A man's grip on his club is just like a man's grip on his world.
This weekend I watched one of my favorite movies, The Legend of Bagger Vance. It's a cool flick, and has more to say about success and adversity than a Tony Robbins seminar. Now, if you're an IRS auditor, you probably won't relate. But as a creative dude, I totally can.
Set in Savannah, Georgia just after World War I, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) is a local golf hero. Junuh returns home from the war carrying some serious baggage. His game suffers, his clubs collect dust and he discovers the bottle. Smack in the middle of the Depression, his ex-girlfriend hosts a four-round, two-day golf tournament in Savannah to save her father's struggling golf course and recover the family fortune. She invites Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen to play an exhibition-style match in Savannah and also invites the struggling Junuh, the former hometown hero, to drum up local support.
Junuh agrees to the tournament, but first has to wrestle with his own personal demons and get his game back. Bagger Vance (Will Smith) approaches Junuh one night and informs him that he'll be his caddy. As the two begin to work together, Vance does more work on his mind than his golf swing. Over the course of the tournament, Junuh makes an epic comeback and discovers more about himself than he does golf. The clip below is his turning point in the movie, the moment he realizes that "the hands are wiser than the head ever gonna be."
Critics hated the movie. Critics hate everything, that's why they're critics. I loved it. You see a man with all the potential in the world who refuses to let go of his demons, his shame, his ego and his pride. And the tighter he holds on, the worse he plays. Only when he finally decides to let go and get out of his own way does he start to shine. I think we're all that way.
I've seen this in my own life and career. I've had my dark days. Seen my share of adversity. Couldn't see past my own faults. But gripping life tighter only makes it worse. How many of us have been so obsessed with a deer we overhunt a stand to the point it's useless? Ever get so frustrated in a practice session that you shot arrows until you're exhausted? Did your group get tighter? Nope. Ever swing for the fence and whiff? Overtrain and get injured? We all do it.
I experience this a lot when it comes to new painting ideas. If I take to the woods with the intention of finding an idea to paint, it never happens. You just can't force inspiration. But if I relax, slow down and enjoy the hunt, an idea will always come. I'll find it. But never on my own terms. Just like every great hunting story, it always happens when you least expect it.
This week I'm starting a large commissioned painting for a new client. A golden retriever flushing a pheasant. And like every painting I've ever painted, I'll hit some snags, have some doubts and second guess some of my choices on composition and color. It may be tough to focus with a newborn at home and clients filling my inbox. But I've made a promise to trust my gut, focus on the painting in front of me and loosen my grip on the paintbrush.
Don't get me wrong, if you're an accountant, the books won't balance themselves. This blog post probably isn't for you. And if you operate a jackhammer, definitely don't loosen your grip. But if you make a living with a golf club or a guitar, a baseball or a brush, you've seen this in action. The great ones always make it look easy.
One final note. I follow The Rock on Instagram, and you should too. Watch his take on this by clicking here.