“Nice post, Bill. I really like the way you write.” A composite of some of the really nice comments I’ve received from generous readers.

And who doesn’t like to hear such things said about their efforts? The immediate reaction is a warm rush for the acknowledgement, appreciation for the time someone took to reach out, validation for a job well done.

And it’s the same on the golf course. “Nice shot, Bill!”

“Thanks. That one felt pretty good.”

And it’s the same at the office. “I know it wasn’t easy to do in such a short time frame, but you did a really good job of pulling everything together to get this done.”

And in the home. “I don’t know what this place would look like without you. You have a sense of style and taste that just makes everything work. You’re terrific.”

And in the first grade (from the report card). “Plays well with others.”

These affirmations feed us and spur us on. They keep us on the path, “Keep doing what you’re doing.” And they are the glue that holds us all together. They are the touch, the care and the love.

But that’s in a perfect world.

In the real world, people sometimes forget to tell us what they take for granted and assume we already know. In the real world, the gaps between affirmations can sometimes feel like a trek in the desert looking for the next oasis. “It would be nice to hear that you love me more often.”

“Can’t you tell that I love you?”

And so one of the things that we need to be able to do is to be so centered in our certainty about ourselves that our affirmations are effectively self-generated and always present. And when we do receive them from an outside source, while they are just as warming, they are an embellishment on what’s already there, not something that’s missing.

This is really important in golf because of the presence that’s required to play the game the best that you can. In professional golf, while some pairings are quite congenial where there are acknowledgements of good play going back and forth, I’ve played in pairings that were like a funeral procession, so intense was the players’ concentration.

Those are the situations where you need to be able to self-generate your greatness in an uncontrived way. While the world goes by, you have to be able to settle into your spiritual essence where your true perfection resides. Why? Because the ego will always be looking for those pats on the back, those “Atta boys and atta girls,” and it can be desolate if you don’t get them.

What that does is take you out of the moment—or rather your ego smothers your essence and takes you out of the moment—and your attention becomes displaced on whether or not you and your talent are appreciated, not on the shot you have to play. And the longer you have to wait to receive that ego stroke, the more distracting it becomes. It can actually get to the point where you are playing for acceptance rather than playing for yourself.

You have to know in your very being that you are already everything you would hope that people would say about you. You have to be able to wade into the fray without any requirement for inspiration or an ego boost. You have to already know.

I don’t have the applause of galleries anymore, sparse as they were in Monday qualifying and Q-Schools. Nobody cheers for writers as they bend to the task of developing their ideas, crafting the structure and honing the words.

You know that you’ve begun to transcend the ego when you arrive at the golf course or the keyboard or the stove and you are emotionally self-sufficient enough to be able to become completely invested in your task and unselfconsciously produce your best possible result.

So that when the accolades do finally fall on your ears, your reaction won’t be, “Oh, my God!” but rather, “Yes, I know. Thank you.”

That’s not arrogance, it’s the peace that comes with self-knowledge…and acceptance.

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