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One, Two, Three, Fore!

Waking up my inner critic and working it all out over eighteen beautiful holes at the Marin Country Club.

By John Jarvis

I’d like to think I’m pretty “Zen.” I have done a pretty good job of quieting my inner critic, that voice in our head that can sometimes bark out like an angry drill sergeant. “Jarvis, what the hell? Are you kidding me? You are utterly incompetent, an embarrassment, you should be ashamed of yourself!”

OK, maybe it is just me, and maybe that was a moment of over-sharing. And I don’t think so. I think we all experience that voice from time to time and to one degree or another. In my part-time role as a mentor and coach at Hughes Marino I spend a fair amount of time talking about the process of quieting that inner critic. It really serves no useful purpose. And as most people now understand, it can be silenced, but it takes work. Sometimes just taking a moment to pause, taking a deep breath and maybe counting slowly, one–two–three–four, can help to quiet things down on the inside. And once we have done the work, with the drill sergeant muzzled, we can bask in the glorious silence and simply notice as our intuition begins to come through.

Which is why I was so surprised when the drill sergeant came roaring back to life, with a radical fire and brimstone vengeance—he was awake, and he was pissed! It was on a beautiful day, green and serene at the Marin Country Club golf course, which is a funny place for a drill sergeant to live. I really don’t golf any more. I decided that the sport wasn’t a good context for the best version of me to come through. I’d like to think that I am relatively calm and capable, that I hopefully exude some quiet strength and that I am in control of my thoughts and actions. Which it seems to me is exactly true for the very best golfers. But I am not a good golfer, and none of these attributes come through when I play golf, so I decided some time ago to simply stop playing.

Until I was invited to play in a client event as Brighton Jones was hosting a light-hearted “scramble,” and it would be great to simply spend time with good people in a beautiful setting. So, I said yes.

I won’t beleaguer to tell about all of my errant shots, just a quick summary should suffice: one ball on the balcony of the home overlooking the course, one ball in the neighbor’s front yard, a putting stroke that made my playing partners worry about my health  (aka the “Yips”). It was just totally crazy. My partners were all really good golfers, and they wanted to win the thing! Which put a certain pressure on me to contribute in some small way. And I just couldn’t. And it rousted my drill sergeant like I had just slapped him awake.

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I really respect good golfers, and the combination of physical and mental training that they must master in order to strike that damn little ball with power and poise and consistency.

I was also reminded that wanting to please others or perform for others can be a recipe for disaster. It awakens the ego and the judgement and the critic, all of which make any kind of high-level performance almost impossible.

On the last hole I was so exhausted of being berated by the drill sergeant that I just didn’t care anymore. I was first to putt, because the worst putter is always first to putt—at least I might show my playing partners something useful in the way the ball rolls, because nobody actually expects it to go in the hole. But I didn’t care anymore, I was beaten down, and I simply took the putter back, smooth and steady, and stroked the ball into the hole ten feet away for our final birdie.

We didn’t win. It didn’t matter. We did have fun. And I had a cool learning experience.

It was actually really interesting, for me, to notice it all in the moment that it was happening, to get mad at myself and then to laugh at myself, almost right away. I didn’t really embarrass myself, well, I kind of did. And that is OK.

So I feel like I handled it with a bit of “Zen” after all. And I acknowledge that I still have work to do. We probably never move beyond the work. And golf, it turns out, is a really great way to test if your inner critic is really dead or merely dormant.

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John Jarvis is an executive vice president of Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that exclusively represents tenants and buyers. Contact John at 1-844-662-6635 or john@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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