abk Golf: The Impossible Goal

“Impossible is Nothing.”-Adidas

Before we get started this week, I want you to forget about golf. Now, unless your passion/livelihood/goal is golf-related also, take a second and replace golf with whatever it is that you are passionate about or want to get better at. Now, good, we are all on the same page. Let’s continue on.

Since the last time we spoke about golf, a lot has happened. I shot my first even par 72, where on the home stretch, I was so nervous I couldn’t feel my arms. The next night, I shot my first 2 under par 70, and I wasn’t nervous at all. (They said, like so many things in life, that you just have to do it once.) Last night, I shot 72 again. I’ve lowered my official USGA handicap to 0.6, which statistically puts me in the top 2.5% of golfers nationwide. My average score is down to 76.05 (most proud of this), and I played my 300th day of golf in the last 13.5 months on Friday night.

300 days of practice. 5-6 hours per day. 1500-1800 hours of grinding so far. In 25 mph wind. Or 105 degree heat. With sore hands. Sore feet. Sore brain.

But I am nowhere near my goal. Not even close. I’m just laying the foundation. Just getting started. Realistically, if my body holds up and I have a few bucks left, I am two years away. Maybe more like four. Let me repeat that. I have gotten to the 98th percentile of golfers, and I’ve got 2-4 more years of grinding. But that’s okay. It’s the daily process I am in love with, not the goal. My goal is impossible anyways. Says the world.

Dude, what IS the goal? Well, it’s pretty out there, but let’s first recap where 13.5 calendar months and 300 days dedicated to golf (anything) can take you.

Massive growth and progress is the easy answer. Luckily, I am blessed with athleticism and am a quick learner, because it turns out I didn’t know jack shit about golf. But instead of seeing that as a barrier, I just put my head down, asked a bunch of silly questions, took my lumps, introduced myself to some people in the know, observed (not listened to) everything, tinkered, tried stuff, and took off.

I want to learn to play the game at the highest level. I want to develop a well-rounded game. I have no interest in simply breaking par once. I have absolutely no interest in making a hole in one. I want to develop a meticulous consistency where on good days I am good, but on bad days I am also good. The only way I know to do this is to grind, practice, and work. All with purpose. All with intention. So far, it’s worked. Shocking, right? As I tell aka show my son, there’s an excuse for everything or a way to do anything.

When I first started the golf journey, I randomly met a young guy out at the course who wanted to play. We both shot roughly 90 and had a nice time playing.

Fast forward nine months, and I randomly ran into the same guy again. He immediately asked if I wanted to play, and before I could warn him about my progress, he threw out a friendly wager. I told him I’d been playing a ton and gave him the opportunity to rescind the bet, but his pride stood in the way. Anyways, some three hours later, I beat him by 15 or so strokes. 15. He asked me how I’d improved so much, and I simply told him “a lot of focused work”. Then I told him to keep his money, but more importantly to listen next time somebody tries to save him $20.

I mean, it’s really simple this week. If you want to get better at something, anything, put in the work. Focused work. Also, be careful who you bet money with. It might not be the same person you once knew.

Have a great week.- Benj

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abk Lifestyle: The World is Huge and The Options are Endless

“Is it better to be different and know that you are different or to be different and think that you are the same?”-anything but khakis

38 year old Benj: I had a birthday this week. I turned 38. I worked on my golf game, went jet skiing, and had dinner with family.

22 year old Benj: I had a birthday this week, too. I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I just graduated from Mars Hill College, and I am grinding hard as I get ready to continue my soccer career as a graduate student at Wingate University in the fall.

38: That’s great! I actually just made a video congratulating the Wingate University Class of 2020.

22: Cool! What did you say?

38: It’s on Facebook somewhere, and I only had 30-45 seconds, but if I had had longer, here’s what I might have said:

——

Everyone and their brother wants to tell you how to live. What to do. What to believe. What’s right. What’s wrong. Advice for this. Advice for that. Clichés that sound cool. Quotes that look nice. They are often well-intentioned, but they don’t know you. You know you, and if you don’t, well, start there. I did, three years ago, as 35 year old Benj.

I believe everything starts with self. What do you want? What makes you tick? Get to know yourself. Love yourself. When you screw up, forgive yourself. Most of all, be kind to yourself.

However, comparing yourself to someone else is a recipe for disaster. Life is internal, not external, and no one really knows what they are doing. Yes, adults too. Especially adults. It’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to change your mind. It’s ok to not believe what you believed ten years ago. The framework we are often presented is, quite frankly, backwards and somewhat rigid.

Find your people. Be patient. Understand your emotions. Take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Money is merely a tool, bigger isn’t always better, and freedom is so underrated (and tied more to courage than money).

What you want should be personal and intimate. If you don’t know what you want, try stuff. Even in adulthood. Forget The Joneses. Forget the roadmap. Get comfortable with discomfort. It leads to extreme growth. Be ready to adjust. Things don’t stay the same, nor should they. Things are also not fair. Oh, and a personal fave, no one likes a complainer (except other complainers).

You likely have some talent that will help others. Foster it. Use it. If you want to get better at something, work at it. Everything starts with self but is meaningless without everyone else. Making an impact, a true impact, even on just one person, beats pretty much everything.

Free thinking, selective hearing, thick skin, and a big heart will take you somewhere pretty cool.

At the end of the day, you just have to be you, the real you, and finding, developing, understanding, and accepting that person is life’s great journey.

Own your life story.

Have a great week.- Benj

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13 Months In: A Simple, Sore Day in the Life of abk Golf

9am- Wake up. Sore. So sore. Open cabin door. Check wind conditions. Walk dogs.

All morning- Try and get to a place where I am not so sore. Some how. Some way. Read. Write. Mental game work.

Noon- Lunch. Leftovers.

1pm- Get blood flowing. Stretch. Light weights. Turn focus on.

2pm-6pm- Golf with Banks. Practice. Play. Work. Look at animals. Take photos and videos. Jot down notes and stats. Call parents.

7pm- Family dinner. Talk. Laugh. TV. Red wine.

9pm- Extensive stretching, band work, foam rollers, etc. Replay round in my head. What did I learn?

11pm- Bedtime.

Rinse. Repeat. Be better tomorrow.

Golf Day 288 in the books. Down to a 1.7 handicap. Serious business now. The journey continues…

Have a great week.- Benj

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The anything but khakis Way

“Luxury has nothing to do with money.”- Hugo Jacomet

As a new owner of a jet ski and a soon-to-be owner (🤞) of a lot across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in southern Mississippi, here is what I could see happening in the very near future.

Instead of keeping my golf clubs in my trunk, I could store them at the course. Instead of driving my car to the course, I could hop on the jet ski in the gulf, bebop through the bayous, and arrive at the bridge on the beautiful 6th hole at Shell Landing, where a cart and my clubs would be waiting. It could happen. Of course, it could happen…

I am absolutely fascinated by lifestyle design. Not WHAT someone does for a living but HOW someone lives. Two very different things. Better yet, I am fascinated by what is desired in someone’s mind or heart that is either thought to be impossible or simply yet to actually be made possible. I like working to make the impossible, possible. The unknown, known. Fantasy, reality.

I have two main thoughts regarding dreams and desires. One, they MUST be yours. No need to steal them from The Joneses. And two, they need not be lavish. I mean, they can be, but lavish dreams can become quite complicated (see expensive).

With that said, enter Mississippi, its exorbitantly low cost of living, and let me tell you a little more about the anything but khakis way of life. The jet ski was a little splurge, sure, but the lot? Shoot, it is about 1/100,000th of the cost of a similar lot on any other coast in America. I like value. It affords freedom. Equally as important, I like good attitudes and positive energy. They afford freedom. The way someone, some place, or some thing makes us feel should be complementary or additive, not a chore.

What’s at the top of your lifestyle list? For me, I wanted to be outside and in big spaces. (Wyoming fit the bill as did the Gulf of Mexico.) I wanted to stop worrying about what was next and enjoy what is now, and nature handles that for me. It needed to be hot (sorry Wyoming) to soothe my joints. It needed a certain energy, which I get from two places: on the water and in New Orleans.

To be able to do all of this, to start over, cost of living had to be low. Down here, golf membership costs nickels. Real estate costs dimes. I’ll take a $3 BBQ sandwich over most anything. I’m a master sommelier on $10 bottles of wine.

And my favorite “restaurant” down here is a gas station. Mountain Dew and egg rolls. Lavish, I know. I still love style and clothes and always will, but I just don’t deal with meaningless STUFF anymore. It saps energy and clutters vision.

I’ve been on this beautiful journey for three years now, and occasionally I get a glimpse at where all of this is headed. (Uncertainty and vulnerability were/are the magic tickets.) I’m pretty sure that one day, I want to help people not only unlock their dreams and desires, but also formally help them turn those dreams into reality.

I’ve kept copious notes every step along my journey, and I remember everything. Every action. Every decision. Every conversation. Every success. Every failure. Every emotion, yes, emotion. I had low, low points alone in Iceland, I felt real fear in Mexico and Oklahoma, I had aha moments in Italy and Missouri, and I learn relevant life lessons every single day on the golf course. I’m simply not there yet. I don’t have the full credentials, so I have to be patient and keep grinding. But in two or three more years, the spirits willing, I should have something too good to keep to myself. I will have personally done it, and that’s the only credential I really want.

So then, if somebody else wants to ride their jet ski up to the golf course, have their cart waiting, and take off and play, I’ll be the man to help him/her dream it and do it. Although we should pick a hole other than 6 to start on…it’s the most intimidating damn hole on the course.

Have a great week, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!-Benj

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abk Golf: Getting Closer

Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today to leave rounds in the 80s behind forever…

In my last 35 rounds, I have shot three 80s on the number and 32 rounds in the 70s. I can confidently say now that I consistently shoot in the 70s, so it’s time to dig deeper. It’s time to go lower.

I started the week off on Sunday afternoon shooting a ho-hum 75. I was +1 standing on 18 tee, and like a clown, I decided to go for it. You know…IT. Even par. Of course, I hit it halfway off the earth and double bogeyed the hole. Try again later. Hope you learned something.

Later was Tuesday, when I woke up at 10:45am to a text from the local golfing powers: Golf today? I was sore, super sore, from a Monday night grind on the course. Of course there would be golf today, but a competition only 2 hours after I woke up? I have a personal rule though. I don’t turn these particular gentlemen down unless I absolutely have to, so I quickly got my mind and body going.

As soon as I arrived, I told them how sore I was and that it may take a few holes for me to get into a rhythm today. But that turned out to be complete nonsense, as I fired a 74 in serious wind conditions that immediately ranked as a Top 5 round in the short life of abk Golf. I finished birdie, birdie, par, par, which afforded me a mere one stroke improvement over Sunday’s performance, but left me feeling more like a king than a clown.

It rained on Wednesday, and so I took a much needed day off. Everything hurt. Old things. New things. Everything. And so I did nothing. Nothing.

Enter Thursday. Thursday at the golf course is a cluster. There are weekly Thursday specials that draw everyone and their drunk uncle. It’s nearing the weekend. And if the weather is perfect, the effect is exponential. And it was.

Banks and I arrived late afternoon, but it became clear that we weren’t going anywhere for a while, so we just putzed about. We warmed up, had some giggles, and looked for some animals until the coast was clear. At about 6:15pm, 1 tee was open, so off we went.

When I was putting from inside 8 feet for eagle on 3, I knew it was on. When I saved par from 20 feet on 8, my only stressor of the day, I knew it was on. If only I had hit my birdie putt a tad harder on 9, my 33 (-3) would have been a 32. If only the sun went down about an hour later, this could have been the night. But you know what they say…If ifs and buts were candies and nuts…

On Saturday, we indoctrinated our new jet ski early in the afternoon (more on this next week). But I had to get to the course. I spent Friday doing the necessary jet ski paperwork instead of playing golf, so I was jonesing.

I met my friends a few holes in, shortly after draining a ridiculous (lucky) birdie putt on 4. I hit my rhythm somewhat immediately, and before I knew it, I was -2 and in the middle of 15 fairway. A 3-putt and then a lost drive on 16 brought me in at 73, kind of annoyed, kind of excited, kind of hungry, as usual.

It had been a great week of work. 75, 74, 33 (9), and 73 easily qualified as my best week of golf ever. EVER. I’m getting closer. My handicap dropped to 2.7 briefly and finished the week at 2.9. I’m getting closer.

Most importantly, I shared each of these rounds with others, the 33 on Thursday with Banks taking the cake.

For 276 days, I’ve grinded through the 90s, and they eventually left. I’ve grinded through the 80s, and I’m hoping I never see them again either. I’ve grinded through the high 70s, and I know they will rear their head now and again, but I’m ready to focus on 73-75 and what it entails to take that next tiny little step. This week was very important, mark my word. This is exactly what I signed up for, and as I always say…Back at it tomorrow.

Have a great week, and stay safe.-Benj

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Q&A: Quarantine with abk

What’s cracking down in Mississippi?

Well, on the one hand, the same as everyone else. On the other, nature is still open and it’s sunny and 75 degrees most every day right now.

Good ol’ Mother Nature…

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is open the cabin door and keep it open. That begins my relationship with the outdoors for the next 10 hours or so.

Specifically, what are you doing?

Reading, writing, thinking, eating something tasty, drinking red wine, sleeping, watching a little TV. Back to the basics. Working on the golf, of course.

What are you watching?

I binge watched this show about football, class, and Los Angeles on the CW called All- American. Loved it. I’m watching Entourage again. And The Last Dance about MJ and the Bulls, obviously.

What are you reading?

Anything except the news and negativity. It’s like eating 600 Oreos in one sitting. The mind and body aren’t built for it. Not to mention the vast majority of it isn’t true.

What are Christy and Banks up to?

They go fishing and pick berries. They love it. Banks will come play golf with me too. Even before all this started, we decided to raise him like it was 1990.

Go on…

He knows what Tik Tok is and has his own iPad, but for the most part, he just plays outside. ALL DAMN DAY! It’s been very inspiring.

How so?

Kids are great reminders that we adults should relax and play more. I’ve listened. Ironically, much of the stuff adults argue and stress about is very childish.

What do you miss about “normalcy”?

Sports, travel, and in person interaction, just like everyone else. Nothing real groundbreaking there. I do miss my regular excursions to New Orleans.

What’s new with the golf journey?

Well, I got a new bag, which I desperately needed. I got some new balls, which I customized with a pink “Benj”. I walked my first 9 holes in eons the other night and had a blast, though my right foot wound up a bit sore. Otherwise, still grinding. Shot a couple of back to back 36s from the big boy tees this week, so I’m very pleased.

Have you cut your hair and beard?

No.

What else are you working on and thinking about right now?

I have the introduction to my book done, but I’m not really inspired right now. The house build got put on hold for a hot second, so I’m keeping my eye on material costs and mortgage rates. Will there be new opportunities and ways to help people that are intriguing on the flip side? How will the world operate differently? On and on.

What word would you use to describe this crazy time?

Reset. Do we want to go back to the exact lives we were living, go do something else completely, or somewhere in between? It doesn’t really apply to me this time around because I’ve just spent the last 3 years doing exactly that. But I’ve talked to a handful of folks in the past few weeks looking to switch gears. I’m always happy to help. I know exactly what it entails to do a complete 180 in a lot of categories.

Any final thoughts?

Yes! Completely unrelated, but some time this week (probably today), anythingbutkhakis.com will be visited for the 20,000th time. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has ever read along and a special thank you for the couple hundred folks that follow along religiously! I’m a small group kind of guy, and I love our little community! So thank you!!

Have a great week, and stay safe.-Benj

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262 Days of Golf

“Wanting to do something is different from actually doing it.”-Tom Brady

I think this quote sums up my biggest personal evolution. 5 years ago, 10 years ago, I had all of these grand, crazy ideas about how I wanted to live life, but subconsciously I was scared to death to pursue them because of how incredibly different they looked. I think lots of people have this predicament to some degree, and inevitably the grand ideas often get traded in for fitting in, growing up, or being busy. At best, they are recategorized as bucket list or vacation plans, 50/50 to if they will ever actually happen.

If you have followed along for any period of time now, you know I finally said to hell with all of that. Almost 3 years ago, I started abk. 13 months ago, I went all in. 1 year ago, I began the golf journey. Let’s build a lifestyle where less is more. Let’s build a one-of-a-kind lifestyle where freedom is the key objective, and let’s finally live with intention. #abk

Less is more does not apply to golf. With things I love, more is more. That’s the whole point.

Of the past 366 calendar days, I played and/or practiced golf 262 of them. I lowered my handicap from 14 to 3.8. Using my last 20 rounds as the barometer, I lowered my scoring average from 92.9 to 77.0. My best score was 73 (+1). My best round was a 74 from the tips (73.8/134). I played multiple 9 hole rounds in 34 (2 under). I followed the letter of the USGA law. There were no gimmes on this journey.

I played from all tees in all seasons in all conditions. It’s the best way to get better and how I learned to hit every club in the bag. Though I didn’t keep track because I didn’t care, I probably played between 300-400 rounds. I likely am inching close to 1,500 hours along the long and grinding road.

I injured my foot, ankle, and calf/Achilles. I injured my hip, lower, and upper back. I injured my elbow, shoulder, and wrist. I’m 37. I have arthritis. It comes with the territory.

I have beautiful memories of rounds with my buddies. I have beautiful memories of rounds with strangers. I enjoyed the scenery of Utah, Iowa, and South Dakota, to name a few. I enjoyed surprising my dad back home in North Carolina and playing on his 70th birthday. I saw a hole in one. I played with a famous, bestselling golf author. I debriefed via phone with my parents nightly. I could go on and on. My fondest memories are the days I played with my son. I enjoyed when he actually played, but my absolute favorites were watching him simply play in the woods, dawdle down the fairway, or take a nap in the cart when he inevitably got bored.

My other fondest memory was simply the grind: the process and grit required to go from a 14 to a 3.8 and 92.9 to 77.0. This journey may sound glamorous, but I can assure you the process of getting good is not. I wanted to quit eight zillion times. I’m proud that I pushed through. I’m most proud that I’m still pushing through.

I learned that you have to hit the streets aka the course to get the best work in. The range, with no obstacles, isn’t reality and only helps so much. There are no skipping steps, no quick fix, no winning the lottery. I’ve hit every rung of the ladder along the journey. Time and practice. Time and practice.

A pro said my end goal is probably 5 years away. I peg it more like 2 (he doesn’t know my drive). But really, I’m creating a lifelong lifestyle. It’s a beautiful game and lifestyle that can be enjoyed in so many ways with so many people in so many beautiful places. (It’s just more fun to me when I shoot 74 instead of 94.)

So what’s next? The game doesn’t require my full attention anymore like laying this excellent foundation did. It doesn’t require endless hours each day anymore. I’ve reached the point where that has become counterproductive. I simply need to sharpen my tools for 2-3 hours daily, if possible.

All along, my personal outcome has been to be able to shoot 70 consistently, regardless of the length of the course or weather conditions. I want to be better than scratch. I want to start playing sanctioned tournaments when the world returns to normal.

I have some loftier goals, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve renewed my golf membership for another year. I’m starting to invest in the tools necessary to play at the highest level.

What do I still need to work on? Green reading and directional driving consistency are important. Self belief and confidence are even more important.

I birdied the final hole of Year 1 to shoot a 76. On Day 1 of Year 2, I shot a 75, my ballstriking brilliant but my green reading leaving a lot to be desired. I feel good. I feel alive. I feel confident. I have a lot of work to do.

This was the most unusual, but most fulfilling year of my life. My friends joke that it was because I didn’t have a traditional job or big, bad mortgage or whatever. YEAH, that’s the whole point of this: to design a life that’s thought through, one-of-a-kind, and tailored, a bit more intentional and purposeful than the traditional roadmap.

My biggest learning this year? As Mr. Brady said, wanting to do something and doing it are two very different things.

Have a great week, and stay safe.-Benj

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If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com.