The value of faking optimism

This article is pretty interesting. It’s one of the few I’ve read to focus on the idea that even if you don’t feel optimistic it’s beneficial to act optimistic. The article asks reader to channel their inner Tiggers rather than succumb to their usual trend toward their inner Eeyore.

Two of the more intriguing elements of the article are the ideas that the way people walk and the way they imagine themselves can be so important to a person’s sense of positive and negative outlooks. I usually prefer to walk quite quickly when my interest is getting from one place to another. When I notice my shadow I see a figure that’s canted forward slightly and moving briskly. It sometimes feels like a happy gait but more often it just feels purposeful.

Imagining myself is really tricky. After thinking about it for a time I realized that I usually imagined ideas, actions and things. I want to work on my book or practice my golf swing. The “I” in both of those sentences and thoughts feel a bit less significant than golf and writing. The article quotes Jeff Wise from Psychology Today:

He states, “People do transform their lives, every day. But for the most part they don’t do it by relying on willpower. The key, it turns out, is to simply start behaving like the person you want to become. Instead of wondering, What should I do?, imagine your future, better self and ask: What would they do? This approach works because of the rather surprising way that our brains form self-judgments. Numerous experiments have demonstrated that when it comes to forming beliefs about our own character and proclivities, we don’t peer inward, as you might expect; instead, we observe our own external behavior. If we see ourselves carrying out a particular action—whatever the actual motivation—our self-conception molds itself to explain that reality.”

I confess I find this to be a little tricky. It’s easy to imagine myself practicing golf but it’s harder to imagine myself as the better golfer that would result from lots of practice without putting in the practice first.

Rather than focusing on my future golf-self or my future writer-self I tend to focus on the next step. There’s an old saying that goes, “What’s the most important step on the journey to the of the mountain? The next one…” But, maybe the next step focus doesn’t do enough to develop optimism? Miguel Cervantes wrote, “Love not what you are, but what you may become.” It may be that you have to envision your future and better self first and then imagine what that future self would do. That seems like a more inspiring approach…

The value of faking optimism

3rd Generation Mini Cooper review through the eyes of a 1st Generation 2006 Copper Owner/Lover

I put off driving a new Mini Cooper for years.

The fact is that I’ve driven a 2nd Generation Cooper S but the only Cooper I’ve driven is my own 2006 Cooper named Titan.

I’ve liked Titan since the day I took custody of him on January 7, 2007. He was a Late Build 2006; the best of the 1st Gen Minis. Initially, I found the gearbox lackluster and the engine, well, trending toward the average.

But now, after 7 years, I have grown to love this car.

Now, Titan sits in the garage with 143,000 miles on the clock. The gearbox, clutch & engine all work the very same way they did when I drove him off the lot at Bob Smith Mini back i 2007. There are no door dings, only a few rock chips on the hood to mar his rare beauty.

Still, time stand still for no car; not even the Titan.

Last Sunday I went to the new home of Bob Smith Mini to drive a new 2015 Mini Cooper. I knew there would be no manual transmission cars on the lot so I decided to drive an auto, just to get a feel for the new 3 cylinder engine and the driving dynamics of the new, bigger Mini.

Size matters.

The new Cooper is a larger and more buttoned down car, of these facts there is no doubt. The engine is cool and collected and the transmission is pretty slick. Handling is a huge question mark. My 2006 Cooper handles (to this day) with deft aplomb and near-surgical precision. The 2015 Cooper more glides over the road more than it carves it up. Turn in is controlled but it’s also more than a touch toward the languid. In the few turns that I took the chassis felt stout enough but the suspension was meant to please another kind of driver; dare I say, a driver used to driving lesser cars.

For whom is the 2015 Cooper intended? I think it’s intended for someone who likes their idea of a Mini. They like the idea of the Mini’s kind of cool. They like that the new Mini is said to be larger and more comfortable. When they actually get around to driving the 2015 they’ll be driving a car that will drive pretty much like what they’re used to. When the goal is to sell more cars, this makes sense.

But, it’s not really in keeping with the spirit that Mini has established. Writing about a car’s soul is tricky. BMW owned the MIni brand for a very long time before they came out with the Cooper. I’m sure they spent a lot of time looking at the original Mini and wondering about its translation into a contemporary car. The succeeded beyond anyone’s expectation and they did so by building a pure car; a car with soul.

My 2006 Cooper begs me to swing it hard into corners. The 2015 is a little numb on center and quick movements of the steering wheel bring a sense of lift before the car changes direction. The new Cooper needs to be convinced to turn while the older Cooper seemed almost to anticipate turns and curves.

The longer wheelbase of the 2015 is a good thing, though. The 2006 is solid and predictable until you really get it going and start to push it. It never feels light, but sudden changes of direction at speed reveal the stability limitations of a such a short wheeelbase.

I cannot promise that I will not buy a 2015 Mini Cooper. My plan is to find a manual transmission version to test drive. Many a car has had its personality changed with the simple presence of that third pedal. A touch more soul just might do it.

3rd Generation Mini Cooper review through the eyes of a 1st Generation 2006 Copper Owner/Lover

Reaching my golf potential with Jim Venetos: Book One

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.
George S. Patton, Jr. / Through a Glass, Darkly

Through the travail of the ages I have walked many golf courses, in many places with many results and I have appeared in many guises. I have been the confident golfer and the struggling golfer. I have been the teacher and the historian. I have been the golf buddy who made the starting time. I have been the son who picked up his father to take him to the course. I have been the single paired the 20 something threesome of college buddies. And, I often have been alone yet never lonely.

Oh I’ve been from Jerusalem to Rome
Now I’m floating through these rooms tonight alone
And looking back on everything
All I ever wanted was a home
Marc Cohn / Olana

Oh I have been from Torrey Pines to Desert Willow
Now I’m floating above those fairways alone
In looking back & looking forward
All I ever wanted was to strike the ball pure
Paul Cervantes

For some golf is like a fraternity. For some it’s an office without doors. For some it’s the oddest kind of pastime; a game misunderstood yet still enjoyed.

For me, golf is the state of feeling close to something yet so far away. It’s the quest for a destination that’s uncharted It’s like being in a dark and unfamiliar room looking for a lightswitch.

It has been ever thus, but…but now time feels so very fleeting.

Get busy living, or get busy dying. That’s Goddam right…
Red / The Shawshank Redemption

Figure this out, or take up an easier game.
Paul Cervantes

Figuring it out doesn’t mean shooting a certain score. It certainly doesn’t mean beating anyone or making money at golf. For me it means finding a haven of effectiveness. It means finding or creating a method of moving the golf club that brings the center of the club face into the ball.

What could be more simple? Still, as I am prone to say, simple is seldom easy.

After last year’s 6 month failed effort I came into this year with a searching state of mind. I kept asking myself, what should I do?

Here’s how I saw my options:

1) Reengage with self-discovery. Hogan dug it out of the Earth and so can I.

2) Look for help. Just because the last pro I worked with wasn’t able to help doesn’t mean you won’t succeed with another pro.

Self discovery is very cool. Others have done it, no doubt about it. But I think it’s a very tricky thing for one big reason.

In golf, feelings often lie.

Also, in trying to do one thing you can end up doing another and that other can really hurt..

For example: If I try to turn my lower body through impact my shoulders spin, carrying the club head over the top. The resulting pull-draw can be played but there’s something unsatisfying about it.

Does this result from my own fundamental lack of flexibility, the same one identified by my Titleist TPI evaluation from years back?

Maybe. Probably.

But, more essentially, it points out that an effort to do one thing can cause another thing that in turn causes a problem. Bummer.

As I was bouncing between the polar opposite perspectives of figure this out yourself or for God’s sake, get some help I happened upon a video at, one of the older and crustier golf gear enthusiast websites.

The video was 1:13 long and showed a single swing in very slow motion.

My reply: I feel like 1:13 of my life was just stolen.

Later, I watched the video with the sound turned on.

Great idea; it was a big help to actually hear what this guy was saying before calling BS on him.

There’s a chance one (yeah, I know that’s a pretty small chance) of you knows that I edited a book by Tony Manzoni called, The Lost Fundamental. Manzoni opines that the golf swing ought have a single axis or pivot and that point is on the right handed player’s left side.

Now this idea compelled me but I was working on the book so I didn’t want to try it on my game while my head was into helping Manzoni write the book.

Still, long after the book was finished I tried it (especially with driver) and got some very encouraging results. Odd, though, I couldn’t find a way to incorporate the technique into shorter clubs.

I know, this seems like a digression but it’s not.

The Jim Venetos swing is the Tony Manzoni swing on steroids with a shot of spiced rum with a twist of lime.

A left sided swing promises a lot for me (and a lot of other players, too). It promises a quieter lower body. It promises a shorter back swing. Most of all, though, it promises more consistent, and more solid contact.


I’ve now enjoyed three lessons with Jim Venetos. He says that after 8 lessons I’ll be on the Champions Tour (Sorry, Jim…couldn’t resist the hyperbole) but even if it takes 10 or 15 I’ll be overjoyed. We’re also having an informal  contest to see who can talk more in the course of 90 minutes and so far we’re in a dead heat. At any given minute he may be saying, Yeah, man, I could see you fighting for stillness there…So, good contact but shoulders were a little open…That was a little fat so what did that tell you?

I can usually heard to be muttering a series of expletives and groans punctuated by the (very) occasional exultation of, I can do this!

The I can do this sound comes after I have actually achieved a small dose of stillness and an attendant sense of my weight staying left throughout the swing. It’s is so far a fleeting feeling that comes and goes. When it comes it feels solid, inevitable and obvious and the strike is heavy and solid.

When the feeling is missing I usually find myself cheating stillness by starting with my weight left but allowing it (and the rest of me) to drift right as the club moves back.


There will come a point where you realize you could have kept your weight still right away, in the first lesson.
Jim Venetos

No, I am not there yet.

Still, the promise of all this is a swing I can take with me into the rest of my 50s, into my 60s and beyond. All promises rely on faith and golf is a game that often seems designed to test our faith.

In Reaching my golf potential with Jim Venetos: Book Two I’ll talk more about my quest and how Jim is doing as my sherpa. What I am starting to feel is a confidence in the method that is very settling. The question remains whether I can (can, as in have the ability) to fully mesh the method with my brain and body. In the law, you take the plaintiff as you find him. In golf, you take the player as you find him. I am who I am.

Without jumping ahead to answer that question in the affirmative, I will say that I intend to continue to strive toward stillness. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

Reaching my golf potential with Jim Venetos: Book One