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Love and the Secret to Golf by Dave LaRue

While I’ve taken several months off from writing my articles, I never stopped writing in my journals, so my thinking and writing have still been very active.

One of the main reasons I’ve been taking a breather is that I’ve been writing since 2012—going on 11 years!—and I’ve written on a lot of different topics:

  • My stories—and the stories behind my stories
  • Leadership
  • Team building
  • Emotional hurdles like ego, jealousy, and resentment,
  • Learning and unlearning,
  • Intentions and goals…

…just to name a few. You can see them at our and websites if you’d like.

Sometimes during this hiatus, I’ve wondered about topics I hadn’t covered yet. One emotion I really haven’t spent a lot of time writing about is the subject of love. Although, only in a manner of speaking, because love has factored into basically everything I’ve written about.

In fact, love has probably been the subject or important theme of more books, articles, workshops, speeches, lectures, plays, movies, and interpretive dances than anything else. And most of them by people with more eloquence—even more experience—than me. But I’m not trying to win a publishing award. The purpose for me to write about love isn’t to define it, analyze its origins, or make observations about its invisible nature that no one else has. My purpose is to reflect on my experiences to pass some clarity and inspiration on to the people I care about.

Through my 25+ years of coaching, and the many lives I’ve been honored to know and make a difference in, I’ve spent many hours watching, listening, thinking, talking, and coaching, about love. Truly the most important learning I’ve had has been on the topic of love. Because every day for me starts and ends with my loving thoughts and feelings and thinking about how magical an ingredient it is for creating amazing meaning and joy in all our life journeys.

Wanting to come back and write about love has a lot to do with my big toe. Seriously.

What has inspired me to write about love is a recent experience I’ve had in my summer playtime. I’ve been golfing a lot. I’ve been enjoying playing a great deal because I’m now not having to play in pain with my right foot, specifically my right big toe. This is thanks to Dr. Ian Goldbaum, from Delray Beach, FL, a phenomenal podiatrist. And it’s also thanks to taking positive action to have an artificial big-toe-joint surgery. This in and of itself has led to a couple of key lessons. One is seeing the benefit of having the courage to go through pain to get to a better place. We all know that no one makes you take care of yourself. I’m here to tell you it’s worth it. Two, the opportunity change brings for unlearning. I had to go through an unlearning process of for
getting my old golf swing (which favored my painful right foot) to relearn a swing… which ultimately set me up for an even better swing! Like I love to say, one action will lead to another which leads to another… Although keep in mind this works for both positive and negative!

But what these actions have led to is that my last 5 rounds of golf have been in the mid-seventies, which, I have to say, is really good golf. Will it last? I hope so!

I will say I’ve never done it before. So it really made me stop and think about my turnaround. Yes, the big toe has made a big difference, but it has also taken me some time to get used to it. But what else is true, and more subtle has been a definite mental shift. I just couldn’t put my finger on what the shift was. I couldn’t sort it out.

Last week I was playing with my good buddies. For some reason, I wasn’t even thinking about my swing. I was just playing. But, when I did have a bad shot, I found myself saying, “well, that wasn’t good, but I still love myself.” It’s not how I usually think and talk. I laughed when I said it. And it felt humorous to say. But it also felt exactly right. Completely authentic and correct.

For years I have believed and said and coached that in order to have great loving relationships in your life, you first have to love yourself. I thought I knew what I meant. But to hear myself saying it aloud and in front of people, it made it real. Making it real in the world and saying it to others gave myself full permission to let go of whatever I was reserving of a deep-down belief from the past—well past its usefulness but hanging on regardless—that loving oneself was wrong, redundant, or embarrassing.

You may be reading this story feeling embarrassed by proxy at the very notion that you would ever think these thoughts, much less say them aloud. My buddies certainly began to think it was annoying on the course that day. But I do love myself. And by reminding myself of that when I hit a bad shot just brings things into perspective. Being upset, swearing, or throwing a club, those actions link to other actions that will lead to bad results. In the past, you may have tapped into your determination by “taking it personally,” telling yourself that you will lose a piece of yourself to lose, but those stakes will also make you choke. Great performance doesn’t come from staking your sense of worth on every shot. You would never risk losing it.

It's only when you play with no concern for the result—that is, with no concern over what it means about you—that you can really play the game. Until you give that up, you’re not really playing the game at all. You’re just going through the motions of the game as an exercise in proving yourself.

It’s old wisdom that everyone needs love and will work to get it. The application of this wisdom was enshrined in old parenting conventions that said that kids grow up more “driven” when they have to earn love. Whatever’s true or not true—or right or wrong—in that doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am not a child. It’s a warm, settled, stable feeling. Peace.

As I learn to feel centered in a love that isn’t volatile or based on the boon of fate or the moods of others, I am driven less and less by “earning” the love of others and more and more by what I actually want to do and who I truly want to be. It means I can love others freely, generously, with no strings. I can receive love in the same spirit. I can enjoy it, hold it, nurture it, and give it back enriched.

By loving myself and truly realizing I don’t need to be or do anything in particular to feel love, I am free. I don’t need to up the stakes and harbor wishes of massive achievement to make it worthwhile. Those stakes are just one way of saying “other people will love me if I have/do that.” I don’t need to consider that. I’m just enjoying the experience of companionship and competition with my fellow golfers and with myself.

By shifting my thinking and letting go of my golf ego, I now can say I’m the senior club champ at one of my favorite golf clubs, the Port Carling Golf Club. A gross 76—not bad under the heat of competition! Thanks to all my golf buddies for hanging out with me and allowing me to be me. And for anyone reading this, I hope you know exactly what I mean.




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