Competitive Advantage

This clip from Tin Cup highlights the differences between an amateur and a tour professional. 

Whether you are a casual golfer or a week-to-week preacher in a church. You and the guy on tour are fundamentally different in how you approach your craft.

What you do is similar! But how you approach it and how it’s carried out are completely different.

As the movie shows, the tour pro takes calculated risks, repeating the same simple winning swing over and over again, week-to-week, tour stop to tour stop.

Whereas the casual golfer, even the aspiring professional, has to take greater risks to see lesser rewards, often swinging wildly and taking big risks in hopes that it’ll pay off.

Having been around PGA and Champions Tour players as a tour volunteer I know that there are a lot of differences between their game and your game. 

  • They will hit +/- 1000 practice balls per day. (Driving range, sand, putting green, chipping)
  • They are surrounded by people who advise them on their game all the time. (People who know what they’re talking about, too.)
  • They only play on courses at the top of their condition. The greenskeeper at a Tour stop builds his whole growth cycle around that week.
  • They have a caddy with them who does all of the math and can tell them exact distances and best approaches to every shot on the golf course.
  • The TV cameras only show the best players on shots that have been edited. Each minute during a tournament 40-50 players take a swing, you only see the best of the best.

I’m a 12 handicapper on my own. But I guarantee you that if you put me on that stage, in those conditions, with that practice… I’d look a whole lot better than I do normally. Give me a week with those set of circumstances and I’d break 80.

It’s not that they don’t have skill or talent. It’s that their skill has been put on display in the best possible conditions for them to look good. (They would argue that they rose to this spot just like everyone else. Sure, they take advantage today. But they got to that point with nothing but hard work and rising through the amateur, college, and mini-tour ranks. Fair enough.)

It’s that the game they play is similar, but completely different from the game I play with my friends. It’s set up for them to look good.

What’s my point?

A lot of times we go to a conference, camp, retreat, or a convention and we see a tour pro on their best day, in the best conditions, absolutely NAIL a talk. And we walk away thinking… “Why do I even bother?!? I’ll never be that good. Why not just buy that dude’s DVDs and play them at my church each week?

But before you get upset or lament realize this: The talk you’ve just heard has likely been delivered dozens of times. It’s been critically reviewed by an inner circle. It’s been refined, they know when to drop what line, they know how to adapt it to your setting. They have only booked themselves at events they know they’ll play well to. The lighting, sound, and environmental conditions are tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. A professional band set them up. Someone else introduced them. At best, their talk has 1-2 calculated moments of risk.

It’s not that they are better than you. It’s that given the conditions their talents are amplified and you’re able to see them at their absolute best.

In the end… the act of speaking at a conference is similar to what you do on a week-to-week basis, but completely different at the same time. They are only thinking about that talk. They didn’t drive the van to the retreat. They don’t have to give a new talk each week. On and on. It’s completely different from what you or I do on a week-to-week basis in our ministry.

Here’s the fun part: Just like in the movie– you could tell that the tour pros got a kick out of the caddy hitting the big shot on the big stage. There’s a little glimmer in their eye when you take a big risk. They kind of wish they could do it, too. 


8 responses to “Competitive Advantage”

  1. Mark Helsel Avatar
    Mark Helsel

    Not me I just winged it everytime I spoke at the conventions…………Just Kidding. Great points Adam, but there were some of us who were giving talks for the first time. We had worked hard on them but they were not yet tested.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Yup. I think its hard for people to compare themselves when their week-to-week talk is a 1 shot deal and the ones they see at events are often that persons best, most polished stuff. The preachers lamentation is that Sunday is always-a-coming!

  2. Jeff Smith Avatar
    Jeff Smith

    Thanks, I needed that.

  3. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Love that movie and this idea.

  4. Matt S Avatar

    Some of these things are purely the nature of conventions, but some of these can be corrected with a little extra effort from the minister. Have another minister preach for a month, and take that time to get ahead in sermon prep. We can have an inner circle pre-judge our material. We can practice our sermons.

    Many think I am strange, but (as a youth minister) I practice each sermon and youth “talk” I give at least three times before anyone else hears it. I pause to practice different inflections, to try different volumes, and to map my movement upon the stage. I also soak my messages with prayer.

    Many ministers never have those A+ days because they never put in that effort.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Good comment. Practice is important. But you’re never going to be as polished as the person who has given that talk 15 times. Nor should you be “as good” as that person. There are so many more important things to do in a ministry role than preaching/teaching. We should give that 30-35 minutes an appropriate level of preparation.

  5. stephen Avatar

    You shouldn’t never be afraid to take risks when preaching either – for example, our church has shrunk from 300 members in 2002 to barely 80 today…in a 250 seat sanctuary. I sat everyone in the last four rows a few weeks back to preach on church growth…so everyone could see the task and opportunitly literally before us – got their attention. I’ve also been known to take a music stand and randomly place it around the sanctuary while preaching to keep the members on their toes (and, let’s face it…awake) during sermons, too.

    Let us keep in mind, that most often, the risks we take are simply in “I hope I don’t offend so and so” or, “I hope people don’t think I’m weird for talking about Jesus” – pale in comparison to the church members in Acts who didn’t worry so much about reputation or being liked, but in risking their very lives to spread the gospel too many of us take for granted today.

    1. stephen Avatar

      “shouldn’t never”…”should never” – dah! Proofreading error!

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