Careers are rarely linear. They involve ups and downs, many of which are beyond our control.
Yesterday, I went to the opening day of The Open Championship with two of my sons. We saw the world’s best golfers take on the challenge of the Royal Liverpool golf course at Hoylake. These golfers have spent their whole lives dedicating themselves to the sport. They practice constantly and can play amazing shots from seemingly impossible positions.
And yet, of the 156 competitors, only 30 finished the day under par. In other words, 80% of the field failed to beat the expected ‘par’ score for the course. Even past major winners struggled, none more so than Justin Thomas who hit an 11-over par score of 82.
Thomas is a 30-year old American who, among his other victories, has won the US Open and the US PGA Championship (twice). This season, however, Thomas has struggled, but yesterday’s round was a new low. I watched him on the par-3 9th hole, trying – unsuccessfully – to keep his emotions in check as his tee shot drifted off-line into a green-side bunker.
Thomas will not win The Open this year, but he can take heart from the recent upturn in fortunes of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, his two closest friends, who have both suffered similar slumps in form in recent years.
Once, when I was struggling in a role, Alex Gourlay, who was the CEO of Boots the Chemists at the time, said to me that careers are like a pop song in the charts – they can rise and fall. One week you can be Top 10, then you’re out of the Top 50, but you can back up the following week.
Alex’s words meant a lot to me and helped me to keep perspective during a difficult period. Like Justin Thomas and other golfers, we can’t expect to birdie every hole or win every competition. From time to time, we need to get our head down, grit our teeth and just keep swinging.
Off The Record: That’s Life by Frank Sinatra
Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon
That’s life (that’s life), that’s what all the people say
You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June!