There’s something in golf called The Bogeyman. It is a mindset many pro golfers have that causes them to putt more accurately when putting for par than when putting for birdie. (For all you non-golfers, birdie is one stroke lower or better than par and bogey is one stroke over par.) You are probably wondering why this is. It is because players fear the bogey more than they desire the birdie. In economics this is called loss aversion. To put it in layman’s terms or in sports terms it’s the difference between playing not to lose and playing to win.
In 2009, Pope and Schweitzer professors at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business did a study on this. They gathered data from 239 tournaments between 2004 and 2009 concentrating on 2.5 million putts attempted by 421 professional golfers who each made at least 1 000 putts. They found that this type of decision-making bias costs the average professional golfer about one stroke during a 72-hole tournament. For the top 20 professional golfers that translates to a combined loss of about $1.2 million in prize money a year.
How golfers think affects how they play. It’s the same in business, over thinking and not going for it can be more costly than going for it.
The perfect example of this is during my speech at the Boston Banking and Financial Professionals. I held up a $20 bill and asked the audience who wanted it. Everyone emphatically said yes! Then I asked who really wanted the 20 spot, nobody moved everyone just said the same thing (key word= said). Then suddenly one advisor a young man named Michael sprang out of his seat like it was on fire ran up jumped and snatched the bill out of my outstretched arm. I thanked and applauded him then asked him why he did that. His answer was simple, “I looked at it and decided it was mine. Besides, I’m a broker… We don’t like losses!” He made my point perfectly over thinking and not going for it was costly for the other 50 plus people in the room. He acted swiftly with confidence and as a result he profited.
A fear of failure or tentative mindset causes us to lose valuable opportunities for greatness at work. Your mindset is your way of thinking.
Based on Pope and Schweitzer’s research, tentative is probably the biggest insult you can lay on an athlete. It’s probably the biggest insult you can lay on a business person as well. When it comes to your performance it is probably the most lethal word in the English language. If you want to get to the next level lead your field or win a championship the worst word someone can use to describe your performance is tentative. Why? Because it means you’re holding back you’re not giving a full effort.
The Solution: When you can identify a “why” that is greater than whatever is making you tentative; you will be emotionally freed to go from good to great. In other words when your passion is greater than your fear you will be on your way to excellence. If you can break out of what is holding you back you can get to world class.
You’re better off going all out and losing than holding back and winning because when you hold back and win you are training yourself to hold back. In essence you’re encouraging yourself to be consistently tentative and that, as we know can cost you millions.