Making mistakes – the key to success

In my workshops for leaders, I often use the following statement at the beginning:

There are three things that people, especially leaders, do poorly or not at all, namely to say:

  1. I don't know,
  2. Please help me,
  3. I made a mistake.

You can perhaps imagine the embarrassed faces. Of course, NOBODY in the group feels addressed. If they do, they only know these characteristics from others.


However, dear golfing friends, we know that admitting mistakes in particular is enormously difficult for many. I have noticed this pattern again and again in countless rounds with executives, managing directors or even owners of companies. It is very difficult for most people to admit mistakes and to stand by them.


Why is that?

On the one hand, people believe that making mistakes, especially admitting mistakes, is a sign of weakness. I maintain that the exact opposite is the case. If someone is able to admit mistakes, it is rather a sign of strength! If you don't believe me, remember Albert Einstein, who once said: “From mistake to mistake, we get a little closer to the truth”.


On the other hand, many people find it difficult to make mistakes because we have a poor error culture in our society. Even at school, the number of mistakes in a math’s problem or a German essay is talked about rather than the many things that were good and correct. Mistakes happen, no matter if it's a skewed tee shot, a fat hit pitch or a putt from one meter that we thought was safe and misses the hole. The same is true in our lives. Maybe it helps you to see mistakes as a learning experience too, provided we learn from our mistakes to just do better next time.


Sir James Dyson, the ingenious inventor of various household appliances, among others, encourages his engineers to do just that. Even if this can sometimes be expensive: This is the only way to progress and develop. It is said that it took 527 prototypes of the first Dyson hoover until it was ready for series production. Voilà! What more do you want? If that's not an incentive!


In golf, the situation is aggravated by the fact that a failed shot or the wrong club choice often accompanies us the whole round. Of course, this has immediate consequences for our score, the enjoyment of the game and also affects the mood of our fellow players when we complain loudly about mistakes we have made. And typically, without admitting that it was our own fault.


It was rather the case that the divot that had not been repaired, the pitch mark on the green or the gusty wind that left the 9 iron simply too short for a shot of 110 meters over the green was to blame. How can we manage such situations better in the future? By not philosophizing so much about the swing, but rather by adjusting our mindset accordingly. 


Here is a very simple tip!

The past is not the same as the future.

If a stroke or putt didn't work, it doesn't mean that the next strokes and putts have to fail as well. Unless you allow this to happen. That would then be the self-fulfilling prophecy, where exactly what you were actually afraid of comes to pass.


Check off a bad blow, a mistake made, stand by it, it wasn't the circumstances, it was YOU who was responsible. I try (and I don't always succeed) to smile or even laugh and then tick it off and move on. And move on. Try it out, you will see: it works.


I'm happy to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions. Just write to me: office (at)


On that note, have a great game and a great life.



Robert Nussbaumer

You can find more information about mental golf at 



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