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Success, Praise, Entitlement, Reflection.

I woke up in San Francisco this morning. After an early morning walk to a gym to stretch out and get my body moving, I found a cozy coffee shop nearby to sort out my thoughts. My RV is squeezed between two compact cars on a pretty severe slant on the side of a busy road. It seems as if that’s all there is in this city, a jumbled mess of parked cars, tight alleyways, parking lots built exclusively for Fisher Price cars, and huge inclines/declines that leave the Chicagoan in me terrified. One freak instance of black ice and the city would be in shambles. Kudos to the bus drivers in this city, you people are the real heroes. Next year I will be leaving the RV somewhere else and renting a car. Yikes.

I’m here for the San Francisco Open, the 4th stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour. I love the big events. Every weekend is different and there’s a certain energy in the air that I truly enjoy. It could be the fact that the players I get to compete with all have their own story about why they’re out here. Some are clearly running from something, some are fulfilling a destiny, and some are just riding the wave until they can’t ride it anymore. Regardless, it’s amazing to have the privilege to get to connect with all these inspiring people week in and week out. I can only hope that I have the same effect on them.

I used to say that my last season on the road was a roller coaster, but if that’s the case then this season is the Raging Bull on steroids. Starting the season with my best finish ever and getting fan-voted onto the feature card at the next event, only to break my metatarsal in a freak accident and completely blow my momentum for 6 weeks. During those six weeks I received a lot of praise for my past performance as well as for apparently carrying myself well on camera as I limped around the Waco course trying to stay afloat. All the kind messages for everything I was doing felt really nice to read. It made me feel valued and reassured that once I heal up I’d be right back to where I was before the injury. Once I did heal I went to GBO and had the luckiest week of my life, so once again I received a ridiculous amount of praise. After I aced twice and the video of the first ace went viral it seemed like everywhere I went that week I was signing discs, taking pictures, giving hugs, and having to accept an unbelievable amount of compliments. I was yet again on Cloud 9.

This year has been the epitome of what I’ve always wanted, love, respect, and validation for my hard work. With that said, I experienced a strange mental battle last week that seemed to stem from all that attention grabbing events that have happened to me recently. I played an unsanctioned event back in Illinois called King of the Canyons, a cool survival format tournament on one of the courses I call home. Being the returning champion I felt confident in my skill set on the course and was ready to take a stab at winning again with a bigger field and much bigger payout. The battle began in round 2 and ended quickly afterwards.

I breezed through round 1 and made it to the next round (top half of the field moves on each round, scores reset). The second round of the tournament decides whether or not you make the cash line and have a shot at winning the event in day 2. I started the round strong and felt very confident in my abilities. As the round progressed and a couple mistakes began to present themselves, I felt myself dissociating from those mistakes and speaking in a way that tried to present a different person to the world around me, one who is perfect and can’t make a mistake unless bad fortune happened to fall upon me. What a disgusting, pompous character I created that round. Is that really who I want to present myself as to the world? The victim mindset and negative self talk got worse and worse throughout the round and because of that the mistakes kept piling on top of each other. “Are you kidding me? How many times are you gonna hit the band?” “Of course, another band hit, I’m getting completely screwed. That was such a good putt.” “Really? You’re not gonna hit a single tree and fly all the way down here? Wow.” “Can I just get a good lie one time please?”

I cringe reading these because I know how many comments I make about never speaking this way and how self fulfilling prophesies force you into a lose-lose scenario. I would confidently call myself one of the better mental game teachers on tour because of how much I study this crap. Each time I said something like that during the round I felt instant guilt for that exact reason, which led to more distraction and emotional involvement. With how unpleasant those quotes are to reflect on, the worst one was this: “Wow, there it goes. It’s over.” I said this with 3 holes left. I had kicked off a tree into the OB creek after an incompetent, scared tee shot. Little did I know if I had gotten up and down from the creek, or birdied any of the remaining holes I would have made the cut for the next round. I gave up and checked out, all in a pathetic attempt to protect a stupid character I had created in my head that nobody else saw or cared about. I was ashamed of myself, not for shooting poorly, but for how I carried myself, and for giving up before the round was over. I didn’t even show up to watch the final round and cheer my friends on. It was shameful to say the least. The incredible things that have happened to me this year naturally led to a lot of amazing praise, which I think subconsciously led me to begin acting in a way that tried to protect and maintain that status without really stopping to reflect about it. I think that’s why I used to enjoy being an underdog; nothing I did mattered until I did something to impress people. Once I got to a point where I started to become more known by the community and had a platform to share my love for this game, I grew afraid of letting people down and the moment things didn’t go my way I was behaving in a way that displaced the blame of unfavorable outcomes on bad fortune. Gross.

The universe does not make my mistakes. I do. And really, if I never failed or made mistakes, the successes would not feel satisfying whatsoever. It’s condescending in the fact that the people I admire most are the most persistent ones, the ones who completely disregard the world around them and push hard to manifest their visions and dreams. With a new platform to be able to get closer and closer to what I want out of life, I need to remain persistent, reflective and grateful each day that I wake up and step onto the course. Being imperfect is a beautiful thing.

I tee off today at 12:40 for Round 1 of the SFO. Feeling clear headed and honest today.

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