Lessons from the Ryder Cup

The great golfing star Arnold Palmer once said, “Championship golf is 90% mental and 10% technical. But you’ve got to have the technical.”

Many motivational and self-improvement writers or speakers would agree, as would almost all good teachers, leaders, managers and executives, and anyone else who has given any serious thought to self-development, organizational advancement, and success.

If you want good things to happen, you must make them happen. For good things to happen, a person, or a team, must give themselves ardently, zealously and passionately to the pursuit, or goal.

The 2010 European Ryder Cup team, led by Colin “Monty” Montgomerie, embodies this fact. Monty urged his team to play with more passion after the European team had fallen badly behind the Americans after the first two of four playing sessions. His message was summed up as this:

“The Americans are a great team. But so are we. I know that we all want to win. And, we all believe that we have the capability to win. But, so far, we are not playing with enough passion. And, if we do not resolve to play with total passion and zeal for our mission, we will be beaten. So, it’s up to us. We cannot expect an excellent American team to fall down suddenly. No. We must rise up. Every one of us will play in the third session tomorrow. So, every one of us must play with the greatest levels of passion for our mission as possible. Otherwise, we will probably lose.”

The results are now history. After two sessions, the European team was down 6 points to 4, and had been soundly trounced in both of the first two sessions. However, in Session Three, the European team scored an unprecedented 5-point victory. This fantastic success proved to be the difference, as the Americans themselves rebounded in Session Four to take a 7 to 5 victory in that final session. But, even that was not enough for the Americans to retain the Ryder cup. In fact, the final two matches saw the European team win those two matches by 1 point. This finish enabled the European team to win 14_ points overall for the entire Ryder Cup competition. And, 14 was the minimum needed for the European team to win. Monty was right; everyone involved had to give more than 100%. To do so they had to become extremely “passionate” about their mission.

Monty’s message can apply to all business. Companies are every bit as competent and capable as ever. Product lines are as good and as competitive ever. And, even though the current worldwide economic condition is far from strong, it is much stronger than the 1970’s and early 1980’s era. Back then, inflation was rampant. Unemployment was much, much worse. Interest costs were crushing. And, the stock market was then in the midst of experiencing a 16-year Bear Market.

So, what’s the difference between then and now?

It’s that not all companies are working with the same degree of passion for their pursuits now as they did then. Nor are we all as ardent and zealous as we should be. And that’s not good enough. The truth is that too often worthy competitors are simply playing with more passion. And, in the highly competitive, victory usually tends to go to the most passionate, and the best practiced and prepared.

This means that it’s not enough for a company to invest in better products or services, more sales training or more concern for customer satisfaction. Without the highest degrees of passion and zealousness, we will too often come up “second best.” And, just as the highly talented American Ryder Cup team just experienced, “second best” can be very, very painful.

Monty’s message is the right message. It’s up to us. We must all become more passionate if we are to better rise up to our very great, and too often uncalled upon, potential.

Today I am, like Monty, urging every one of us to give our total potential and passion to our pursuits.

Flickr photo courtesy of danperry.com

About the Author

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. The longest actively serving CEO in the computer industry, Nies was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as "the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit of American business." In 1992, British Prime Minister Edward Heath honored Nies for Cincom's role in bringing the software industry to England. In 1995, he was profiled by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the "pioneers of the software industry," alongside other industry giants such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). In 2004, Ernst & Young inducted Nies into its Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame. In 2005, along with the CEO of Adobe, Nies won the International Stevie Award for Best Executive in the International Business Awards—"the business world's own Oscars," according to the New York Post. In 2005, Nies also received the University of Cincinnati Lifetime Achievement award and in 2006, was named as one of the Top Ten IT Visionaries by START-IT magazine. In 2008, Tom and Cincom were featured in a Harvard Business School Study. Email Tom Nies: Tnies@cincom.com

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