Thursday, June 18, 2009


It has been raining for weeks here. The wildlife of the lake seems to segregate itself and hunker down on days like this. The ducks are in one area by the dock, the turtles must be underwater (I really need to learn where they go when they're not on that log), the birds certainly are not flying around, and you don't hear the frogs. (You don't generally hear the frogs until dusk anyway, but they deserved a mention.) Weather seems to influence risk tolerance. The wildlife is less mobile, closer to shore, less likely to fly, glide, soar and sing.

We experience weather, and other than moving to some location where the weather is different, we don't control it. It's a facet of our environment, or situation. Situation's evoke a response. Does that work for us or against us? Is it better to work with our reaction or ignore the situation and proceed as if the elements made no difference?

My father pointed me in the direction of a NY Times article regarding how golf pros handle loss aversion, and I think there's a related lesson there.
Even the world’s best pros are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie discernibly less often than identical-length putts for par, according to a coming paper by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. (NY Times, June 16)
The author's conclude that this is costing golfers about one stroke per 72 hole tournament. Golfers actually accept the study (most athletes don't accept the findings of most studies). Here's what two of them say:

“Par putts just seem to be more critical because if you miss you drop a shot — if you miss a birdie putt, it doesn’t seem to have the same effect,” said Jim Furyk, one of the tour’s best putters.

Added Justin Leonard: “When putting for birdie, you realize that, most of the time, it’s acceptable to make par. When you’re putting for par, there’s probably a greater sense of urgency, so therefore you’re willing to be more aggressive in order not to drop a shot. It makes sense.”
The authors think this is an error in thinking. If golfers realized a stroke is a stroke--in other words it's the total score, not the score for each hole matters--then they could improve their game. I have to read the original study, but I disagree. Golf is played hole by hole. That's why there is sometimes match play. In match play you don't play for score, you play to win the hole. Most holes wins.

Even for the usual total score though, you play hole by hole. There's a mental game, a bogey is a failure. And failures stay with you forever, success has a half life. There's a formula for this (again, passed to me by my Dad). Some day I'll post it, for now, it means that humans are affected more by failure than success. The point of learning that IS to overcome it but you do so by understanding that every moment is worthwhile for something and failure is a perspective.

Still, you pay attention to the weather. The weather just is. To the wildlife on this lake, the rain isn't bad, it just is. However, they don't behave the same in rain as they do in sun. They adjust to the situation because they 'know' their environment. So do the golfers.

My conclusion from this is that to stay grounded in the world, you don't ignore your situations. If things are crazy, you don't have to spin out of control. You can however, pay attention, experience it, behave in synch with the environment and weather the storms.

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