Sunday, January 12, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Sam Berns

Sam Berns - 10/23/96 - 1/10/2014
  “Life is a preparation for the future;
and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.” 
― Albert Einstein

What sounds like four simple rules for life becomes a powerful message when you consider that these are the words of Sam Berns, a 17 year old high school senior who just passed away two days ago as the result of the disease Progeria.  Progeria is an accelerated aging disease in which the average life span is about 13 years.

I first became aware of Progeria when I met a young boy named Cam in our community.  Cam's family lives each day to the fullest and if Cam plays like any other six year old.  What has touched my life is how the families of Sam and Cam live their lives in the way that Einstein describes.  These families have brought new meaning to the word urgency when it comes to living life.   It gives an awareness to me that every day is precious and to maximize the use of my time to focus on "what I can do".  A great lesson that we can all learn from.

In fact, Sam was planning on going to college to become a scientist and Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, had planned on having Sam be an honorary Captain for the Patriots playoff game versus the Colts.  Sadly, Sam passed the night before.

Sam has left his legacy through an HBO documentary, Life According to Sam.  If you get a chance to see it, it's a don't miss.  I do recommend you keep a box of tissues close by.

To see an inspirational talk from Sam:  Sam Berns at TEDx Atlantic

To learn more about Progeria:  Progeria Research Foundation

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Golf Pro and the Salesman

Here’s a thought that a lot my contemporaries would probably be in agreement with.  When you have the title of golf professional, it’s one of the best occupations in the world because we get paid to do something that we’d probably do for free.  We get to hang around a golf facility all day, talk about our favorite subject at work and have a career that truly blends passion with our vocation so the desire for learning and growth never stops.

When I think about it, not many other athletic activities (and careers) would allow me to have the word professional in my title without playing the game for a living.  It’s a title that my own mother and father beam with joy as they introduce me as their son “who is a golf pro in Michigan.”
In fact, having the title always opens the door for many conversations.  In my own backyard, having the title helps earn me respect as a leader in the community which makes it much easier for me to meet others.   I’m fortunate to live in a community where it’s easy to get out and meet others.  There’s always an activity going on around town whether it’s put on by the local chamber, one of the various tourist councils or just by friends on a facebook page.  If I want to make new business connections, all I have to do is get out of the house.

When I worked in outside sales we said gaining new contacts was like going to a dance.  All I wanted to do was dance, so I’d ask every girl in the room until one said yes.  Sometimes, there would be a girl there with her boyfriend, but she’d offer that she couldn’t dance, but she would introduce her friend who would like to dance.  

It works the same way when I’m looking for a new golf student or trying to get new golfers to try out our course.  In fact, it even works for any business.  Just get out and meet people, learn about them, and eventually you’ll find someone who’s been looking for you service or they might introduce you to someone.  
They say that the best way to get new contacts and clients is by word of mouth.  And whether it’s live, or by social media or in traditional media, the most important voice that needs to spread the word of mouth is ourselves.

As the saying goes, were all in sales.  And just like a young man asking a girl out on a date, when we ask the product were always selling is ourselves.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Does Rearranging the Golf Shop have to do with Golf Instruction

This past winter through the power of social media, I've met numerous exceptional golf instructors who have had quite an impact on my approach to teaching golf.  Some of the most powerful lessons I've learned have come from Kate Tempesta, Kendal Yonomoto, and Bruce Rearick.  What these instructors have in common is that they have all taught me that golf can be creative and needs to be.  And in order to be creative, we have to help students of all ages to develop their natural athleticism first and then we can fine tune their games with the technical aspects.

Whether we are golf instructors or managers of businesses, there's always a tendency to get in the way of the creative process and try to mold golfers or employees into our own image, instead of getting out of the way and letting the creative process take place.  To illustrate, a friend of mine named Garrard McClendon shared the following example with me.  A parent and his child pick up the same video game from the store.  In one room the parent is looking over the instructions and studying the details of "how" to play the game.  In the other room, the child has already ripped off the wrapper, stuck the disc in the console and has reached level three before the parent even starts to play.  Earlier this winter, I had the first phone conversation that reminded me of this and the importance of teaching golfers of all ages the importance of experiential learning.

Enter Kate Tempesta, an authority in early childhood movement and the top junior instructor in New York City.  I had a eye opening 30 minute conversation with Kate and her charisma and love for children shot through the phone line like a lightning bolt.  As golf instructors, we see the basics of "how" to swing the golf club in a textbook detailed way.  Kate has taught me the real basics of all sports, which is teaching the creative and athletic movement which will give the golfer a solid foundation to learn to "play" the game and have fun.  She's made me realize how important creative motion is and this needs to be a joyful creative discovery process.  Definitely not the mindset of the typical golf professional.  In the middle of the phone call, the epiphany came when I said to Kate, "So what your telling me is I have to quit thinking like a golf pro!"

My Canadian friend, Kendal Yonomoto understands this process.  Just like Kate, Kendal is another innovator in the world of golf instruction and is definitely making an impact of the future of golf coaching.  He also understands the importance of developing the athlete first and then fine tuning the golfer.  His golf training involves working with a medicine ball to simulate the golf swing motion and as a result, his golfers develop the specific motions and muscular development to move the golf ball around the course with power, precision and touch.  In fact, Kendal told me that a lot of his teaching process was developed by training with world class sprinters in Canada.  Click on this link to see a demonstration of his teaching:  medicine ball training.  This training reminds of when I played basketball.  For the first weeks of practice, all we would do is run laps and do numerous agility drills without a ball.  Without this preparation, there was no way we would be prepared to practice learning the plays.

The most recent piece of my journey comes from my relationship with Bruce Rearick, an exceptional putting coach who has compiled tons of research through years of experience in club fitting and working for Science and Motion, the company that developed the SAM PuttLab.  The most important thing I've learned from Bruce is that our visual perspective determines how we should putt the ball into the hole.  After determining the optimal position to stand so we see the line of the putt, this determines the stroke we should use and most importantly, the best putter that we should use.  This process has definitely simplified my approach to teaching.  Should a golfer insist on using a putter that doesn't match their natural tendencies, it would be the equivalent of using a crowbar to hammer in a nail (I've had first hand experience here. hehe), the job will get done eventually, but you'll have to make a lot of unnatural compensations in the process.

So what does all this have to do with rearranging the golf shop?  I normally have the staff rearrange the golf shop when I know I'm not going to be around for a while.  I've learned that if I'm around, my opinions get in the way of their creativity and we end up with a messy arrangement of clubs, clothes and balls all in random piles resembling the disaster of a child's room that never gets cleaned up.  I don't return until they let me know they're done creating and I'm always pleased with the results.  Then all we need to do together is fine tune the results and make some sales.

Our responsibility as leaders is to provide the learning environment  that result in the experiential creative learning process.  Simply giving instructions and telling someone to go do their job or practice is the equivalent of giving out homework assignments or a job description and expecting to create expert performances.  As leaders, we also have to realize that on occasion we'll have that student or employee that is looking for a panacea to get better now without the willingness to change or put forth any effort. At this point all we can do is  move on to the next person whose been waiting for us and lead them along the way of the joy of the journey.

To learn more about Kate visit:
To learn more about Kendal visit:
To learn more about Bruce visit:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thoughts for a Young Golfer (or actually thoughts for everyone)

Dear High School Golf Team,

We're proud that you've taken the step to represent your school as a member of your golf team and welcome to Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club.  I hope you appreciate our hospitality and don't waste this precious opportunity. Many others who love to play don't have this chance that you've been given so don't blow it.

You have a short season here in Michigan and a little more than sixty days to give it your best and I hope you do just that.  Just because you don't have a scheduled practice doesn't mean you're not welcome to practice here during your golf season during the slower times of the day.  In fact, I expect you to be here.  And when you're game is not going well, I will take the time to help you for a few minutes so you can get your game on track.  It's always been my policy to do so since my very first day as a golf professional.

I only ask a few things in return for our hospitality.  The first is that after a round when you're asked "How did you play?", please don't respond with your head hanging down that I played bad.  Even after a less than desired round, always say something along the lines of "I didn't play my best, but I never quit trying hard until the last putt" and do it with your head held up high. I once shot my two worst rounds back to back in a club championship and finished dead last and an experienced pro told me "It takes a lot more character to turn in the high scores that I did with my head held up high than the time when I shot my best tournament round ever!"  Don't forget, I am always around the club and will make time to help you out.

The other thing is that you make no excuses.  Accept bad shots.  In winning the tournament at Bay Hill this past weekend, Tiger Woods snap hooked a ball so far out of bounds it almost made it into a backyard swimming pool.  If he can hit a shot this bad, shot, any of us who aren't on tour better be ready to hit some less than perfect.  Also, whenever you are offered help, never tell me that you can't do something.  I'll never ask you to do something that you're physically incapable of or try something that would take you a long time to learn in the middle of the golf season.  I usually interpret "I can't" as "I won't".

Most importantly, when you're asked if you practiced over the weekend or on Spring break, please don't respond with I didn't have time.  "I didn't have time" usually translate to I chose to do something else.  Your expectations of your game should only be equal to the amount of time well spent that you have invested.

Guys, the reason I'm asking that you do this for just a little more than the next sixty days and give it your best is so that no matter how the team finishes, you can hold your heads high and say we gave it our best and like they say it the football movies "we left it all out on the field!"  This will make you a true winner.  It may sound like I'm quite demanding, but truth be told Life in general is so much more demanding.  If you can follow these simple requests for the next sixty days, my hope is that you'll develop a habit that you will carry on in every other aspect of life from today until well past the day you graduate from high school.  So, for the next 60 days use your opportunity here to develop habits that will make you a winner in the game of life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Think Like a Kid and Learn to Really Live as an Adult

In about an hour and a half this week, I received the three best introduction to golf lessons I have ever received since becoming a golf professional.  Not because I learned great technique, but because they were "introduction to life" lessons.

I've been a gymnast and a golfer and have taught both.  I chose golf as a profession because it truly is a game for a lifetime.  And whether I am teaching adults or children, the importance is making learning fun.  Adults have jobs so they don't want to "work" at their games.  Kids just want to play.  In fact, adults should just want to play.  Funny how that when a lot of instructors work with a student, they act as if they're working with the next Olympic gold medalist or the next Nicklaus.  Especially with children and the expectation has been placed on a lot of children to focus on one sport only to become great. 

Numerous golfers on the men's and women's professional tours were multiple sport athletes.  One that comes to mind is Gary Woodland who went to college on a basketball scholarship, but changed to attend the University of Kansas on a golf scholarship and is now enjoying a great career on the PGA Tour.  The great thing about playing multiple sports is that athletic motion translates to other sports whether a child starts out as a gymnast, a basketball player, or just playing games in the playground.  Which leads to my first 30 minute golf lesson over the phone.  

Kate Tempesta runs a great program in the concrete jungle of Manhattan.  Not the normal place you'd expect to find a thriving junior golf program.  Kate breaks the traditional mode when it comes to golf instruction by giving golf lessons in hallways, gymnasiums and even rooftops.  And most importantly, with me she stressed the importance of young children learning motion and target awareness in a way that children could relate to.  Kate taught me the importance of playing games with the kids and using different fun activities to teach them how to move athletically instead of giving traditional "how-to" golf tips.  In the midst of our conversation the epiphany came and I responded by saying, "So what you're telling me is that I have to quit thinking like a golf pro!"  This was definitely one of those moments in life where the orchestra should have started playing and the heavens were revealed.  A few days later, I found myself walking through Toys 'R' Us looking for new ways to play games instead of "teaching" golf.

My second lesson came about 24 hours later, when I received a call from Rick Grayson.  Rick is the 2012 PGA Junior Leader of the year so imagine my surprise when I sent an email to the website asking about resources for growing a junior program and received a phone call response.  For at least 30 minutes Rick talked and I wrote down notes.  As the conversation continued, Rick became much more excited and I learned my second lesson for the week.  It's much easier to be successful when you're passionate about what your doing.  And the  truly successful people in life become that way because they gain from giving of themselves freely and asking nothing in return.  Just the way he's been giving to kids for years.

Two days later I checked the mailbox where I found my third lesson.  Nicole Weller's book "Stick to Sports , Let's Play Golf" was waiting for me and the final piece of the puzzle of my new awakening had arrived.  Stick to Sports, Let's Play Golf at first glance appears to be a kids book.  With each new page, it becomes a great book that families can enjoy together.  This book is the definitive primer for beginners on how to learn the game covering everything a new golfer needs to know about golf from etiquette, understanding golf clubs, how to play a hole and how to "play" the game.  I plan on making it required reading for all of my golf shop staff and the outside services department.  In fact, I take back what I said about it not being a kids book.  It is a kids book for kids from 2 to 102.  

If we started teaching all our beginner "kids" from 2 to 102 the way that Kate, Rick and Nicole are doing; we wouldn't have so many new golfers quitting the game (80% of new golfers quit the game within two years after they start).  Games should be fun and games are meant to be played like a child.

It's amazing that in four short days that I unlearned everything that I thought I knew about golf instruction and had to relearn what I already knew.  Whether it's the staff that works for me or the customers that I serve, my favorites are always the youth.  Thanks for the wake up call guys.  

What Kate, Rick and Nicole share in common is the single most important quality that defines character: LOVE.  For these lessons and their friendship, I owe them a lot and there's only one way that I know that I can repay them.  By spreading that love with as many kids as possible wherever & whatever I do.  Hope I don't let them down.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Learned More than Just How to Dance at Sunset Coast Ballroom Dance

Last night I went to a ballroom dance class.  It was great fun and the teachers gave great direction.  As I entered the room, my alter ego "The Asian Sensation" took over.  Well the Asian Sensation might be pretty good at Karaoke and even better giving a golf lesson, ballroom dancing was quite the challenge.  And to top it off, we learned the Quick Step, a somewhat advanced maneuver.  Fortunately I found more experienced partners and these ladies did most of the leading.  Hope I don't lose my man card.

As I was learning these new steps, I started to fall into the shoes of the students I teach golf to.  Was I making the right moves?  I hope I don't look stupid?  I hope no one's looking.  I started to understand how they felt.  When they take golf lessons, they are way out of their comfort zones and wanting to do things perfectly every time.  I know when I teach, I don't ask them to do anything they are not physically capable of.  And neither were these dance instructors.

Fortunately, they walked the class through the steps required to do the Quick Step several times over in the same way I've learned to have students do swing drills over and over.   They then said, now go home and practice.  Problem is, I've already forgotten the steps a day later.  I make YouTube videos with the intention of giving my golfing students a tool that helps them remember what they learned even though a lesson took place weeks or even months earlier.  I think I'll ask them to make a video or two, so that the Asian Sensation can be a sensation on the dance floor.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Charity and the Golf Pro - Growing Together

When it comes to charity, the PGA Tour sets a great example for those of us in the golf business.  Over 2,000 charities have benefited  and as of this post, the amount raised is closing in on 1.5 billion dollars.  But for most golf professionals, whether we are in management or instructors, sometimes the financial resources aren't always there to support charity as much as the PGA Tour.  And successful golf professionals love to give, whether sharing information with their colleagues or donating to their favorite charities.  

The true meaning of charity is to give unconditionally expecting nothing in return.  But why not make our charitable contributions conditionally and create partnerships with the charities that we are passionate about?

When I was in sales, we always compared the prospecting process to going out to a dance club.  You can stand against the wall and hope Miss Right comes to you or ask every woman in the room to dance until someone says yes.  Now typically, you have a good time dancing once she says yes and have a great night together never to see each other again.  Or you can build a relationship and dance for a lifetime!

I love building relationships with the charities I support.  I want them to grow, so I become a champion for their causes and in return I ask them to be an evangelist for my business.     There's nothing wrong with asking a charity for their help.  The truth is that we both benefit together and we can change the world, one life at a time.