If winning is your goal you must think differently!

It doesn’t matter if you win or you lose…UNTIL YOU LOSE! When I was a little boy losing was all I did.  I was the worst athlete in my school.  I ran the 100 yard dash in 12 minutes and played alternate right field in little-league baseball.  Ever play baseball?  That’s where you put your worst player and I was the alternate.

One day after studying the Olympics in class our third-grade teacher said, “It’s possible that one of you might one day win an Olympic Gold Medal.  Who do you think has the best chance of winning a medal in this class?”  A boy sitting next to me stood up and said, “I don’t know who has the best chance but I do know who has the WORST chance.  Lanny has!”  That’s when losing hurts and I was losing a lot.  I made up my mind that some day I would show that kid.  I had to find a sport that would take a short, slow athlete to the Olympics.   I found my Olympic vehicle in the sport of International Rifle Shooting and I worked hard at it.  In 1972, I found myself competing for the USA in the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

Ask any Olympic champion or PGA tour player what the recipe for winning is and you will likely receive something like the following.  Take a huge amount of desire and dedication, add mental control, stir in proper technique, blend it well with quality equipment and mix in a dose of the opportunity to compete and you might have something that has a chance to taste like winning.

However, as with any recipe, if you leave out any ingredient the outcome just doesn’t taste good.  I had almost all of the ingredients in Munich.  The missing one cost me the Gold Medal. I did not have mental control in the competition and came home with the Silver instead.  Frustrated, I began my search for the secrets of the mental game.  It made sense to me that the Gold Medalists must be thinking differently than the rest of us so I decided to survey as many of them as I could to gain insight.  What they taught me was truly amazing.  It formed the basis of a mental system I call Mental Management®.

In the next Olympics, the Gold Medal was mine because I used a mental system to win.  For the past 30 years I have been studying and coaching mental control to all sorts of performers from PGA tour players, Olympians and Fortune 500 companies to the United States Secret Service and even the US Navy SEALS.  My Mental Management® System is used by the Olympic teams of nine nations and countless national, world and Olympic champions.  I am not a sport psychologist and the basis of my system does not originate from psychology.  I am a competitor and Mental Management® comes from the study of winners and what works for them under the stress of competition.

So, why should a golfer read an article from a rifle shooter?  First, I am someone that has developed a mental system and used it personally to win at the highest levels in my sport.  Secondly, Mental Management® is applicable to golf and the PGA Tour players we are working with are winning with it.  I don’t make a living playing golf or teaching golf technique.  I can’t tell you a thing about how to point the putter BUT I can tell you how to point the mind.

The Missing Ingredient

In my experience as both an Olympian and a mental coach, the ingredient most often missing in the recipe for winning is mental control.  In fact, I often ask Olympians and PGA Tour players what percentage of winning is mental.  I have never had a champion say it was less than 90% mental.  What do you think?  If you said 90% mental are you spending 90% of your time and money on your mental game?  If not, why not?

The First Mistake Most Players Make.

I have talked to hundreds of winners and find that almost all of them made the same first mistake I made concerning mental control.  We began to study the mental game much too late in our careers.

This comment is made far too often.  “You don’t really need to worry about the mental game until you have a high level of mastery of form.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  You need mental control in the beginning.  Unfortunately this is not the normal way we learn a sport.  Most of us learn the hard way, the way I learned.  We begin by focusing on form with little regard to the role our mind is playing.  As time passes we develop mental bad habits.  They become imbedded and become very difficult to dislodge later on when we finally get around to being concerned about mental performance.  Most players loose strokes because of preventable mental error every time they compete.  This is an outrage and I’m unable to understand why so few players are concerned about it early on.

If you are just beginning to learn to play, this might be the most important thing anyone will ever say to you.  “Learn the mental skills in the beginning. Do not wait until you have technique down before studying the mental skills.  You cannot begin too early.”

A player’s success is as much a result of where the mind is pointing as it is of where the club is pointing.  Get the mind pointed in the correct manner from the beginning!  If you start playing with poor equipment or poor form bad habits are inevitable.  This is common knowledge.  The same is also true with mental performance.  Most golf instructors do not teach the mental game and that is the problem.  Oh, they think it is important but they are not trained to teach it.  I understand their dilemma.  Teaching mental skills is difficult and here is one reason why.  An instructor can point to a good player and say “See how they are holding their club.  Hold it like that.”  But it’s a different matter when the coach says “See what that player is thinking.  Think like that.”

Additionally, there is a difference in learning form well enough to compete and learning well enough to win.  So, we normally learn form well enough to compete FIRST then later we evolve into learning the form necessary to win.  It is normally a two-step process.  We first learn the technique to compete from our buddies at the club only to learn much later, by taking lessons from a professional coach, that much of what we learned was incorrect.  BUT, I have found that the mental process for both competing and winning should be the same.  When done correctly it is a one-step process not two.  In fact, it is easier to use a proven mental system from the beginning than to develop one on your own and then later discover that the winners are thinking differently from you.


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