape.Mental strength often compensates for whatever is lacking in physical advantages. I wasn’t the tallest or strongest student at school, but was chosen Captain of various sports teams because of mental strengths.It helped with endurance and positivity to get team back on track to win (or lose gracefully) after we’d gone points down or people had counted us out of making Top 3 in regional championships.I tap into those happy memories whenever I have a bad day as a founder.

  16. Matthew Ranauro

    Golf, for me, is constant problem solving. It’s why I love it.It also requires you to be mentally present in every moment. That kind of focus is what gets you past the shitty shots and bad breaks – your next shot could be the best of your life.

  17. Geoff De Weaver, CEO + Founder

    Right on friend – just part of life. But, a great lesson learned early lasts!

  18. DJL

    This is great therapy, Fred. As a golfer who has personally had similar meltdowns in competitive golf, I empathized so much that it felt like I had hit those two balls in the water. Ironically, (or not?) that Friday before I had received my first two “no thanks” from the two main VCs that we had courted for many weeks. So metaphorically, there were two in the water!Jordan is such a class guy that I just want him to win everything. At my level, I want to win everything. But as you said, its time to dust off and get going again and learn from our mistakes.(I had no idea you were a golfer – but does explain some things. My favorite picture in our house is three-generations of Lineman golfers playing together on a sunny afternoon in MI many years ago. There is no other game that offers that.

  19. panterosa,

    Ed Hallowell says talent is embedded in difficulty, and the only disability is fear. So fearing fucking up is the impediment, not the difficulty, since “failure” and “success” are both imposters.

  20. JLM

    .He’s 22. Texas boy.He is the only man to have ever looked at the Masters leader board, ever, and seen -19 and then shot -18 tying Tiger for the record.He’s going to be fine.It’s like being a CEO, you never really master it. You just keep playing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Twain Twain

      Adding this to my treasure trove: “It’s like being a CEO, you never really master it. You just keep playing.”I’m pretty sure art Old Masters and musical maestros would agree with you. No craft’s ever complete; they’re always works in motion.

    2. JamesHRH

      I think there is a 25% chance that it ruins him.He sounded like he was talking to himself when he said ‘I still believe we are a closing team.’If he fires his caddie in the next 18 months, he is toast.

  21. Matthew Zadrozny

    Hell of a post. I like the raw language.I’ve never understood the appeal of golf, and I won’t knock it till I’ve tried it. But I suspect the same dynamics are at play as in tennis.Would be interesting to know the details of how the mind game plays out in sports / situations that are individualistic vs those involving teams. Is fear generally easier or harder to handle in a group, or alone?

  22. Joe Marchese

    Bill Clinton’s reply to Tom Friedman’s question about what he learned about life from playing golf: “Golf is like life in a lot of ways: The most important competition is the one against yourself. All the biggest wounds are self-inflicted. And you get a lot of breaks you don’t deserve—both ways. So it’s important not to get too upset when you’re having a bad day.”…

  23. pointsnfigures

    Golf is super humbling. Speith had his Tin Cup moment. I am sure it’s not the first time that has happened to him, but to have it happen in front of millions of people has got to hurt.I got down to a 9 handicap once. Took a tremendous amount of effort. My friend’s father started a golf company, Ram. We got to meet Gary Player, Tom Watson, Nick Price and other greats. They were and are true gentlemen. My friend was a scratch for most of his life, but now is a single digit handicap. When you play with someone really good it is a different game.One thing about golf that is pretty amazing is how honorable it is. You call penalty strokes on yourself. People are expected to be congenial toward each other. That’s what makes the movie Caddyshack so funny.They say you can tell a lot about a person by how they play golf. I am not so sure. But, playing a round with someone will help you get to know them.

    1. Tom Labus

      Idiots on the golf course are exposed immediately

    2. JaredMermey

      If only one could play the game of life with only a 7-iron

      1. pointsnfigures

        True story. When we were trading on the floor it was hypercompetitive, hypermacho. Guys used to talk shit and get in arguments over things all the time. One time a guy was talking about his golf game. Another guy said, “I can beat you at my club any day of the week. I’ll let you have your whole bag and I will play with one club”. Well, things “proceeded” and eventually there was a pretty big dollar bet with lots of side bets on the match. The guy with one club won. Used a five iron.

        1. JaredMermey

          Wow. Did he but with the 5 iron too?

          1. pointsnfigures

            Yup. 1 club……there was great debate over which club he would use. 5, 6, 7 iron. Remember, this was back in the day when you couldn’t hit a 7 iron more than 150-160 yards. Now they crush those things.

          2. JamesHRH

            we called it monkey golf and played our Muni like that all the time.Also played a little reverse monkey golf….start on 18th green, play to 17, etc.6 iron pretty popular choice, more short shots

  24. CamiloALopez

    Fred you nailed it: “We are humans. We fuck up. And when we do, we have to get up the next day and keep plugging away at the game of life.”I feel like I live most of my life in this phase…. but that is part of the fun, to get up, try something new and enjoy the ride. Just don’t fuck up too much that you can not get up!

    1. pointsnfigures

      that phrase is the story of my life……

  25. dgay07

    I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few rounds of golf with a couple of athletes who are in the hall of fame in their respective sports (football and basketball) and the common denominator is the mental toughness, and they can crush the ball. it is something fun to witness when they mentally focus and perform- especially on approach shots and the putting game. It’s all a culmination of the ups and downs of their careers.

  26. iggyfanlo

    My parents also did not/do not play golf, but I LOVE the game and was fortunate enough to captain my Div I college team…. but you are 100% right… golfers, people, entrepreneurs are FORGED in the crucible of their experiences, just like those old irons

  27. Sunil Rawat

    The difference between a pro and an amateur, the pro resets on the next pitch, the next play, not the next inning, the next game, the next series, and definitely not the next season. Aside from talent for your chosen endeavor in life, that appears to be the second biggest differentiator between the pros and the amateurs.

  28. JoeK

    I have seen plenty of references to his ‘meltdown’, but it was simply one bad shot. Which he then tried to make up for with an even more ambitious shot which didn’t work out. If they had happened at separate points in time during the same tournament, or in exactly the same sequence with him somewhere lower down the leader board, no one would be talking about it. He didn’t have 3 quadruple bogeys in a row and the run around the course stark naked – that would have been a meltdown.

  29. David A. Frankel

    Thanks for posting this Fred. This also underscores the importance of BALANCE in our lives. So often we can learn lessons from our work relationships, our personal relationships, our children, and our outside interests that can benefit us as entrepreneurs, leaders and partners when we fuck up. If you don’t have balance, it’s much harder to pick yourself up.

  30. Verlton Gordon

    You have never spoke truer words my friend!

  31. JaredMermey

    I don’t know any other sport where the one good moment can make you feel better than the 100 bad moments collectively. After a round, I only remember the good (lucky?) shots. (Though during the round it is much different.)

  32. jason wright

    golf seems very punishing on the body and the mind. i don’t go for sports requiring bio mechanical asymmetry, and golf also has all that exposure to solar radiation, and to pesticides on the course.

    1. LE

      Sun exposure really does age the way that you look. I stay out of the sun as much as I can.

  33. Anne Libby

    The way you show up for anything is the way you show up for everything.

    1. pointsnfigures

      White shoes and Knickers aren’t okay with you when I show up for work?

      1. Anne Libby

        Lol, be yourself, Jeff!

  34. David Lee

    As you know I love golf and for the very same reasons you mention. On a related note I’d argue that the earlier you experience this in life, the better. The older you very the harder it is to recover for the very first time. Resilience is built over time. You could argue that Tiger Woods never recovered because he didn’t know how to cope. It also makes parenting hard for me. I know my daughter’s should have this earlier rather than later.Ken auletta makes this point about bill Gates and the antitrust trial. First time he lost

  35. Lloyd Fassett

    Ok. Easy enough. Do you have any suggestions on when to quit though?

  36. Ryan Connolly

    A round of golf is a great lesson in staying positive and keeping yours wits about you through calamity after calamity. I can have the grandest of visions on the first tee but it quickly becomes about my ability to do the work in front of me.Without a doubt, my favorite golf book:…. Has some John Updike in there as an added bonus.

  37. sigmaalgebra

    Dad told me that one of the most important social graces, skills, activities, whatever, was ability to play golf.There was a golf course just a long tee shot away, and I had worked as a caddy. It was not good: E.g., by the end of the first nine, somehow my feet hurt something awful. Why I never knew, but later in my teens that pain stopped on its own.When I was about 10, Dad had some extra clubs from somewhere and had them cut down to just my size. I wasn’t interested. I just didn’t see the utility. Learning about math, science, cars, girls, sure. Golf? Never could see the benefit. I did well with all of those except the last, girls. I never had a copy of my Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys. Still don’t have a copy!My brother, three years older, got all interested in golf. Grandma bought him a set of the best golf clubs readily available. My parents insisted that, to be fair, I should get something — I got the best bicycle readily available and rode the heck out of the thing for years. I believe that the bicycle was a better deal than the golf clubs!To heck with golf — Dad should have helped me with girls!Now I can understand Dad’s approach to girls: Find a girl a bit lower in social, educational, and economic status, beautiful, healthy, passionate, and eager for the relationship, expect her to fit into the standard pattern, get her married and pregnant, maybe not in that order, and get on with the rest of life, including golf. Anything subtle or complicated? Nope. These meltdowns teach you something important. It teaches you that you are not infallible and that you can fail spectacularly and get up the next day and continue to be the best player in the game.Yup, can do that. And can learn that lesson also without golf!Let’s see: Maybe yesterday and last week were 100% FUBAR and SNAFU. On Monday the FUBAR started. By Wednesday were behind the last Friday. By Friday were only back were had been the previous Friday — the whole week was shot. Been known to happen.But, yup, arms, legs, eyes, all still work. Project plans? Sure, look as good or better than ever. The theorems and proofs for the crucial core applied math? Yup, once figure out such things, do the work, type it in, get it nice and clean, all of which is already done, then can check the work with basically just mechanical thinking. Good: Foundation is rock solid, no, so solid granite rock looks like warm yogurt, no mushy stuff, and solid enough to bet on, stand on, depend on. Good to be standing on something solid.The code? Good day, bad day, rain, shine, hot weather, cold weather, it runs the same. Check the code? Again can do that with mostly just mechanical thinking.So, arms, legs, eyes, etc. work — check. Math works — check. Code works — check.If are still worried, then rememberA bad situation is rarely as bad as your worst fear.Or, a lot of people with a lot less going for them than you have still get by, so you don’t have to give up yet.If it all still seems nearly hopeless, then give your brain a chance — get some extra sleep.Or the situation can be like being in a foxhole on Guadalcanal with bullets going overhead one foot away. Give up, get nervous, scream, stand up, etc., then might make the situation worse. Instead, just keep head down and be okay at least for now. Then crawl down the ditch for a lateral move and go around the side and to the back of the hostile fire. Then kill’em from the back side or just go around them and move on.

  38. Alex

    The negatively skewed risk-to-reward in golf is a real bitch. The best you can do is shoot a hole-in-one. The worst you can do is unlimited. It’s the perfect recipe to send you into a downward spiral. Mental toughness is key, but better yet, you need a solid process to stick to so that you don’t let emotions get in the way after a tough loss. Best way to bounce back is to stay the course and follow your plan.

  39. jason wright

    “flog it!” – the epithet of many a golfer.

  40. scottythebody

    Great post. Really needed that today.

  41. sigmaalgebra

    Those who have been cast into the furnace of affliction come out either burnt to a crisp or refined to goldExtra credit for the surprising source!

  42. Sandy

    That wasn’t actually a meltdown at all.Speith, Curry, Federer are wired differently. They don’t melt down or choke – especially not at a Masters.What makes sports so brutal, is that even if you don’t melt down, even if you immediately put the last bad shot behind you, even if your faith stays steady – sometimes your coordination is just off, and you keep failing disastrously for no reason.You keep f—ing up badly, but it’s out of your control. You shake it off – then f— up badly again. It’s an out of body experience, where you wonder – who’s hitting these balls? Not me, I don’t play like this. Who the heck is this?And you just have to accept it. And you have to be gracious when people project and say you melted down and choked, because they don’t understand. You didn’t melt down, you didn’t choke. Your belief never wavered, you never left your side. You were just off, so you just missed.It’s comforting if you just made a mistake and learned from it. But it’s brutal when you know deep down that it wasn’t a mistake, and you would do it the same again. Like Fred said, that’s just sports… and life.

    1. JamesHRH

      Spieth told his caddie on the way to 13, ‘buddy, it looks like we are collapsing.’Total choke job / mental meltdown from an extremely mentally strong player.

  43. cavepainting

    Love the post.As humans, we are learning all the time. About ourselves, the way we act in different situations, our relationships, our passions and of course, our flaws. When we fail, it is an opportunity to come into awareness.The realization that the game of life is not some linear ladder to the top can be liberating. Life is about constantly iterating to get better at the things we care to be good at and having empathy for others around you – each of whom is on his own journey . There is no meltdown you cannot learn from. And there is no reason ever to not be happy or joyful. In the end, nothing matters as much as the fact that we lived and learned to the fullest.

  44. Yalim K. Gerger

    Many people liken their favourite sport to life. Football is like life. Basketball is like life. Golf is like life. Chess, boxing, wrestling are like life. I don’t know what this means but the fact that a lot of people use the same analogy to describe why they like a sport should mean something.

  45. Greg Gortz

    Golf is a great game. Jordan’s meltdown was horrible and I cant imagine how difficult it was for him. But he also demonstrated a lot of class in how he handled his post round interviews as well as giving the green jacket to Willett. He did it with grace. Golf, life, work, all have their highs and lows. At the end of the day, its how you handle your lows that speaks to your character as a person.

  46. Chad Roffers

    Thanks for this one Fred. So true yet when your in the middle of building a running a business it is easy to lose perspective.

  47. Chris.Wronski

    I hate golf. I mean I REALLY HATE golf. But the metaphor of golf as a microcosm of life is just so perfect that for the last two days I can’t get it out of my head.The money quote is “You cannot master it”.Something took me today to the ‘Hole-in-One’ as another perfect metaphor for life. Some people spend their entire lives trying to study and improve their golf game and never accomplish this incredible feat, only to watch one day as some hacker staggers out and knocks in a lucky shot off the tee and right into the cup… Sometimes life just aint fair.But more importantly, it is not always easy (especially from far away) to differentiate between stunning mastery and incredible luck. We have to be careful and not give too much credibility to someone who might have nailed a lucky Hole-in-One at some time in the past and now they have a vocal opinion on everything.

  48. Tory Green

    I completely agree with the gist of this article: that failure is part of life, and persevering through (and learning from) failure is one of the core attributes of a successful person. That said, I disagree with the general consensus that what happened to Spieth was a “melt-down”. Rory had a melt-down. Norman had a melt-down. Spieth simply bogeyed two very difficult holes and made one poor decision and hit one bad shot on 12. After that he rallied quite well with two birdies and almost got himself back into the tournament. So I don’t think this experience will necessarily build mental toughness in Spieth, I think it was a bit of bad luck that simply showed how mentally tough he already is.

  49. Elie Seidman

    So true. About life and about golf. Fuck up. Dust off, learn from it, keep going. The game is over when you stop swinging. And only then.

  50. Tom Sullivan

    I don’t see the snarky part or being like Tiger at all.

  51. Tom Sullivan

    I think we will have a tough time agreeing on this one. With what was on the line, I think he was trying to protect against a careless penalty on the drop.Comparing him to Tiger, who I think is a borderline sociopath, I just can’t see that.The golfer caddie relationship is an interesting one. Have you seen Bubba Watson and his caddie?Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, are very close. I think we are lucky to hear audio between 2 people with that type of relationship under the most intense pressure.I do find it interesting that we heard the same audio and felt differently about it.

  52. JamesHRH

    Totally agree – a 12 year old that tells a teaching pro his goal in golf is to be the world’s best player (Spieth legend) does not play well with others.They all are very smooth in public, because their competitive nature requires them to win at PR. But they are hell to be close too.Masters Champ Mike Weir was banned from playing street hockey in front of his house with the neighbourhood kids….too many fights.

  53. fredwilson

    i suspect you are one hell of a player

  54. Tom Sullivan

    I agree with guarding against the miss. You’d think he would take an extra club or hit a shot that removes the water completely. That is the only place on that hole that you can’t hit it. I guess besides long OB.

  55. JamesHRH

    This is a very astute observation / career move.Maybe Faldo is the only great champion who is primarily visual.

  56. JamesHRH

    I would make a poor caddie:JS: Won’t it go over?JHRH: No. Are you really thinking that right now is a good time to hit a cut to the most famous sucker pin in golf? The one that Nicklaus never went after? And Nicklaus could hit cuts in his sleep, as it was his natural shot shape? And your natural shot is a draw?And your last 3 full shots have all been bailout push / fades? Are you trying to become Greg Norman here? Hit the draw dipshit.