9 entrepreneurship lessons you can learn from golf

The game of golf imparts invaluable lessons for the startup world. From maintaining focus on your goals to adopting new technologies, here are nine lessons startup entrepreneurs can pick up from the game

Raj Khosla
Updated: Jun 28, 2022 11:46:20 AM UTC

The golf course may seem an unlikely place to pick up entrepreneurship lessons. But having played the game for more than four decades and interacting with people associated with it, I can vouch that golf holds out essential lessons for young entrepreneurs. From the importance of a pilot project before launching, to learning why not to despair over mistakes, the importance of swiftly adapting to changing landscape, and more, here are nine key lessons that startup entrepreneurs can imbibe from a good game of golf.

1) A pilot project is always a good idea

Before a big game, even the most seasoned golfers walk around the golf course and fully internalise the entire gamut of the challenge they are facing, thereby developing an overall game strategy, along with tactics for each one of the eighteen holes. Launching a small-scale version of your product or service can help gauge the market depth and overall acceptability.

Additionally, customer response will necessarily augment product development.

2) Stop worrying and focus on goals

Golf requires a lot of concentration. Every shot counts because the outcome defines the degree of success likely to be achieved from the next shot. Or the next step. I have seen good players go horribly wrong when their mind is elsewhere.

Remember, you hit your best shots when you are relaxed and completely focused on the game. Startups are like that too. Instead of getting distracted by random worrisome thoughts, you must focus sharply on your immediate business goals.

3) No point despairing over mistakes

The game curates mental strength, especially for situations when things don’t go your way. Remember, there are no shortcuts to perfection, so don’t get bogged down if you have a bad shot. Analyse how your next shot can mend the damage and get you back into the game. How soon a player can recover from a setback shows their true mettle and inculcates resilience. Failure is no stranger to the startup world, and reversals have to be weathered with a ‘never say die’ attitude. Come to grips with the situation and work on a revival plan that will put your business back on track. Doggedness is the name of the game. Believe in yourself.

4) Swiftly adapt to changes in the landscape, technology

Golf courses can be vastly dissimilar and frequently vary substantially in size, design and settings. For example, ocean-side, in-the-hills, city-centre. A smart golfer anticipates the changed surroundings and makes appropriate adjustments to their style of play. Much like a successful entrepreneur who views rapid changes in the relevant coordinates of his business ecosystem as eminently seizeable opportunities to build upon and stay ahead of the competition.

In recent decades, golf technology has continuously evolved. And that too, at an amazing speed. Golf courses, golf clubs, golfers, and spectators are so very different from times gone by. And most of us golfers have wholeheartedly welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of upgraded technology.

Fledgling startups and established corporations both must embrace newer and unchartered landscapes, and newer technologies, thereby maintaining their competitive advantage. Four to five years ago, data storage was in physical servers, whereas today most information is maintained on the cloud, and digital has changed the game for startups and entrepreneurship forever.

5) Don’t get impatient for results

Golf is a game that requires infinite patience. You can’t force a hole-in-one. You have to wait for years, even decades before you achieve that perfect shot. Practice makes you perfect so that you can turn three shots into two. Startup entrepreneurs too should not expect to hit a bull’s eye in the first year itself. Perseverance doesn’t come easy. But in the end, that’s what will define success. The world-famous golfer Gary Player once said, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

6) Respect and admire rivals

In no other game do opponents show the kind of bonhomie that golfers demonstrate. Unlike intense sledging and unpleasant exchanges seen in other sports, golfers engage in friendly talk as they walk to the next hole. Good shots are applauded by everyone, but the poor shots are not laughed at. A game ends with handshakes and is almost always followed by drinks, thus engendering a unique camaraderie. Golf develops tremendous interpersonal and social skills essential in today’s startup world. For young entrepreneurs, respect and admiration for the competition are essential. The way mergers and buyouts happen, today’s rival may one day become your partner... or even your boss.

7) Never stop learning

Golf teaches an entrepreneur to continuously strive for improved performances. Nobody can claim to be perfect at the game. In golf, there are so many nuances and so much to learn that there is always room for continuous improvement. As golf pro Tiger Woods says, “No matter how good you get, you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part.” Startups need to constantly raise the bar in the quest for maintaining ‘cutting-edge’ operations and technology. Imagine how much knowledge and skills a startup can develop if it inculcates a culture of always learning and staying ahead of the curve.

8) It’s not ‘my way or the highway’

Golf offers several equally effective strategies to play any given hole, quite literally—different strokes for different folks. An observant mind and open communication channels will always lift your game. Similarly, any startup needs to be fully aware of and continuously assess the multiple choices offered by an ever-evolving environment and select the most suitable path ahead.

9) It’s not what you know, but it’s who you know

Golf offers the unique opportunity to spend five uninterrupted hours with CEOs in a relaxed and familial environment. It teaches you the importance of networking. Believe me, that’s priceless.

The writer is founder and managing director, MyMoneyMantra.com.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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