Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Open Letter to Tiger Woods

Mr. Woods:

Your recent difficulties and admissions have pained me -- not because of the particular actions, but because of the nature of the reaction that has been triggered.

Yes, you did a series of bad things. Violating the bounds of marriage -- particularly such a public one (despite your best efforts) -- is not to be taken lightly. However, in a very significant way, either it or something that would would be similarly perceived was just bound to happen.

You began to become a star when the mere act of walking was still a novelty. Your progress through the ranks of junior and amateur golf is the stuff of legend. The record is well known. Soon after, not long into merely your third decade you leapt upon the scene as not only an accomplished professional in your chosen field, but as a singular figure, a brand -- a brand at the dawn of the age of serious personal branding.

And through all this you were hothoused. You were described by both your late father and others as "the chosen one" from whom much is expected. A level of maturity befitting one much older was not just expected but assumed. And you played the game, quite brilliantly in fact. The indiscretions of youth? Those things most of us do at one time or another, those small indiscretions from which we learn how to conduct ourselves over the course of our lives? Nope. No time.

Single mindedly, you pursued your goals rapidly, so rapidly, ascending the ranks of the best who ever played the game and almost single handedly raising the profile of the game (and with it its possible rewards) on an international basis.

But living in that bubble has its consequences. You were on a fairy tale path. You gave much of yourself and received rewards that would not have been possible in any previous era. And with those rewards came a certain complacency about the way of the world, about the rockier path that most must take to get where they're going, if they get there at all. It's understandable.

Now as you're in your fourth decade, the path to the historical top of your profession secure if not assured it seems you have fallen off the rather narrow path that got you there. Indeed, when the path has been so long narrow, the diversions from it are likely to be great.

As both a star and a brand the opportunities are ample. Being appreciated by millions is one thing, being "appreciated" -- and having the consistent opportunity to be "appreciated" in a deeply personal way -- is a more deeply human emotional need. And, there came a point, I imagine, where saying "no" got old. I can't imagine doing that myself, but at the same time, I can't imagine being a consistent position of having to make that decision.

You say you're taking an indefinite leave from the game. I think that's a bad idea. The game is your office. The pursuit of the next major, the next championship, the next hole, the next swing is what you do.

Leaving the promotional stuff behind for a while? Absolutely. The corporate outings? Yes. The various appearances for this or that. No doubt.

But not the game. If you're serious about this, it seems the two places you need to be spending time are at home, repairing the relationships with your family, and on the course -- the place that has given you all the opportunities you have.

Devoting yourself to those two things will give you the chance to make up for the fact that you never really grew up in a human sense. Understand that I don't say this in condemnation. Not at all.

You just never had the time.

At not yet 34 years of age, now you do.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck in all endeavors.

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