Success Lessons From The Golden Bear

Jack Nicklaus, who was nicknamed the ‘Golden Bear’ was born in 1940. He is thought by many to be the greatest golfer of all time. He won 2 national amateur titles, 105 professional tournaments and 18 major championships.

He not only succeeded in golf; he succeeded in business. He is widely respected as a leading ‘golf businessman.’ Even his marriage has been a successful one. Surely, he can teach us a thing or two about success.

One of his sayings about how to succeed in golf impressed me:

“Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.”

We often think of confidence as separate from work but in reality work is one of the quickest ways to gain confidence. In return, our increasing confidence will encourage us to work harder and to go on to create a circle of excellence.

Some of the greatest and most talented sportsmen in history put in hours of extra work to perfect their skills. David Beckham stays on after training to perfect his famous free kicks. Jonny Wilkinson does the same in the game of rugby to perfect his conversion, penalty and drop kicks. Cristiano Ronaldo constantly practices the amazing footwork that bamboozles defenders.

If you know you have ‘done your homework’, you can teach a class of teenagers with confidence. As a teacher in a London comprehensive school, I fully realized the importance of marking the work of the pupils and preparing the lessons thoroughly.

If you failed to mark the students’ work and failed to work hard at preparing an interesting lesson you were asking for trouble. At the very least, your class would be bored, restless and annoyed that you had failed to respect their work and their time. Having a talent for teaching can only get you so far. You need to work hard as well.

I had a very talented History teacher at school but I remember one year when he marked my book only once in the entire year! He would also nip outside occasionally for a quick smoke! He was witty, charming and a very talented speaker but, eventually, I chose English rather than History as my main subject for University.

My English teacher worked very hard at his teaching even though he lacked the wit and talent of my History teacher. He marked my work thoroughly and went to great lengths to encourage my interest in English. I realized that my chances of success would be greater with a teacher like him.

In my martial arts classes, the student who has trained and worked hard on a regular basis usually performs the grading exam with confidence and power.

He or she can even do better than the more talented students who have failed to prepare thoroughly.

If you work hard at some skill for an hour a day for a month you will begin to feel like an expert. You may well feel that you are getting somewhere. Keep working for an hour a day for six months and you will become competent and have confidence in what you are doing.

But working for an hour a day for six months is not easy. All sorts of distractions and demands will be made on you which will tempt you not to do the work of focusing for one hour on your skill.

I could be wrong and you may find it easy to do especially if achieving that skill is your dream but people usually go through a period when their hard work seems wasted and it becomes easier to just give up.

The ‘Golden Bear’ believed in the wisdom of trying to excel only in the things you enjoy:

“I’m a firm believer in the theory that people only do their best at things they truly enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don’t enjoy.”

if you keep going and keep working at your skill or other goal, your confidence will increase and you will probably work harder because you will begin to feel that your work will have a successful end result. You will begin to believe in yourself and in your ability to follow through and achieve success.

Why is confidence so important in golf and in life? Because we have too often been programmed by other people, the media and even ourselves to expect second best and to look on the successful as people who were ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ or who were just plain lucky. We see them as different and wrongly think that we cannot match their successes.

As a result we lack the confidence to aim for the heights. Instead we believe that we either lack the ability to reach those heights or do not deserve to reach them or are not in the same class as those who do reach them.

Even today, some women lack the confidence to apply for the top jobs and the top salaries. In a discussion on BBC1 in March 2007 the following points were made:

Lack of confidence stops many women from applying for leadership type jobs.They also ask for smaller salaries and then spend years catching up with the men. Such women may be running their companies ostensibly as secretaries. Most people and especially women are far better than they think they are.

Many men as well as women undervalue themselves and this may l be the result of years of being programmed to underestimate their ability and value.

A key way to work hard and gain confidence is to spend time learning something new each day. If necessary take lessons. The ‘Golden Bear’ was not too proud to take lessons.

He did not approve of people who had talent but who failed to keep learning or failed even to try to learn. He made the following comment about a talented man:

“He had a lot of talent, but didn’t have much dedication, wasn’t organized, didn’t know how to learn, didn’t know how to comprehend what he was doing, didn’t try to learn how to get better.”

Jack Nicklaus realized that success involves mastering yourself and the golf course or whatever area of life you are involved in:

“Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game’s two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself.”

He knew the importance of concentration as an ‘antidote to anxiety’ and probably found much peace of mind as he focused on getting a little white ball into a little hole hundreds of yards away. No wonder many business men use golf as a way to relax after a stressful week.

He knew how to focus his mind on ‘remedies and not faults.’ It is pointless thinking too much about the ball in the bunker sand. Just think about choosing the best club and the best kind of stroke to get the ball out of the sand.

Confident people do not need to belittle their competitors and Jack Nicklaus has the confidence to recognize the talent and character of his rivals:

“There isn’t a flaw in his golf or his makeup. He will win more majors than Arnold Palmer and me combined. Somebody is going to dust my records. It might as well be Tiger, because he’s such a great kid.”

Even if you are talented, work hard to achieve and maintain your confidence.

Do your homework and you will be prepared for the challenges you will have to face. Keep working and learning and you will have the confidence to excel.

Your confidence will open new doors for you and will help you achieve your dreams. The path to those dreams will probably not be easy. If riches, fulfillment and contentment were easy to achieve, then everyone would have them.

When the way seems long and hard, don’t forget these words of the ‘Golden Bear’:

“Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.”


Post time: 07-30-2017