Life imitates success in the business world often through how we deal with personal challenges. Rory McILroy demonstrated the grace of humility this weekend while still balancing what will also be known as one of the greatest performances in US Open Golf history. Despite breaking records in the double digits, when asked to reflect on lessons that prepared him, he spoke distinctly of what will no doubt be one of the greatest collapses in modern golf history.
Think back.. May of this year, 2011. You're 22, and in a country not of your birth. Your leading what can only be called the most signficant tournament in your short career by four strokes. The Masters, Augusta Georgia, every golfer's dream to win. As you make the turn at 10, you are still in the lead by one stroke and then it happens. A collapse so devastating, you end up in a tie for 15th. You end up shooting an 80... a score so high it is unexplainable except that you Choked. Ouch. The tournament was your's to lose.. and you lost it big. How would you handle it:
Not only did Rory talk to reporters for 10 minutes.. he was respectful, honest and pragmantic.. My favorite quote.. came later the next day or so... and was somewhat telling...
"I think it's a Sunday at a major, what it can do. This is my first experience at it, and hopefully the next time I'm in this position, I'll be able to handle it a little better. I didn't handle it particularly well today, obviously, but it was a character-building day. Put it that way. I'll come out stronger for it." - Rory McIlory - May 2011
Now.. it is several months later. You're faced with the same task. You're up 9 strokes coming into the last day of the next major tournament. Think of the pressure you would face. You choke now, and your labeled for life. Think of Greg Norman in the history of the Masters. Every golfer knows this and the presure that comes with this moment. But this time is different.. this time, not only do you handle it, but you thrive. Winning at a record margin. You have mastered the field. How would you respond when ask what made the difference this June. Would you point to the hard work you put in, to how you have honed your putting in ways you hadn't before, or maybe point out that the collapse in May was fluke. Not Rory.. no.. just honest and direct...
"Augusta was a very valuable experience for me. I knew what I needed to do today to win and at Augusta I learn a few things about myself and my game. I put a few different things into practice and it paid off." - Roy McIlory - June 2011 - US Open Champion
It is rare, to have failure and success happen so soon, so similiar and yet so visible to the world. It is even more rare to find a leader who can face his failure in a public and humble way. This Sunday we were blessed to see an example of this that reminds us that our best growth comes through failures. Our best learning and much of our success is due to a honed skill of facing our less than graceful moments. Reflection is an action!
Here's toasting a pint to Rory's great example of leadership!