On Sunday, golfer Danny Willet of England earned his first Masters win at Augusta National. It was a great day for Willet, whose wife had given birth to the couple’s first child just twelve days before.
But Willet’s win was made possible only by a cringe-inducing meltdown on the final nine from last year’s champion, Jordan Spieth. Spieth was leading by five strokes as he approached the 10th hole on Sunday. He’d played 31 holes of impressive golf, and then it all went painfully wrong. After bogeying the 10th and 11th, Spieth quadruple-bogeyed the notoriously difficult 12th hole, bleeding away his lead.
Spieth later told reporters he had his “B-minus game” when he needed his A-game. It was only a few hours, but it made a huge difference.
It made me reflect on how universal Spieth’s experience was. None of us are at our best every day. Even in the office, everyone has moments when they’re not on top of their game. If we’re lucky, we get away with it: Maybe you’re having trouble focusing in a meeting, but luckily no one asks you any tough questions. No harm done.
Unfortunately for Spieth, he lost focus on one of the biggest days of his professional career, with all eyes on him.
It seemed, during those B-minus moments, that Spieth knew it was all going wrong, but just couldn’t get his game back on track. Golf is a game of precision. If the angle of your club face is just the tiniest fraction off when it strikes the ball, that ball will end up yards and yards away from where you wanted it to go.
The frustration will feel similar to anyone who has had a project fail because a tiny piece of planning early on was magnified into a huge problem later. Sometimes things go wrong, even for those who are talented and work hard. Sometimes major projects fall apart. Sometimes you mess up on a really important day, when everyone is watching.
And that feeling of failing – in a big way and in spite of your best efforts – is a hard one to come back from.
In this, I think Spieth was a role model. On what was clearly one of the worst days in his 22 years, he finished the last hole with a smile on his face and was a gentleman as he put the iconic green jacket onto Willet’s shoulders.
He later told reporters it would take him a while to get over what happened on Sunday. I think the first step, for anyone who suffers a big disappointment like this, is to accept it, and to accept that it won’t happen all the time. At work, if you botch a major sales pitch, or if your dream project doesn’t get off the ground, you can’t get hung up on it. You have to always be looking forward and learning from the experience. Chances are that next time will be better. This is where sports psychology and business psychology overlap: You can’t let failure hold you back.
In Spieth’s grace and humility in defeat, I think he’s well on his way to getting over it, and that’s a good lesson for us all.
Steve Cox leads Public Relations for Sodexo North America with $9B in annual revenue, 125,000 employees, 9,000 operating sites and 15 million consumers served daily.
— Sodexo USA, Inc. (@sodexoUSA) April 12, 2016