Rewards Along the Way – or all at the End? The Golf Ball Hunter.
Gail and I live on a golf course; more specifically, the twelfth fairway at Fort Myers Country Club. We have a screened in porch as well as an open deck off the eastern facing rear of the house overlooking the fairway. The open deck is our favorite spot. There are two chairs situated there on either side of a glass table that does an admirable job keeping cocktails and appetizers or a hot cup of morning coffee within easy reach. We often share the one ottoman for resting our feet. Oh sure, we have some other chairs there for guests. But the two main chairs are for us.
This is our spot.
In the evening we sit and discuss our day as the last of the golfers and the first of the dog walkers amble on by. The golfer anxious to get in one more hole, the dog walker in more of a leisurely stroll. The dog walkers always wave. The golfers rarely do. It’s like the golfers are afraid we will recognize them if any personal contact is made, and they prefer the anonymity of distance. No known witnesses to their bad shots.
From this spot we can also see the sun rise in the morning, often through a wispy mist than hangs suspended a few feet above the grass but no more than five of ten feet high. This is my favorite time. I can imagine a herd of wild animals like Bison emerging though the mist or a lone lion hunting his prey and I am always disappointed when the early golfer interrupts from the mist of my mind into my realty, with his decidedly out of place look, his bag of golf clubs as weapons, and his goofy looking practice stance and swing. And then he totally blows it with a loud curse as if to remind me that this is Fort Myers, not the prairies of my imagination, as the ball sputters out of control 30 yards in front of him and oh yes, now I CAN hear route 41 in the distance.
In front of him is my 18 acre back yard. This is my back yard that is watered, trimmed, mowed, and fertilized by someone else. Instead of boats going by in back of our former riverside house, I now watch golf carts, golf balls, and the occasional jogger. This is a public course, so there is not a lot of rough. The course is very open. If my eyes were good enough I would be able to see to the other side of the course. Every morning, before daybreak, Gail and I can lay in bed and listen to the lawn mowers mow by the light or their headlights. I have never seen them mow by day.
If I start out early enough on my “around the course” morning walk; I can still catch them finishing up on a few greens. The greens keepers know me by now. A tip of the hat. A nod. I’m the white haired tall guy with a walking stick perusing the perimeter of the course. I like to get out very early, before the golfers so I don’t have to just walk in the “out of bounds” areas at the perimter. You see, I have discovered something. I don’t like to walk as much as I like the challenge of finding those wayward missiles. Oh sure I love to be outside in the mist, the morning sun, and see the freshly mowed greens for the first time. I love the peace, the thinking time, and I like to come upon the mallards, the Muscovy ducks, and the occasional four legged wildlife. But the thing that keeps me getting up and going is that I am certain, along the way, to find a reward. I never know where, or how many, and I have only been “skunked” once since I have lived here.
Of course I am talking about golf balls. Today I found only one; yesterday seven. My highest for a day is ten. I carry them back to my castle on the green and place them on a large stainless steel pot, each day surveying the stash, watching it slowly grow up the sides of the pot. I am not a golfer. I used to be thirty years ago, but the game frustrated me too much; too counter intuitive for a logical guy like me. Then Nicole was born and I preferred the challenge of child rearing to swing follow through and keeping my head down.
If I am not a golfer what good are the balls?
Good question. Score? Is this how I am keeping score on my walks? Perhaps. A symbol of the walk? A reward? I don’t think it matters.
I joked a month ago that if I placed golf balls strategically along the sidewalks of McGregor Boulevard there would be five times as many joggers every morning than there are now. And they would be smiling as they anticipated their next prize. (I have never, ever, seen a jogger smile).
If someone told me that every time I walked around the course they would give me five golf balls it would most certainly not be the same. It is the challenge of the hunt. For success I must count to a certain degree upon my ability. Strategy comes into play, some skill, and some experience.
In my experience competitive people like me, and perhaps you, need to measure their progress. We can do this with points, money, compliments and “attaboys”, but the lesson from the golf ball walker is this: “Rewards are best given during the challenge, not just the end.”
For most of my home owner life I loved to mow my own lawn. But when I mowed, it was a in very specific way. I would go back and forth in even parallel lines. At every turn I could see the results of my work. Beautiful meticulous lines in the grass, slowly progressing to the finish; if I had to mow and not see the results until it was done, the task would be boring and, well, a job and not fun. But my method was unconsciously designed to reward me at every turn.
Remember to reward yourself in steps and along your journey. Make the reward the trip itself, and don’t count on the destination as your only prize.