Philosophy for the Ages

Surely the great Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) wasn’t thinking about golf when he made this famous quote, but then again, you never know. This quote is apt for today’s golfers and teaching professionals. Many people believe that golf is simply a metaphor for life, and this quote does nothing to dispel that notion.

“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves…” Any golf instructor with any sort of longevity knows the truth to this statement. We start out with knowledge gleaned from a WGTF certification course, competent to teach most levels of players. Yet, there is still much to learn from being on the lesson tee. We learn that what may work for one student may not work for the next student with the very same problem. We learn the difference of what works in theory vs. what works in practice. We learn how to communicate better. All of these things, and more, we learn by teaching others.

“…by relating that we observe…” This goes to the word empathy. If we have no empathy for our students, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to relate to them. And, by relating, we are interested in observing their actions. And, by observing, we are taking an interest in them, which means we care. It is at this point that we can give the best of ourselves to our students.

“…by affirming that we examine…” In other words, never be satisfied with the status quo. We can be confident in our own work and core beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we should never challenge them. Something might be working just fi ne, but maybe there is even a better way of doing things. While another great saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fi x it” might be applicable in many cases, to blindly follow it will stunt our growth and potential.

“…by showing that we look…” Suppose we show a student the correct way to get to the top of the backswing, but we, unbeknownst to us, have a severe reverse pivot. Our student will then get the wrong impression of what the correct top of thebackswing position is, no matter what we say. It is incumbent for us to observe our own actions before demonstrating them to others. This not only goes for our instruction proper, but also in the way that we carry ourselves.

“…by writing that we think.” Have you ever written a golf instruction article for your local newspaper, or even written a book? If you have, you will know the extreme thought process that goes into these endeavors. Writing is never easy, even for those who are gifted at it. Each and every word is important in its own right, and the changing of just one word, even as insignificantly changing the word “to” to “at” in a sentence, can completely alter the entire meaning of what the author was trying to convey.

Amiel was trying to get across the concept that we should never be complacent in our work and in our lives, and to give to others the best of ourselves. Seems like a recipe for being a successful golf teaching professional, doesn’t it?

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