As some of you know, I love the game of golf. Perhaps it is because being outside for 4+ hours is such a pleasant departure from the offices and conference rooms I inhabit for the lion’s share of my week. Perhaps it is because it is a gentle game – there is no opponent you play against trying to derail you (unlike tennis or other sports). Or perhaps it’s because golf is such a great metaphor for life. Yesterday unheralded Asian, YE Yang, gave the great Tiger Woods his first defeat in a major (in the context of Tiger leading the tournament). Tiger was 14 of 14 prior to yesterday, shattering records at unprecedented levels and creating “fear” in those who challenged him. So what was different about YE Yang? What did he have that so many others did not?
I have always argued that behaviors were the window to emotions. It really is the clue we have to “see” inside someone. What was quite obvious to me was that YE Yang was not troubled at all by being in the presense of the Tiger, in the grand stage of a major championship. There is no better example of this than to look at what he did on the last hole. Leading by one, he hit a very aggressive shot when there really was not a need. But his coach said afterward that he had played that same shot several times in practice rounds and he just believed in himself. His non verbals at no point indicated he was afraid. Granted, Tiger had his worst round of the week and though he has won many times not playing his best, a mark of his greatness, he finally met someone whose EQ was clearly very high.
What happened yesterday was a great lesson for both sports and for life. It proves, yet again, that those of us who can manage our emotions, especially in the heat of battle, are the going to succeed exponentially more than those who cannot. From a Darwinistic perspective, brute strength at one point is what led to success. If you were simply bigger and stronger, you would be more likely to succeed. Then it was intellectual intelligence. And in this century of a global workforce where we interact with not just more people, but more people with diverse backgrounds, our ability to navigate through the complexity of human behavior is paramount. YE Yang showed us yesterday that anyone is capable of this, and anyone is capable of greatness. You still need your skills, competencies, knowledge, IQ, and abilities … but please do not forget about your emotions.