abk Living: It is Possible…

“Impossible is nothing.”-Adidas

As a mid 30 something with pretty stout ankylosing spondylitis, I really had no business running the New York City Marathon back in November 2017. Definitely not after I got strep throat multiple times immediately leading up to race day.

I certainly had no business doing it again the following year. Most definitely not after I was stricken with illness and injury for the vast majority of the typical training period throughout 2018.

It was an unlikely proposition when I was in Italy in 2017, leaving Venice via train early one morning to catch the noon kickoff in Milan and then the evening kickoff in Bologna just a few hours later. 2 Serie A matches. 3 major Italian cities. 1 twelve hour period. If only I spoke Italian. Unlikely.

It was an improbable circumstance that I decided to give up my prime earning years to play golf every day in southern Mississippi. In the past just over a year and a half, grinding 455 intense golf days and nearly 2500 focused hours in hopes of achieving a virtually impossible goal a few years down the road.

I could go on and on.

Then there’s making an albatross, a 2 on a Par 5, joining the rare double eagle club, on Golf Day 453. Not impossible, but pretty damn close.

I’ve never been struck by lightning. I’ve never had a hole in one. Per the pure math of it all, I should have had both happen, the latter multiple times, before recording an albatross. But I digress…

I decided to play 9 holes late Saturday afternoon with two of my friends. It was chilly, and the course was packed. After waiting some 20 minutes to tee off, about 3pm CST, away we went. After a lazy bogey on 1 and an equally lazy par on 2, I decided I would try to get one back on the par 5 3rd. Playing roughly 520 yards, I decided to pop one just for giggles. I succeeded, leaving myself 196 yards to clear the pond fronting the green and 218 yards to a back right pin. After using some intense quantum physics to calculate the true yardage in the increasingly cold air, AND waiting for the foursome in front to clear the green, it was go time. I figured 4 iron would be perfect, giving me a high probability for birdie and a slight possibility for eagle.

Screw all that. Why not just hit the ball directly into the hole? I hit it perfectly, the ball never left the flag, and three bounces later it came to rest in the hole. I hollered at my playing partners, then immediately drove up to confirm what I thought I saw. Sure enough, on a par 5, I had put the ball in the hole on my second shot. Holy crap, I thought! 6 million to 1 odds, one expert said. Something that has never been done on that hole in the 18+ year history of the course, we believe. I was buzzing…

Listen, let’s not be silly here, it was just dumb luck. I haven’t been able to make a 3 foot putt in two weeks, but I can hit a 218 yard shot, with all of the potential twists and turns, straight in the hole? This is what I’ve learned to love and embrace about life. Dumb luck and chance are not to be ignored.

Honestly, I could care less about each of these tick marks on my ever growing life resume, but I absolutely love the expansion of self and possibility that each limit-pushing experience represents.

In the past few years, I have had so many of these beautiful experiences. Not just in sport. In life. Unlikely experiences. Improbable experiences. Dare I say, impossible?

I used to look at that Adidas commercial, and dream to myself, I wonder what the hell they are talking about? I’m starting to understand, to believe, to do. In another dimension. On another level. Maybe my ridiculous goals aren’t all that ridiculous after all.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Nature Knows No Limits

“If you want to design your own world, it’s out there for you to design.”-abk

I love my small hometown of Wingate, North Carolina. I hope to be there in a week or two. I love the town, the university, and the people. I love the bacon cheddar chicken sub (add pickles) at Gino’s/Jim and Judy’s, the local eating joint. But at some point, the world came calling.

I spent my four years in college in an even tinier town, Mars Hill, North Carolina. In retrospect, I had the opportunity to make that tiny town huge, as it lay smack in the middle of the Appalachian mountains and 15 minutes from the world class, eclectic city of Asheville. But between multiple soccer injuries and a general lack of appreciation for where I was (and who I was), it was a complicated four years. I made a handful of wonderful, wonderful friends, and though it doesn’t happen frequently enough, I love to return to the area and visit. As it happens when college ends, the world came calling.

I made a brief pit stop in Monroe, North Carolina, a town that evokes limited thoughts and emotions on either side of my story. To me, it’s where you go to either Wal-Mart or Target. I did have my first house there, but very quickly, the world came calling.

Charlotte, North Carolina was the next stop, about 15 minutes southwest of downtown in a yet to be developed area near the airport. As a small-town boy with a large-world spirit, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I loved watching the airplanes come in and out every day, guessing where they might be headed next and who might be on them. My townhouse was in the direct flight path of the planes, and one day, Air Force One flew directly over my deck, so close I could literally read Air Force One as I stared upward. Then, of course, the world came calling.

After a stint back in Wingate (shout out Wingate) and then a stint back at the Charlotte townhouse, Uptown Charlotte came calling. The previously undeveloped area close to the airport had become a zoo, so it was time to get out. Enter this beautiful, gentle slope just outside of downtown that overlooked the city. It looked directly into Bank of America Stadium. Wanted some grub? Walk. Wanted to tailgate? Walk. Hell, I could have jogged to work if I wanted. It was a real vibe, but sadly/happily, the world came calling.

For a span of a year or two or four, I lived on the road. I crisscrossed America both East to West and South to North. I explored small town USA, the local food, drink and people, and the back roads that time had passed by. I also crossed the border a few times, experiencing the utter and complete vibes that were Mexico City, Mexico; Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland; and Bologna, Italy, to name a few. I was smitten, but then the world came calling.

Enter Ocean Springs, Mississippi, an artsy town I had literally never heard of. Hidden along Mississippi’s Secret Coast, I knew absolutely no one there and nothing about the place. Little did I know, it was about to come calling. (After almost 2 years of not sleeping in my own bed, my bones are ready for the call to finally be answered.). Interestingly enough, it’s a small town vibe that carries an infinitely big existence (for me) due to its proximity to The Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans, major thoroughfares, and nature in general.

Want literally some of the best food in the world? Want to jump on I-10 to Los Angeles or Jacksonville? Want the spiritual energy from beautiful sunrises and sunsets nearly every single day? Want to play outside, in shorts, 10 months out of the year?

Last Sunday, I looked forward, backward, left, and right, and all I saw were blue skies, blue water, and blue dolphins. In this tiny little place, the world had become gigantic. Shhh…The Secret Coast had come calling. Nature, and its wide open spaces, had come calling.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: 443 Days In

“To get better, real, focused effort is mandatory. How much one improves is dependent upon how big the effort, how intense the focus. This applies to anything.”-abk/abk Golf

On April 17, 2019, I started the golf journey with an unofficial handicap of 14.

On August 4, 2020, I shot a lifetime low 5 under par 67.

On September 7, I achieved a lifetime low handicap of +0.2.

On October 3 and 4, I shot an 83/77 (on 11 penalty strokes) at my Club Championship which forced me to accept that I had a major problem: a huge miss left, primarily off the tee, that could ruin a round with only a handful of bad swings.

On October 11, I quietly committed to a complete makeover (again), shoring up any lingering poor fundamentals, primarily my grip.

On October 17 and 22, some 400 days in, I felt like I had never played golf before. There were times when I literally could not take the club back. I was frozen and frustrated.

In late October, I waded back into a couple of informal competitions, which was a bad decision. I wasn’t ready. I shot low 80s, which I had hoped to never see again. Seeing those scores killed my confidence. I had no business being out there.

In early November, I left the ranch for Arkansas and Missouri, playing Mystic Creek and Payne’s Valley along the way. There were glimpses of decent golf, but I kind of just wanted to get away.

Recently, in the last ten days, the 70s have returned: 75, 76, 76, 73, 72, 73, 75. That’s something I can build on.

While I was on my trip to Kansas City, I had plenty of time to reset. What did I need to do so that by year-end the changes would be complete, I would be back to shooting around even par consistently, and then I could be off to the races in 2021?

Mathematically, I am currently playing about three strokes higher than at my peak, which makes sense, given all of the recent changes. At my peak (late July to mid September 2020), I still needed to shave five strokes off of essentially a zero handicap to achieve my desired outcome. If I can get back to my peak, or maybe better, by year-end, then I could start seriously chipping away in 2021. But how?

I needed to enhance my brain, body, and attitude even further. 443 days in, things had changed, and rightfully so. I needed less holes of golf and more focused play/practice. 18 holes and a little practice each day was plenty. I needed my own form of meditation to continue to strengthen my mind. I needed to employ a methodical routine prior to each shot where I repeated key words over in my head, sometimes aloud. My stretching regimen needed to double. My calves, shoulders, and left wrist needed to get stronger. My feet, right Achilles, and left elbow needed some love. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Basically, my mind, body, and spirit needed a refresh. Who I am now is very different from who I was 443 days ago, and needs change along the journey.

The beautiful thing about golf is that the Truth reigns supreme. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No pretending. No excuses. Working at the course and playing every day, I’ve heard it all. If only this, if only that. Do you think the game cares that I have a sore left elbow? Do you think that cluster of trees cares that I’ve got a career round going? As one of my coaches would say, There are no trees in the middle of the fairway.

I got my wake up call. I took my ten steps backwards. I got away. But I’m back, more focused and driven than ever, just happy to have control of my ball again.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Turning Fantasy Into Reality: Owning the Journey

“If you see the world as beautiful, thrilling, and mysterious…then you feel quite alive.” -David Hockney

The goal is freedom. Not retire and go sit on a beach freedom. No, the freedom to pursue all of my potential, and internal freedom. The goal is to be at ease at all times, regardless of the external stimuli. In chaos or calm. Alone or with people. Happy or sad. Make a putt or miss a putt.

It’s about self, because that is all I can control. I don’t control the election. I don’t control the weather. I don’t control traffic. I don’t control any other person, except me. It’s a state of being. It’s a mindset. It’s an attitude. You will never hear me mention wealth, power, status, or notoriety. It’s freedom, the number one goal.

I focus on self for three reasons. First, it’s all I can control, else the world trick me into thinking otherwise. Second, as I master self, I can give more fully and confidently to world. Third, it makes the world huge and the opportunities endless. I’ve been dialed in on self for 3.5 years now, and my world full of people and places keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Financially, following a dream takes varying degrees of cash. If you want to retire and go sit on a beach, you need X. If you want to play golf, travel, learn, and enter a new world, you need Y. If you want to simply relocate or start a bakery or whatever, you need Z.

You need money to live, but the good news is you can make money doing pretty much anything. In the past 3.5 years, so that I can pursue my potential, I have made money from at least 10 different sources, possibly more. I have watched Christy run a growing organization from her pajamas in southern Mississippi. Need money? Go do something that makes money. Develop the skill of making money. As 2020 has taught us, a lot can be done from anywhere.

Almost nothing I write anymore is hypothesis. I’ve either done it personally, or I’ve met someone else who has done it. Remember that random Uber driver in Minneapolis …inspiration comes from the strangest places.

The journey is conscious. Very conscious. Ridiculously conscious. Uber conscious. If I’m doing something, you best believe I’ve chosen to do it. Very little is left to unconsciousness. Why would I let sleepwalking dictate my roadmap?

The journey is focused on continuous improvement and constantly redefining myself. It’s one of the great luxuries we are afforded as Americans. Don’t like who you were when you were 20? Redefine. Don’t like who you were when you were 30? Redefine. Just want to continuously redefine or improve yourself for no apparent reason? I’m on board.

I’m not a big fan of How To’s because one size does not fit all. However, as someone who is 3.5 years into the process of turning fantasy into reality, I would like to share the Big 4 that guide my journey. Maybe they will help you.

1. For every decision, there is a consequence. It could be good, it could be bad, or it could be imperceptible at the time. Own it. Equally as important, no decision can be a massive decision.

2. The journey is full of tradeoffs. If I decide to do X, often that means I’m not available to do Y. If I want to do A, I may have to give up doing B. It’s a simple concept that can often cause guilt. Own it.

3. Fear, negativity, and worry have no place along the journey. It’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that they can be journey killers, or worse yet, they can prevent the journey from ever starting. I’ve worked hard to develop mechanisms and processes to keep them at bay.

4. Last, and most important, if the grand journey fails, I have to be willing to eat dirt to put food on the table, and I am.

As someone who is inept at or disinterested in so much, it’s encouraging to begin to find my place.

I’m fascinated by the Truth, energy, and potential. I see so many people who are unaware of their own potential, can’t get out of their own way, their energy is low, or they are just scared to pursue their own Truth because it is unique (as it should be). I can spot this stuff from a mile away because I’ve been there, done that.

As I told my buddy on the golf course this week when he asked me if I ever wanted to teach, It would be ridiculously selfish to have acquired all of these experiences over the past few years and keep them to myself. My hope is that through intense focus on self, you will reap the rewards. If you’ve already got something figured out, then you are likely the one that’s teaching me.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Born to Seek

When the journey began a few years ago, it felt like I was seeking something. An answer, maybe. Something else, maybe. But as the journey has unfolded, it turns out I wasn’t seeking anything in particular at all. It turns out that on the abk journey of self discovery, I discovered that the process of seeking is a huge part of who I am. I’m constantly seeking. I’m a seeker. I seek.

Learning and free thinking have always been so important to me, so it makes perfect sense that having the freedom to seek would be at the top of my personal needs list. Not knowing, denying, or simply not acting on that was a bit uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Now knowing and having the courage to act on it is freedom.

To some extent, we are all looking for answers to something. While the act of seeking does provide some of those, I find the new questions that the process proposes equally, if not more, enchanting.

I mean, for God’s sake, I recently grinded through 382 days of golf to achieve a zero handicap only to decide that I needed to step back, rethink, and recalibrate my strategy to become better at golf. Again.

I’m going to seek. It’s who I am. Denying that was, and if ever again, would be painful.

The seeking began last week in El Dorado, Arkansas. If you know where that is, you are lying. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and the golf course located there was my first stop on the journey. Mystic Creek Golf Club, ranked the #1 course you can play in the state, was a treat. How a course of this caliber gets dropped out in the sticks poses a great question to my seeking mind. It was like Augusta times Pinehurst, minus the exclusivity and large greens fees. $59 got me the round, range balls, some swag, and a nutritious and less than filling lunch of Pringles and Gatorade. From the tees I played (75.6/143) and the fact that I am still in 10 steps backwards mode, I was giddy with my 79, a birdie on 18 to finish.

From there, I had about 2.5 hours to the cleanest hotel room you will ever find. But first, I had to stop at the Whole Hog Cafe. I have no picture to show because my BBQ sandwich lasted for all of about 2.3 seconds. Pringles as lunch is something my 5 year old son should do, not his older, wiser 38 year old father. Anyways, I do love the efficiency with which you can check into a hotel room during the unusual 2020 times, bypassing everyone and everything and just walking in to your hermetically sealed room. Check in online, get a digital key, and bam! Notre Dame vs Clemson was on before I knew it.

Living in southern Mississippi now, I don’t get much, if any, fall foliage, and I miss that. I love the fall colors. They speak to me. So Saturday morning’s drive from Arkansas to Missouri through the Ozarks was just what the doctor ordered. My destination for the day was the Tiger Woods designed Payne’s Valley, possibly the hottest course in America right now. Booked solid for the foreseeable future, a single spot magically opened up on Saturday at noon, which I snagged faster than I ate that first BBQ sandwich. To say the day was an experience would be an understatement.

Buffalo greet you as you enter the property. You arrive to the mountaintop clubhouse via a suspension bridge. You have to sign a waiver to play. The course is breathtaking and super stout from the Tiger Tees (75.6/136) in 20 mph winds.

It was actually a bit too long for me in those conditions, with the 267 yard par 3 and 643 yard par 5 that played directly into the wind.

As such, my playing partners and I turned the back 9 into a bit of a party. We enjoyed each other’s company, we enjoyed the scenery, and I taught them a little about golf. In turn, they bought me some delicious Missouri IPAs, which may explain the 4 putt on hole 16.

The course is becoming famous for its 19th hole, a short par 3 with a floating green that plays into a waterfall. Make a hole in one? Win a thousand dollars. Me? Left it about 8 feet right, but made the birdie putt, which was completely meaningless. I shot a 90 on the big, bad 18 holes, then made a 2 on the 19th hole. To finish, you drive through the waterfall, through the caverns, and up the mountain. I guess that’s why you sign the waiver.

The sneaky winners amongst all the abk travel are midwest cities. I love them. Cleveland, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, to name a few. And Sunday, for my 3rd time, Kansas City. As I drove in from Branson, I noticed the midwestern clouds, which are ominous and beautiful.

My first stop was to pay my respects at Swope Soccer Village, the scene of the crime for the 2016 men’s soccer national championship for my Wingate Bulldogs.

Then it was to Arrowhead Stadium to see my buddy Jay, his friend and son, and my Carolina Panthers.

We tailgated, enjoyed the game, and then I miraculously watched us try a 67 yard field goal at the death to try and beat the Chiefs. I thought I was back in New Orleans two weeks ago, but then again, that field goal attempt was a mere 65 yards.

Luckily, after another close loss, I had Kansas City BBQ to wash away my tears. My only regret was that the legendary LC’s close to the stadium gave us so much food that some went to waste. But damn, it was good.

On the way home, I got a few more hours of peak Arkansas fall foliage. Just before I crossed the mighty Mississippi River, I found Hoots BBQ, an apparent mainstay on the Arkansas BBQ Trail.

As I devoured the tender brisket, the land turned flat. The pines started to reappear. And soon enough, I was back home. Ready to recenter, recalibrate, and see what’s next.

Have a great week.-Benj

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A Week for the Ages: Panthers, Zeta, and Rock Trolls

(Drop the beat…)

‘Twas an interesting week

Down in the dirrrty Deep South,

Hurricane Zeta came through

And kind of punched us in the mouth.

But first back to Sunday

In the grand Superdome,

The Saints hosted my Panthers

I felt right at home.

Except something was different

Only 3,000 fans,

No parties no tailgates

No funky brass bands.

We had a row to ourselves

No lines to be seen,

Sanitizing stations everywhere

So we felt nice and clean.

It was a hell of a game

And came down to the end,

A 65 yard field goal attempt

Not something you’d usually recommend.

We sat flush with the crossbar

As the kick went in the air,

The Superdome got quiet

I leapt out of my chair.

The ball flew and it tumbled

Maybe 12 inches short,

So I sat my ass down

And tried to be a good sport.

All in all it was awesome

The whole day was first class,

‘Twas Boyzz Day in New Orleans

And we both had a blast.

Then we walked back to the lot

Where I had parked my car,

There was a boot on my tire

I could see from afar.

There were boots everywhere, everywhere

What the hell was going on,

Guess the attendants were out of practice

Since it had been so damn long.

It was annoying, for sure

But it didn’t ruin the day,

A great memory for the ages

I must certainly say.

Cars getting booted

Fans wearing masks,

65 yard field goal attempts

Falling short at the last.

Another day in New Orleans

Where you just never know,

Then freaking Zeta showed up

And the wind started to blow.

Zeta came out of nowhere

I first saw it in Cancún,

It started building up Monday

Damn, it’s gonna be here soon.

ETA was Wednesday

Better get ready,

Get stuff put away

Get the unsteady, steady.

I played 18 quick holes

At the course Wednesday morning,

And then about 8pm that night

The wind started roaring.

Trees started snapping

The power went out,

The cabin started shaking

Ol’ Zeta got stout.

The new house lost shingles

The storm surge was tough,

The cleanup that followed

Was reasonable, yet rough.

Every activity got cancelled

But not Halloween,

There was a little Rock Troll

That really wanted to be seen.

‘Twas a week for the ages

I think we all agree,

Next week, golf in Arkansas

And football in KC.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Embracing Play

“…I have many friends who are successful … but who have no life in them…”-Sadhguru

It’s Monday morning. It’s the 4am hour. My body is still asleep, but my spirit is alive. It’s time to get going.

It’s well before daybreak. Dark, dark. When I step outside, I smell fish. It’s okay. It reminds me where I am.

This past Monday, specifically, I have to take a deep breath. On Sunday, my Browns got smoked. Cam got beat. The Panthers got beat. And in the big one, my Braves lost Game 7. That one hurt. I was planning to go to Game 2 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas this week. (I went fishing instead.)

I get that out of my system and listen to a refreshing word on the way to the golf course. Usually, it’s JJ Redick’s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three”. This week, it is wisdom from Sadhguru, sent to me by my good friend Junior.

In the 6am hour, I’ve got the golf shop ready to rock for the day. Soon after, the sun finally rises. I’ve been awake forever.

In my mind, I have one job for the day: make sure that each golfer has an enjoyable experience. I’ve been doing this for almost two decades, just in a different line of business and at a much higher pay grade. Most of the day, I talk golf, baseball, SEC football, or Saints. I’m learning the histories, the biases, the allegiances. This week, my Panthers come to New Orleans. If more than 3,000 Saints season ticket holders were allowed, wait…I’m at The Superdome right now 🤫 (another L).

I particularly enjoy the out of town guests, typically in town to visit the casinos. They come from all over the country, so we often trade travel war stories. There’s typically an easy connection to be made.

As early afternoon nears, my mind shifts to playing. I have to go get Banks first (still my favorite part of the day) and then do a brief walk through at the new house construction site. They don’t really need my input today, so I lay down on a pile of plywood and stare at the bright blue sky. Nearby, butterflies float by.

Some days, when the waves are calm, I have to make a decision: jet ski in the gulf or play golf. A few times I’ve done both, but my torso hates me afterwards. A couple of weeks ago, Christy and I rode with the dolphins, certainly a Wednesday for the ages.

On this day, I’m playing golf. On days that I work at the club, I do very little work on the course. It’s all play, and my preference is to play at sunset, so I arrive about 4:30pm. That gives me 1:45 to play 18, which I can do with relative ease. Later that evening, I remember Big Ten football, and thus my Penn State Nittany Lions, is back this weekend. 2:30pm at Indiana, I believe (lost that one too).

By 7pm, if not earlier, I have a limited capacity and desire to remain awake. The 4am hour was a lifetime ago. I used to ask myself, Did I get everything done today? Now I simply ensure that I left all of my energy for the day out in the universe.

I need my rejuvenation because life calls again tomorrow, maybe at 4am, maybe at 5am, maybe not until 6am. The time is irrelevant, because this is not the life that gets in the way of living. No, I don’t answer that call anymore. I’m focused on a conscious, thoughtful, intentional life that utilizes the gifts, talents, and energy that I’ve been given. Nothing less. Nothing more.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Heading Backwards to Move Forward

“Taking on a new challenge is a bit like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, then you’re not doing it right.”-Ted Lasso

After 509 calendar days focused on golf, 382 days actually playing golf, 2,000+ focused hours, an improvement from a 14 handicap to 0, an improvement from a 93 scoring average to mid-70s, a career round of 5 under par 67, taking a job at the golf course, investing thousands of dollars in equipment, and daydreaming about the game, well, daily…you might say I had become a serious golfer. Dead *****g serious, to be honest.

Yet here I stood, a month ago, the powers that be telling me, You have a big decision to make. Are you serious about getting seriously good at golf?

Me: (deep sigh) Seriously?

Maybe it was the fact that I had fallen into my first real slump weeks before the Club Championship, alternating between scores around even par and some 6-10 strokes higher. Maybe it was the fact that my putting position had gone awry, or that I was battling plantar fasciitis in my right foot again, or maybe it was the left wrist pain. Regardless, my good days would still be good, but my bad days were regressing quickly.

Maybe my mind was fried. #2000+focusedhours

Maybe my body was fried. #382golfdays

Or maybe my grip just sucked.

It irritated the hell out of me that I would go shoot an effortless 72 one day and then a 78 the next and feel totally and completely lost. Good should be consistently good. In my mind, something had to be done. In their mind, something had to be done. Until your grip is 100% fundamentally correct on every shot, you will suffer this irritation. Spend the time, effort, and frustration to get it fixed, and maybe you could go play some seriously serious golf by the end of the year.

The easy thing to do here would be to accept that I had become a scratch golfer, brag to whomever would listen that I had ticked a box, and carry on as if that were the end goal. In reality, that was just the next metric on the way to a much larger metric, outcome, or goal, whatever you want to call it. But more importantly, labels like this can confine, and I’ve got so much more I want to do than just tick that box.

Also, 25 percent of the time still, I was playing like a clown. Sooo…

Day 1 of the major grip overhaul, I felt like I had two left hands. Day 2, I felt like I had two left feet. Day 3, my right forearm and shoulder were residing on a different planet. Day 4, I shot a 74. It felt uncomfortable. It felt boring. It felt like something I could really build on. Last night, I might as well have been swinging a leaf blower.

My first MAJOR goal along my golf journey is still roughly four years away. More and more, with golf and with life, I’m less concerned about that destination and more interested in what magic the journey brings. What can be overcome, what limits can be pushed, what changes can be made for the better, what can be learned, what can be taught, who can be helped.

Listen, I’m the luckiest dude on the planet, but what I am trying to accomplish is madness on the difficulty scale, so I’ve learned to embrace the struggle portions of the journey. In those 382 golf days, I’ve hit plenty of frustrating plateaus, but this past month was my first real slump. My confidence was low. My body hurt. My mind was fatigued. So the idea of taking ten steps backwards wasn’t met with cheers and laughter. But after thinking about it, a subtle kick in the pants was indeed a great idea, and much needed. My grip needed to be fixed once and for all, but something in my mindset needed to evolve forward also. Again. Change. Again. I mean, for God’s sake, on September 28 I shot a 1 under par 71, and I don’t think I even smiled.

But as I think about the journey, I smile. As I think about what’s to come because of this slump, this struggle, these ten steps backwards, I smile a lot.

And if you don’t know who the fictional character Ted Lasso is, look him up. He’s feel good. He’s silly. But he’s rather undeterred when it comes to belief and hope.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Learnings from the Club Championship

Every story has at least two sides. Sometimes three. Sometimes more. There are always the simple facts, and then there are usually the complicated, mental, emotional details that, when examined thoroughly, can provide the why behind the facts. That human element that makes the facts, well, not quite so simple.

Matter-of-factly, I shot a 16 over par two day total of 160 in my first Club Championship at Shell Landing this past weekend. I shot an 11 over par 83 Saturday that included 6 penalty strokes. I shot a 5 over par 77 Sunday, and all 5 strokes were penalty strokes. Over the 36 holes, I made 2 birdies, 23 pars, 5 bogeys, 5 doubles, and one triple. I was +3 on the Par 3s, +8 on the Par 4s, and an astounding (oops, no emotions allowed in this section) +5 on the Par 5s.

To recap quite succinctly, I finished 10 shots out of first place, and I had 11 penalty strokes. I have a fundamental flaw off the tee box that must be fixed.

It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend. Autumn to the max. 75-80 degrees. The wind was blowing 10-15mph, which was certainly a factor. The rough was thick. The greens were rolling. The course was set up for a championship. Based on my amateur opinion, even par was around 75 on this setup. It was a hell of a test. I passed certain aspects and failed others.

As my first real tournament, I thought I might be nervous, but I wasn’t. It felt like New York City Marathon morning, except in a tiny town in southern Mississippi instead of The Greatest City in the World. I had tap in pars on 1 and 2, and settled in quite nicely. On 3, a medium length par 5, I made a triple bogey 8. My tee ball settled under a fairway bunker lip, and it took me what felt like a million strokes to get out. Interestingly, I had written myself some notes the previous night to help me with a situation like this. Relax. Breathe. Don’t throw your clubs in the pond. (Just kidding.) It worked, as I steadied myself and went even par over the next 9 holes. After a nice birdie on 12, I was only + 3, the remnants of The Great Eight on hole 3. I was damn proud, to be honest. On 13 tee, my group had to wait what seemed like forever, and when it was finally time to hit, I popped one up to first base. On this hole, first base just happened to be in the middle of the forest. On 15, I hit a beautiful 58 degree wedge to about three feet for birdie, except it forget to stop rolling until later that evening when it was well off the back of the green. I think I audibly screamed. On 16 I had a 62 yard wedge shot to set up another birdie attempt, but instead, I decided to hit a line drive into the face of a greenside bunker that immediately disappeared. At that moment, I am embarrassed to say, but it is the truth, I quit on myself and finished double, double, double. I turned a 76/77 into an 83 faster than that damn line drive I had just hit. I signed my scorecard immediately after tapping in on 18, and got the hell out of there, mad at everything, but deep down knowing there was only one person to blame.

The message I told myself late Saturday night was this: Play 18 holes or don’t play at all. So I made a note.

Sunday was a shotgun start, and I started on hole number 2. I made a great up and down from the green side bunker to start, and reeled off 8 more boring pars to begin. After two lazy bogeys followed by a nice birdie on 13, I was + 1 through 12 holes. But for some reason, about every 6 holes this weekend, I decided that my ball should leave Planet Earth. So I sent it packing on 14 and then again on 1 to finish with a 5 over, all penalty strokes, 77.

Had I not given up on myself late Saturday, I don’t think I would have won, but I would have been in the general vicinity. That upsets me. What upsets me further is that I have zero confidence in my ability to hit my driver and 3 wood. Some shots look professional grade. Two holes later, it looks like amateur hour.

After piecing the weekend together, my main two emotions are frustration and disappointment. It is amazing how I thought I was so close to something a month ago and now, I sense I’m a million miles away. It’s maddening, and that’s a fact and a feeling.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Vision Gets Clearer

Soccer is the world’s game and should not be accessible only to those who can afford it.– my friend Jonny Sinclair, founder of Matthews Mavericks

Other than my 5 year old son now playing (and loving) the game, soccer lies in a past life for me. If you’ve been following along for any amount of time now, you know soccer has been replaced with golf. So it should also be noted that in the above quote, soccer could be replaced with golf, baseball, or really any other activity.

The thing about having a vision is that oftentimes the leader has to be stubborn. Uncompromising. A little mad, even. To be able to drown out the noise and pull it off is a challenge. I’m 3.5 years into my ever-evolving vision, and as I grind day after day, often alone, in southern Mississippi, I look for pockets of wisdom in the most untraditional places.

Free soccer for kids? What a novel, beautiful, and inspiring idea. It only took one post match beer a few years ago to know immediately that Jonny and I viewed the world through a similar lens. During that post match beer, Jonny and I were discussing our most unique travel experiences. After quite the incredible rundown, he mentioned that he and I should meet up one day in Spain for their annual crazy tomato fight, of all things. With most folks, I would brush it off as idle chit chat, a 0% chance of that trip ever actually happening. But with Jonny, a doer, I better start checking if there are direct flights from Mississippi to Spain (now that’s a 0% chance).

A talented player with a heart of gold and an even more talented match recap email writer, Jonny is a go and do kind of guy. Something needs to be done? Well, it ain’t gonna get done with words. Watching him from afar get this done and his free teams already being competitive is so inspiring. I hope they win it all, but more importantly, I hope some kid gets a chance that increases the opportunity for him/her to write his/her own life story.

I recently read that an aspiring minitour golf professional needs $50-$60k per year to seriously pursue greatness. I can’t vouch for those numbers, but golf is crazy expensive. My equipment investment was just north of $3,000. My annual unlimited golf membership is roughly the same. Tack on some nicks and nacks, and we are up to nearly $10,000 just to practice seriously. For a 38 year old who has already lived one life, that is okay. For many, it is absurd.

One of my strengths in life is the ability to navigate and remain confident through uncharted waters, so I’m comfortable with that investment. I told myself money would not be the reason I didn’t achieve my vision. It shouldn’t be the reason I don’t achieve my vision, and it should never be the reason someone doesn’t get a chance. But more often than not it is, and that will never change unless someone does something about it. I think Jonny would agree.

A major part of my big golf bet is that if I spent the necessary time, energy, and grind on getting good as a player, I would have a chance to be taken seriously and affect others in a positive way. I’m an abnormal golfer. I took up the game late. I quit my lucrative career so I could play every day. I have 12 tattoos. I wear what I wear. I think what I think. I speak a different golf language, but I’ve taken the time to understand it all: old and new, red and blue.

Over the past few years, I played golf in Iceland, Mexico, and almost half of the United States. I’ve shot a 5 under par 67 and achieved a 0 handicap. I’ve put in thousands of focused hours…

…just so, at a minimum, I might help someone?

A presence at my course literally every single day, I recently started getting requests from the younger, hipper set. Where do you get your belts? Where do you get your hats? Where do you get your shoes? Do you teach?

Ah, yes. I don’t formally teach, but I can help you get better. Miles better.

What are your credentials?

I’ve personally done it.

How much for a session?

No charge. (Thanks Jonny.)

My vision with abk is to help others view the world through a different lens. It’s not a perfect lens. It’s not a better lens, necessarily. But, like anything, you can’t make that choice if you are unaware a different mindset exists.

My vision with abk Golf is the same. Are you unimpressed or intimidated by the traditional, often unaffordable, route?

During my first lesson with my first student, we primarily talked about how he sees the golf course. What he sees. What he doesn’t see. What he should see. How to overcome fear. What his personal, realistic goals are.

When the young man and I went out on the course together for the first time, I told him I had one rule. Getting better is on you. It’s not on me. It’s not on your dad. It’s on you. Own the goal. But I’ll give you a fighting chance, and it won’t cost you a dime.

I’d like to take credit for such a groundbreaking idea, but folks like Jonny are miles ahead of me. I naturally have a money-making mind, but I have been steering further and further away from that in certain aspects of Life # 2.

As my mate Junior, who also knows Jonny, would say, don’t underestimate the power of one. It might just be free soccer, or it might completely transform someone’s life.

Have a great week.-Benj

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