Benchmarking For Success

This past week, Scottie Sheffler became the first professional golfer in 50 years to defend his title at the Fifth Major (that’s right!), The Players here in Ponte Vedra Beach. He was battling serious neck pain, but still managed to recover from as many as nine strokes off the lead. His score of 64 on Sunday tied for the best final-round effort in Players’ history.

Wyndham Clark, who had jumped out to a big lead on Friday, had the field catch up with him a bit on Saturday. He finally yielded to Sheffler as his Sunday birdie attempt on 18 lipped out in excruciating fashion. A make would have forced a playoff. 

One of the announcers made a comment that stuck with me, it was along the lines of how Clark measures his success as a golfer against Sheffler. Now, I am fiercely competitive, so I completely understand measuring yourself against the best in the world. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course, to become the best you have to beat the best, right? 

Allow me to offer another perspective on your path to becoming the best at what you do:

  1. To be the best – surround yourself with the best. If I want to be a better golfer, I’m going to golf with people who are better than me. If I want to excel in sales or leadership, I will seek mentors and spend time with those who have walked successfully in those shoes ahead of me. When I am joining a company or building a company, I want to make decisions based mainly on the people, their principles, and whether there is alignment in mission and purpose, and DRIVE to succeed.
  2. To be the best – commit to putting in the work when no one is watching.  How you show up to start your day, how you practice during the week for the big game, how you prepare for the meeting, how you research the market, and how you do the little things that get you ready for showtime is what matters the most.
  3. To be the best – understand challenges will come, and your response will separate you from average and good. Bad things happen. Have the emotion, feel the emotion.  And, gather meaning from it and move forward. Life is too short for the alternatives.
  4. To be the best – measure your success first and foremost against yourself, yesterday. This is where I would offer a different benchmarking approach than the one mentioned in our golfing example. I cannot control how good someone else is. I cannot control their skill level. I can control what I do, and if I am getting better. So, whether in sales, leadership, or sports, I am always aware of my competitors. My success, however, is measured in terms of my growth and development over where I was, or where my team or company was yesterday. If we get a little better each day… watch out world! If I am committed to minor improvement over time, the law of compounding will help me make great strides and the wins will stack.

Comparisons in sports are necessary of course. Even in sales roles, we tend to look outside of ourselves to validate performance. It’s OK as long as it’s not taken too far. Be careful here. Comparisons can also become a trap, and three negative things could end up happening. One possibility, we never get there and are consistently anxious about what someone else is doing. We want the prize, we want the trophy.  BUT, we spend too much time worried about what someone else is doing. Even if we are improving, getting better, supporting our families well, and experiencing the finer things in life, there is a void.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have seen this often, don’t let comparisons to others rob you of joy

Another possibility is that you get the prize and stall out when you are actually capable of so much more!  Now I won the trophy, got the top sales award, and got the leadership job. Do I stop getting better because now I am the best? What is the real goal here? Don’t let comparisons to others rob you of meeting your full potential.

And finally, you become so obsessed with the prize that you make sacrifices that are contrary to your principles. You miss way too much family time, your faith life suffers, you compromise your principle of integrity to get the sale or the win, or you become an unrecognizable version of who you really are.  Remember everyone is different and everyone’s path is different. Comparisons can be straight garbage too especially with social media posts, as my pastor Joby Martin says, “You’re comparing your reality to their highlight reel.”  Don’t let comparisons to others alter your resolve to your principles.

Back to the benchmark question: Am I better today than I was yesterday?

Now, Wyndham Clark is already one of the best in the world.  He is better today than he was yesterday.  He won his first PGA Tour title in May 2023 at the Wells Fargo Championship, won his first Major at the US Open in 2023, and set a course record 60 on his way to winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier in 2024. My guess is there are many more to follow if he keeps getting just a little better each day compared to yesterday.

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