Training Tiger Woods–Ben’s Introduction

After the U.S. Open, you could just tell that Tiger wasn't likely to make the cut at any of the other Majors either. It's not that he doesn't have the physical game anymore--on any given shot he's still capable of performing at the level of the best in the world. His physical injuries haven't depleted him so much, and golf has not become so totally the playground of the young and powerful that Woods, now 39 and past his physical peak, can no longer compete.

But by the Open, back in June, I'd been working with Jerry long enough to see pretty clearly when a top athlete is or isn't in flow. And let me tell you, just seeing highlights from the Open, it was totally clear that Tiger's energy is totally off, and without a radically different approach to how he approaches the game, it isn't going to get back on. He's rebuilt his swing again and again over the course of his career, a process he's continuing now, but the swing isn't the problem. Indeed, that constant upheaval is one of the clear symptoms of the actual problem. He's off energetically. Until he starts to focus on the problem as an energy problem rather than a physical problem, he won't return to anything like the form that made him so utterly dominant.

Now, I know what Jerry's work with me has done in my life--in rough summary, it's changed everything, and is still changing everything, and my life is vastly better than it was, and I have every reason to believe it will continue to get better. That led me to wonder: what would happen if Jerry could work with Tiger?

I came back from my road trip in early July and I gave Jerry an assignment. "Tiger Woods is going to miss the cut in the British and the PGA and when he does he'll be done for the year. If at that point he isn't utterly in crisis, well, he should be. And I know you could help him. As an exercise, I want you to write a letter to Tiger introducing yourself, offering your services, and telling him you could help him."

Jerry liked the idea. He drafted the letter. Then We tried to imagine what to do next. We could think of some places to send the letter (Tiger's agent seemed the most likely bet) but the likelihood of it getting to Tiger, much less that Tiger would understand that he was holding in his hand the Golden Ticket, seemed pretty small.

The project got us asking some interesting questions, though. Elite athletes clearly have a profound intuitive understanding of energy flow. But all else being equal, do they excel by dint of being genetic outliers, or do they instead meet a potential that's latent in all of us but rarely touched in our lives? We didn't know, and don't know still. But we recognized that most people have vast amounts of unmet potential.

We began to conceptualize a training program that would allow people to develop their potential. And our initial subjects would be--will be--ourselves.

Jerry's been developing techniques over the past 20 years that, in briefest summary, teach what is commonly referred to as flow. As a student of these techniques, I can attest that they have the potential to foster major change in one's life. What we're doing here, though, is a bit more specific. We're aiming to use these techniques in spheres of athletic endeavor in which neither of is an expert, hoping to create something of feedback loop in which we experiment and essentially teach each other.

There's one last thing I should say, and this is very important: We're working in the field of exercise and athletics not to make it the dominant focus of our lives--we're both over 40, and there's no professional sports career out there for either of us. We're working in athletics because it narrows our focus and allows us to play without over-complicating things. Also, athletics allows measurement of improvement that a broader view of life might not. Being able to say, "My life is vastly better," while deeply valuable, is also purely subjective. But you can easily notice that you bench press twice what you used to, or that your average golf score has dropped seven strokes. All of that is useful. But what we're really training to improve is the totality of our lives, and ultimately, by sharing these techniques, the lives of others.

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