Drop Your Baggage

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Principal, Prohaska Consulting

If any of you play golf or even watch golf, you know one of the hardest parts of the game is to forget that last bad shot you hit and focus on the next one coming up. No matter how badly I shanked that 5-iron into the trees, I need to quickly realize the only person that can fully control the next shot is me, and what happened in the past is in the past.

I can only imagine how tough that must have been for Australian pro Adam Scott this past Sunday at The Open Championship, one of golf’s most prestigious events and the year’s third major tournament. After virtually leading for all 4 rounds, and the first 17 holes of Sunday’s final round, Adam bogeyed the last 4 holes in a rare collapse to lose by a single shot, a brutal ending.

Earlier this week I thought of that moment when I had back-to-back meetings where a client gave me some bad and seemingly-unfair news right before I needed to go to another pitch. I had about 15 minutes to get over the earlier frustration and throw that feeling away, especially since it had nothing to do with my upcoming meeting and relationship. Dropping my baggage has been a tough lesson to learn, but critical for me and I think any consultant, salesperson, or professional in any field.

I’ve gotten better, but it hasn’t been easy.  Fortunately, I had someone give me some great feedback from a meeting we had where I spent too much time explaining my past instead of talking about my future and how I could help this CEO and his company. I’m lucky that we go back a bit and had a strong friendly relationship from working together years ago, so he was comfortable enough to share that I was more negative than ideal. I started playing back the meeting in my head realizing that there were parts that sounded more like a bad therapy session rant than a calm explanation of what happened with a certain situation and person. I’ve interviewed several folks over the years that do this to the extreme, where they complain so much about why they want to leave, or what the company and people were like at the place they were laid off from, that I start thinking during the interview, “How is this person going to react when the first thing doesn’t go exactly their way, and how will that impact their work the rest of the team?”

Most people don’t and shouldn’t care too much about what happened to you in the past. They care about what you learned from it and what you can offer them by being better. I don’t care how you do it: vent to your wonderful family, run 2 miles, take it out on that fax machine you never use anymore anyway…. But drop your baggage and move on to the next pitch, client, interview, opportunity, whatever, and keep advancing your career like that old golf cliché, “one shot at a time.”