Last week, I had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend, Matt Hermes. I’ve known Matt for over a decade. He’s a very successful real estate agent here in Atlanta and a great guy to be around.
Matt used to be a professional golfer. In 2003 I hired Matt to coach me and my youngest son Brock to become better golfers.
We met at a driving range one sunny afternoon for our first lesson. After buying a couple of buckets of balls we headed out to the practice tee’s.
To start, Matt watched me hit a few balls. He was watching my swing, the placement of my feet—all kinds of little things that only a former pro would notice.
At a certain point, he told me to address the ball. This means to walk up to the ball and get in your usual stance. As I began to bring the club back, Matt told me to stop.
He walked over and began looking at the grip I had on the club. He looked at it from various angles.
“Robert, that’s all wrong.”
“No it isn’t,” I emphatically told him.
“Yes it is,” he said. He then proceeded to move my hands around the club into a new grip.
It felt terrible . . .
One of my fondest childhood memories was a day that I spent with my Aunt Robbie. She was my mom’s only sister, and was a second mom to me. I loved her almost as much as I loved my mom. She passed away a couple of years ago. I still miss her dearly.
One day, Aunt Robbie took me out to a golf course and began teaching me to play golf. She took about an hour showing me how to hold the club and then how to hit the ball. We then played 18 holes together. She was very encouraging, even though I really wasn’t good at all. When by chance I did hit a good shot, she made a big deal about it! That day, I fell in love with the game. It was a day that I’ll never forget as long as I live.
Anyway, the way Aunt Robbie taught me to hold the club was the way I held the club for the next 40 years or so. I must have hit 100,000 balls with that grip. That grip became ETCHED IN STONE!!! It felt natural and I didn’t have to think about it.
So here’s Matt telling me that my grip is all wrong.
After rearranging my hands, he told me to hit the ball. I did. It went way off to the right.
“Hit another one,” Matt told me. I did. It barely went 20 yards off the tee.
“Hit another one.” I hooked it left.
“Matt, this doesn’t feel good.”
“Shut up and hit another one!”
Periodically over the next ten minutes or so, Matt would come over and check my grip. Several times he had to readjust my hands to the “new” grip. The years of muscle memory kept taking my hands back to the “old” grip.
Within about twenty minutes though, I was hitting the ball further and straighter than I’d ever hit a ball in my life. “Matt! This is awesome!!!” But my hands kept trying to go back to the old way.
At the end of the lesson, Matt told Brock and me to go out to the range three nights a week for the next two weeks and practice what we had learned. We did.
All during that time, I’d have to consciously grip the club the new way. But the more I did it, the more natural it began to feel. And I began to crush the ball. (Well, for me, anyway!) My natural slice began to go away. Brock and I probably hit at least a couple of thousand balls each over that two-week period.
During the next lesson, Matt continued to make adjustments to our swings. He was awesome. It just shows what a little coaching can do for a person. At a certain point as I was getting ready to hit the next shot, Matt told me to stop.
He came over and looked at my hands. “Robert, I want you to go back to the way your Aunt Robbie told you to grip the club.” I began readjusting my hands and then in frustration told Matt that I couldn’t. I had forgotten how to do it.
AND THAT’S THE POINT!!!
I had hit so many balls the new way that I had forgotten the old way.
When going through changes in life, they’re going to feel just as uncomfortable as that new grip felt to me on that first day Matt taught it to me. You will want to go back to the old way of doing things. It may not be better, but it’s comfortable.
But if you continue, the new way of doing something will begin to feel just as comfortable as the old way.
Use this knowledge when trying to develop a new habit, when going through changes at work, or when seemingly bad things happen in your life.
Just hold on tight and continue to swing the club. And by the way, it helps when you have a coach who’s there to show you the proper adjustments you need to make and to encourage you on!
As Andre Gide so eloquently said,
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Pick up the club. Take the first swing. A year from now you will be glad that you started today!