What I Learned in Life from Dogs and Golf

I believe that if I ever write a book or autobiography, this would be the title. This is not meant to devalue primary education or even an expensive college degree or the important parental lessons. Instead, I see it simply as a way to easily nail down the most important lessons to two very sensitive energetic barometers that also happen to be my passion – dogs and golf.

Everything in life is ENERGY and everything about dogs and golf is clearly energy too. This is not a new age counter culture hippy proclamation, this is physics. But don’t take my word. You can study Einstein yourself; that is not the point of this blog. Actions are simply that and so is matter. They exist and don’t exist but really have little value or importance without an energetic guide. Anyone can teach or learn facts. There is no real mystery there.

If you really want to know about the importance of energy, pick up a book from Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, or Tiger Woods about how to play the game of golf. You have a detailed manuscript on everything you need to know to master the game from the best that ever played it! Spend however much time you think is necessary to master the skills. Now go hit the course and do exactly what they say and what you learned. Well, anyone that has ever attempted to play golf or get somewhat serious about getting that little white ball in that little white hole can tell you, without a doubt, that there is quite a bit more to mastering golf than the physical skills needed to play the game. The beauty is that this fact is also exactly when the actual valuable lessons of the game just begin.

Same applies to man’s best friend. Anyone that has ever owned a dog can tell you that there really is no magical formula that makes these creatures operate and behave. You simply have to master a simple set of rules and repeat them until the outcome is programmed. Just like golf. But also just like golf, the simple skills and techniques only get you so far, and if the correct energy is not applied, those techniques have absolutely no value.

The game of life is no different. It is simply a set of simple choices and decisions and there are countless manuscripts available with everything you need to know to master it. So why then do so many people struggle?  Well, the answer is the same answer as why do so many people have uncontrollable dogs and suck at golf. Yes, the basics and skills are essential, but ultimately, the really good stuff happens when you learn about energy, the human mind, controlling fear and the incredible power of expectation and belief.

Our bodies have an absolutely amazing ability to meet the predetermined expectations that the mind creates.  Regardless of how many repetitions I complete at the driving range, or what new state of the art technology I have in my bad, when I step on the golf course, the only truly valuable weapon I have (or sometimes shackle) is my brain and the fear and energy it creates. The reason that golf is so challenging, rewarding, and also valuable is that it is a microcosm of life. Most people have heard of the “golf gods”. They are a mysterious karma or energy that governs the game. Those that have never played may believe that the golf gods are a fantasy that humans have created to justify why we get random bad breaks or make inexplicably terrible swings. Those that have played the game and especially those that have played the game at a high level know this force very differently. Just ask any pro why they would disqualify themselves from a tournament costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars due to a rules infraction that no one could have possibly known about but the player. On the other hand, on those fleeting days, when mind, body, energy, and the golf gods are working together in harmony, not even the worse swing you can imagine will send the ball off line.  Those in sports call it “being in the zone”. Michael Murphy has written a few very good books on this phenomenon including his most famous book Golf in the Kingdom. For me, golf is not a game, it is not a pass time, and it is not a way to exercise and get fresh air. Yes, it is all of those things, but it is actually much more. Golf is life. Golf is the struggle between fear and bravery and also between expectation of success and failure. Mastering these lessons in golf has a direct translation to life and vise versa. Just ask Tiger Woods.

Anyone that knows me even casually knows that in addition to golf, my other passion is dogs. Like golf, nothing in life has been more challenging or rewarding than my relationships with a canine. I have already established that I believe that energy more than anything else is responsible for a desired outcome. Dogs, like people have brains and those brains seem to help them as much as they hinder them. Like in golf, most of the readily available dog training instruction seems to primarily focus on the techniques used to program the dog to act the way you want. The reason that these messages fall on deaf ears so often with dogs is because the energy and expectation that is delivered is so, so much more important than the actual message and technique. Dogs are energy! Connecting with a dog in an unspoken energetic manner is so crucial! Dogs are our energetic barometer and they are so sensitive to vibes and emotion.  I know for a fact that the exact moment when a dog’s behavior actually changes, is the exact moment that my expectation for that change occurs. I am also 100% convinced that my expectation is what changes the behavior and not the other way around.

Here is an example. When I can, I like to do some volunteer work at a local animal shelter. Unlike with my own pets, there I get to approach a dog without predetermined expectations of behavior. Or more accurately put, without predetermined expectation of poor behavior. At the shelter, there are a few regular volunteers and staffers that like to “warn” the more casual walkers about what the dogs are capable of on a walk. Well, all I can tell you for certain, is that a dog walk that is preceded by a warning of this type usually spells trouble. On the other hand, I cannot tell you how many times I have checked a dog out, walked it for 20-30 minutes with absolutely no incident, only to be met at the shelter by a group of people that were simply dumbfounded about how I was able to get that dog to walk on a leach that well.

One particular example was with a dog that had not been able to leave its cage for months due to fear and shelter anxiety. I naively walked into the shelter after a few months off, saw the frightened dog and thought, wow, she looks like she could use a walk! I got the leash on her and wisely took the back exit and we had the nicest, happiest walk imaginable. Upon returning, much to my dismay, I was met with a hero’s welcome by staff that had been really distraught about this poor girl who’s behavior immediately retreated to fear. How in the world did I convince her to get out and walk for the first time in months? Well, I didn’t convince her to walk, I expected her to walk! And I did not feel sorry for her, I felt lucky to have the opportunity to share a walk with her. She felt the energy too! I also had a pretty nice couple of walks with “Sarge” the Doberman before I was warned of danger and all of the stiches he gave the last volunteer that tried walking him. That incident led to his quick demise and eventual untimely death. I believe firmly that the expectation of the shelter workers killed Sarge, not his behavior.

Fear is the biggest obstacle that a person has to tackle in life. Rather it is your first day of kindergarten, a pit bull, a t-shot over water, or you last moments on Earth; we are in a constant battle to stay on top of this fine line. This may sound silly to some, but for me, dogs and golf are the tools that I am using to learn to face those challenges every single day. I am sure others have their own valid tools and still others probably think I am full of it.

Some seem to believe that the answer to life’s challenges is to tremble in fear of God. I simply refuse. The lessons I have learned in life from dogs and golf tell me that life does not work very well at all operating from that place.

For me, dogs and golf are my religion! And it is through my relationship with dogs and golf that I am learning that the power to overcome all of the mysteries, obstacles, and fears in life are already inside of me!  The energy required to navigate a difficult eighteen holes or train a “vicious” dog to behave is the exact same energy required to navigate life. Anyone that has seen me play golf or watched me wrestling with one of my rescue dogs knows that not all days come with the same level of success as others; same as life. Regardless, I have already learned the most valuable lesson. The struggle over energy is without a doubt the key. The sooner society can learn how to transform their own energy from fear into expectation, the closer we will be to seeing so many of the World’s problems simply vanish.

Someday I WILL play the perfect round of golf. I WILL also train the perfect canine companion. And likewise, someday, I WILL DIE WITHOUT FEAR. These may seem like random unrelated goals, but make no mistake about it; they are not unrelated to me!