Last Sunday, golfer Collin Morikawa joined a group of legends (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Rory McIlroy) as one of the few 23-year old winners of the PGA Championship. This win put an exclamation mark on one of the hottest starts in professional golf by a rookie. Morikawa has already won three times on the PGA Tour, a pretty remarkable achievement for someone who was playing college golf at the University of California, Berkeley, barely a year ago.
While just at the beginning of what could likely result in one of the most exceptional careers in golf, Morikawa is no different than the most elite in any profession. The qualities that have made Morikawa outstanding are the same ones that have vaulted the most elite musicians, scientists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and people in every other profession to the top of their fields. These traits can also be achieved by you if you want to become exceptional and among the best in the world at your profession.
Morikawa has all the necessary elements required for becoming exceptional. He is naturally talented; he possesses all the fundamental golf skills and shots that he has refined over the years and works extremely hard, which is half the battle. He grew up in a supportive environment with coaches and mentors who helped him develop his talent. He is smart, having graduated from a selective business program at the Haas School of Business, often hurrying from golf tournaments to calculus exams. All of these attributes are necessary to become exceptional in any field.
However, there are a few other things that make Collin Morikawa stand out from the pack. Here are three lessons you can learn from Morikawa’s success, to apply to your own life.
Morikawa loved other sports, but he knew early on that he wanted to specialize in golf. He knew he was talented at the game, and his natural aptitude showed at a young age. As a result, Morikawa decided to make golf his singular focus. He “specialized” in golf at an early age. While he continued to enjoy playing other sports, golf became the one activity in which he wanted to excel. He was fully committed to one thing, and this removed any doubt and uncertainty in his mind about what he wanted to achieve.
Since golf was his only focus, he was able to spend the necessary amount of time acquiring and developing his golf skills. With a dedicated focus on a single activity, he was able to progress and advance his skillset to “best-in-class” abilities without getting in his own way. Something all of us would do well to learn. Most people are always looking for a Plan B or another alternative. As a result, they never fully commit to what is in front of them. The road to becoming exceptional is long, and every time you make a turn to pursue something else, you lose focus, and the long journey becomes longer.
Thirst for Knowledge
Morikawa is known to be a voracious consumer of information. Not only does he want to be the most knowledgeable person on the golf course, but he wants to learn anything and everything. This thirst for information is a trait shared by every exceptional, in every walk of life. You push the boundaries in your field by learning and applying knowledge from other disciplines. Morikawa’s college coach Walter Chun, calls him an “encyclopedia of knowledge,” because he always wants to know everything. The more he knows, the less is left to chance.
In every profession, the bar to being exceptional is higher today than ever before. It gets higher with each passing generation. Excelling in any area is becoming more demanding and only those who can manage the burden of increasing complexities and intricacies are the ones who will become elite. Advances in every field come from embracing new learnings. The most exceptional people go out of their way to learn new things and expose themselves to new ideas. If you want to become the Morikawa of your field, you need to push the boundaries of your knowledge by learning and applying new ideas from other areas. The rewards you will gain are limitless.
Morikawa has exhibited a level of belief and confidence in himself that is nearly unmatched. This is a crucial requirement for any elite performance. Without this belief, you will not attain the most incredible outcomes. It is this confidence in his abilities that allowed Morikawa to pull off the “shot of the year,” an almost 300-yard drive to within seven feet of the pin, giving him a commanding lead at the PGA Championship. It is the same self-belief that allowed him to make a 24-foot putt to keep a playoff going against the top-ranked player in the world. Or when he birdied four of the final five holes for his first win on the PGA Tour.
The belief in yourself to successfully pull off a task is called self-efficacy. Merely possessing the necessary skills is not sufficient for accomplishing an exceptional outcome. You must also have the conviction that you can achieve it successfully. People with high self-efficacy have an unshakable belief in their ability to complete a particular task successfully, and consequently, are more likely to do so.
Most people doubt their abilities to be successful at a task, and this hinders performance. When you are always second-guessing yourself, your chances of success diminish considerably. While the best in every field operate with a high degree of self-efficacy, Morikawa, who is an elite among elites, takes it to another level. And that is what drives his exceptional performance and results.
Morikawa is not alone
The most accomplished in every field share a common set of qualities, that I have discussed here. These include a combination of innate talent, the ability to put in intense effort and a set of enabling factors that allow for sustained excellence. These elements of extreme success are shared across disciplines. That is why you can learn the same lessons from exceptional performances everywhere. You may not be inspired by professional golfers, but may look up to people in other fields. But no matter which top performer inspires you, you will gain the same insights into the qualities that make Morikawa exceptional, and you can apply them to your life.