What to do when they change the rules

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Play it as it lies…

The official rules of golf have been changed! I know, in addition to the crazy swirl of national and world events, not to mention the relentless, arrhythmic drumbeat of your daily life this is sure to appear nowhere on any list of anything that you care about it.

Even so, bear with me for just a moment. I promise that I will spare you an analysis of the rule changes and talk directly about how this is a relevant example of adjusting to the unexpected.

A change to the rules of golf, esoteric to most, got my attention for one simple reason. I named my company after one of them.

The name of my company is RULE13 Learning. “Rule 13” in the old rulebook was “play it as it lies.” I chose this name for my company because it represents a lot of things that matter for leaders who are wrestling with personal, team and organizational change. It is about acceptance, resilience, responsibility and creativity.

I worked in the golf equipment industry for many years and felt great about naming my company after such a fundamental proposition: accept where you are and figure out how to get somewhere even better.

“Play it as it lies” is still a rule, of course, but by simplifying the rules down from 35 to 24, the old “Rule 13” has now become “Rule 9.”

RULE9 Learning? What do you think?

Yeah, me neither.

So, what to do? First, I just had a good LAUGH. I never – EVER – considered that this could happen. The rules of golf just are what they are (or were what they were): an accepted, if sometimes frustrating list of how to play a very traditional, conservative and inherently rule-bound game. The United States Golf Association and the R&A (or “Royal & Ancient”) are the official keepers of the rules of golf and are not what one would describe as liberal or progressive organizations.

And that means that I fell into the same trap I counsel my clients to avoid: believing that even the most hide-bound organizations cannot or will not change. If you look at it objectively, with participation in golf and golf industry revenues remaining flat or declining for at least the past 10 years and probably longer, OF COURSE the governing bodies were going to do something to make the game more approachable and enjoyable.

The irony of that…of having missed something so elusive because of its outward appearance and yet so obvious because of its inward reality just made me start to laugh.

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And don’t forget to have some fun!

And out of that laughter came the realization that I now have to ADJUST. I have to rethink and rewrite the language on my website. I have to rethink the story I tell about why and how I named my company. I have to recast that meaning in a new manner, one that demonstrates that even decisions that seem perfectly sound and timeless will be made irrelevant by the passage of time.

What’s more, this couldn’t of happened at a better time. I just celebrated the 5th anniversary of my business and as I continue to learn how to deliver meaningful work and my clients continue to shape my point of view, it is an ideal time for some thoughtful reconsideration.

I have a responsibility to stay at the leading edge of my own personal and professional transformation and the governing bodies of golf just gave me an extraordinary assist in doing so!

Now, having enjoyed a good laugh and considered some necessary adjustments it’s time to GET BACK TO WORK. I’m very proud of RULE13 Learning, LLC. It’s a growing enterprise with dynamic offerings and a terrific roster of clients. In fact, I’m more committed to the name and what it stands for now than perhaps I have ever been.

So, thank you to the USGA and the R&A for reminding of what I knew, that when we commit to playing it as it lies we commit to the whole experience: good, bad, challenging and rewarding.

We accept it all. We have a good laugh. We make some adjustments.

And then we get back to work.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

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