by Coach Dave Kenson

One of my favorite movies is “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. Before I retired I showed it every year in the class I taught about life. Most people think it’s a movie about golf, and they would be partly correct. It is actually about teaching life lessons through the vehicle of golf. The author of the book from which the movie was adapted, Steven Pressfield, has said that his book is a modern-day version of the Hindu Holy Book, The Bhagavad Gita. In the Gita, the hero, Arjuna, is a warrior who has lost his courage to fight just before the most important battle of his life. He is counseled by Krishna, God in human form, on how to follow the path of the warrior that he was meant to take. In Pressfield’s book, Rannulph Junuh, a war hero, has lost the will to live because of the atrocities that he witnessed in WWI. Prior to the war, Junuh was one of the best amateur golfers in the country. He is coerced into playing the greatest golf march in history against Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, the two greatest golfers of their time. His caddy, Bagger Vance, God in human form, helps him not only to restore his dormant golf game, but also teaches him life lessons and why he must go on “living”. In the book, Bagger teaches Junuh the four steps to mastery. What follows are those four steps in my own words.

Step 1 — PRACTICE. Rules have to be learned and skills must be improved. Whether you are a participant on an athletic team or an employee in your job of life, you have to learn the guidelines within which you must operate. You also have to hone the skills necessary for success in your position. Training is essential to get you to the point where you can perform well once the bright lights come on. The practice needs to be rigorous, done at game speed, and mistakes must be pointed out and corrected with further practice. The participant must constantly become more efficient or the time and effort has been wasted.

Step 2 – WISDOM. Wisdom is knowledge learned from DOING. It cannot be taught. It can only be gained through experience. As Bobby Bones points out in his book, Fail Until You Don’t, life is a moving target. Things constantly change, and so we must also change. Our training must always include the “what if” element so that, in the words of Clint Eastwood’s character, Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway in “Heartbreak Ridge”, we will be able to “adapt, improvise and overcome”.

Step 3 – LOVE. To obtain mastery, to become great, you must love what you are doing. There can’t be anywhere else that you would rather be or anything else that you would rather be doing. It must be done with passion. Far too many people go through life doing what their parents want or just making a living. Happy, successful people learn to make their avocation their vocation.

Step 4 – SURRENDER. Greatness is achieved when the focus is on the doing and not on the outcome; the process, not the product. The only REAL time is the present moment, the NOW! When your physical body is in the present moment, but your mind is on the past (mistakes) or the future (outcome), you cannot perform at your best. The focus must be completely on the task at hand. Great athletes call this being “in the zone”. You also must surrender your ego. Greatness is possible when the focus is on the job at hand and not on perceived future credit or reward.