The Power Of Declarations

Johnson Wagner won the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday. Played at the Waialea Country Club in Honolulu, he started two strokes back of the overnight leaders, Jeff Maggert and Matt Every. He was among three players at 10-under and by the luck of the draw ended up in the next to the last group. So all day long he had the possibility of a good vantage point. But interestingly, he didn’t take advantage of it until mid-round:

I think I caught a glimpse somewhere around the turn that the [leaders] had backed up a little bit. And I saw that 11‑under was leading, maybe on the 8th green. I figured maybe if I could make a birdie on 9, I would be tied for the lead. And luckily I birdied 9 and 10 and just quit looking at the leaderboard for a bit. I tried to look at it at the right times but not get too focused on it.

He played with a great deal of confidence on the back nine because he had played it so well the first three days. He was calmed by this because he had almost reconciled himself to not being able to score as well on the front nine. And it was a good thing because after the birdie on 10, he was only able to birdie 15 on the home stretch. His confidence kept him expecting good things even though there was only one.

But the thing that caught my attention was Wagner talking about declaring to his support group, his caddie, his coach, his trainer and his family, that not only was he going to win this year, he was going to win early.

Q.  What made you think you were going to win so early this year?

I worked hard. I’m not saying I worked harder than anybody because guys work incredibly hard out here. But I worked harder this off‑season, me personally than I’ve ever even dreamed of.

I was working out three days a week at home, made three trips to Florida to go see my coach and we just had incredible weather in Charlotte. I love golf, I love playing, I love competing and trying to win tournaments. So I worked really hard this off‑season.

So first of all, he set the conditions for the possibility that he was going to win early. He wasn’t just sitting back in the Men’s Grill in Charlotte, drinking beer and chirping about how he was really gonna get ’em this year!

Q.  Did you tell some people that you were going to win early this season?

Yeah, I did. I told my wife that I was going to win early. I told my parents and my brother and my trainer who is going to be there next week.

But yeah, I was definitely telling people to expect something early this year, which is a nice feeling. Usually I’m kind of–usually my confidence is low. I’m kind of shy in a little shell, and I for some reason just had way more energy and confidence going into this year.

Which is not unusual; most of us are “kind of shy in a little shell.” As indicated by this next question from the media:

Q.  When you were telling all of these people that you were going to win early, there’s a school of thought that you don’t want to give voice to that because then it creates expectations and maybe extra pressure. But what was your thinking in actually articulating what you believed?

It was not like I was calling the Golf Channel and saying, I’m going to win early this year. I was telling the people that were really close to me, my closest friends and family, I was telling them that. It was not like I was shouting it from on top of the mountains.

But yeah, it felt good to say it. Even out there today, your mind wanders so much in this game; you look ahead, and I’m sure I looked over on the 14th hole and saw a lady in a Masters shirt and I was like, oohh, I’d better not look at that, because I didn’t want to think of the Masters. It’s okay to think it and say it. You just have to when you’re out there playing, you just have to focus on what you’re doing and not get ahead of [yourself].

And if you think that, “kind of shy in a little shell,” isn’t the norm, the media guys were still incredulous:

Q.  Did something prompt this? Did someone ask you or did you just walk around telling everybody that?

That question is a look into the very heart of the destructive aspect ego. “Better not shoot my mouth off. Wouldn’t want to look bad.” It’s the ego that keeps us stuck in our orderly little plans rather than outrageously living our dreams.

Now simply making declarations doesn’t make it so. I spent nine years declaring my intention to qualify to play on the Champions Tour to anyone who would listen. And I didn’t let one of my 124 failed, Monday-qualifying or 8 Q-School attempts dissuade me from believing that it was possible. In fact, with each declaration and each serial failure, I was energized and felt that my goal was more inevitable than ever. Serial failure is a great teacher.

Speaking about it makes the dream more real. It’s not like you’re bragging or boasting, you are simply breathing life into your intentions. When you do, all manner of people will come out of the woodwork to help you because that’s what most people are driven to do. It is an amazing process. If instead you worry what others will think of you if you fail, your ego will prove to you, once again, that it is the most powerful thing you need to overcome.

So on the brink of your next big project, just remember the immortal words of 3-time PGA Tour winner, Johnson Wagner:

But yeah, it felt good to say it.

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