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As part of a strategic partnership, Mass Golf and KOHR Golf are excited to provide resources to junior members of Mass Golf as well as parents and guardians of juniors interested in the game. This page will be regularly updated with new blog posts each month.
Exclusive content below has been created by KOHR’s team of professionals that center around mental preparedness, fitness, and golf skill improvement.
Next Up: Blog Post #2 – “Happiness” to be posted in May 2022
By Iain Highfield, KOHR Academy Director
Inky Johnson is a thankful man.
He’s naturally grateful, as anyone would be, for the precious gifts of a rewarding career, a loving wife, and two beautiful children.
But most of all, he gives thanks for the 9th of September 2006. It was the day his world changed in an instant and forever.
It was the day he nearly died.
“Get that man into the theater. He’s about to die!”
Playing in a football game for the University of Tennessee, Volunteers against the US Air Force, Inky was poleaxed when what should have been a straightforward tackle turned into a sickening helmet to helmet collision. Blacking out for a moment as the force of the impact drove all the air from his body, Inky lay on the ground unable to move as panicking teammates urged him to get up.
Rushed to the hospital, Inky had just undergone a CAT scan when a doctor shouted, “Get that man into the theater. He’s about to die!” Sure enough, he had a life threatening internal bleed and needed immediate surgery.
When Inky came round, his doctor told him there was good news and bad news. The good news, as Inky had already worked out, was that he was still alive. The bad news was that serious and irreparable nerve damage to his right shoulder meant that he would probably never play football again.
“Doc, You Don’t Know Me”
“No disrespect, Doc,” replied Inky quietly, “but you don’t know me.” And he didn’t.
The prognosis would have been a heavy blow for any athletically gifted, ambitious 20 year old. But it was especially devastating for Inky. Just weeks before, his coach had told him that he was in line for a top 30 place in the NFL draft. All he had to do was complete ten more games for the Volunteers, and he would be, as Inky puts it, “an automatic multimillionaire,” in fulfillment of the dream he had pursued with extraordinary single-mindedness since the age of six years old.
Growing up in the troubled Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, Inky was the son of a teenage single mom—one of six kids who shared a home with up to eight frequently imprisoned uncles.
A Dream of Playing in the NFL
From his earliest years, he dreamed of a career in the NFL as a way of escaping the drugs and gangs of Kirkwood. By the age of seven, he was training every night with his cousins, sprinting from light pole to light pole in the dark streets, instinctively understanding that the key to success lies in patient engagement in consistent action.
Inky’s persistence paid off when he was spotted training in the street, by a coach who signed him up to take part in organized football. But that was just the beginning of an extraordinary journey. After the end of team practice, Inky would have to wait alone for his mom to collect him after she finished her shift at Wendy’s, at 10 or 10:30 at night.
“Mom, You’ll Never Work Another Day in Your Life”
Rather than going straight home, Inky would persuade his mom to shine the car headlights onto the training field and wait while he went through yet more drills. As tired as they both were, catching his mother’s eye helped motivate him to persevere. “If I get to the NFL,” he would often tell her, “you’ll never work another day in your life.”
The most important lesson Inky got from his mom was to finish what you start; and in his opinion, one of the major problems in today’s world is that too many people get involved in things and then quit, either because they find out they don’t like the people they have to work with, or because the process isn’t what they thought it would be.
More fundamentally, people quit, or put in far less effort than they’re capable of, because they don’t have a strong sense of pride or purpose in what they’re doing. And without a higher motivation above and beyond mere ego satisfaction, it’s all too easy to quit when faced with even relatively minor obstacles.
Why Giving 100% Was as Natural as Breathing
For Inky, the intense drive to provide a better life for his mom and siblings, his focus from an early age on the process of practice, and above all, his pride in himself as an individual with the power to impose his will on his circumstances, meant that it was as natural as breathing for him to give 100% when he got to the University of Tennessee.
And it was natural, too, for him to treat his injury as an opportunity rather than a terrible misfortune; a chance to repay those who had invested in him, and to tell his remarkable story to the world.
So although his doctor might not have known him, the rest of the world now certainly does. Inky was quickly in huge demand as an inspirational speaker for Fortune 500 corporations, sports teams, schools, and churches, and he now holds a Master’s in Sports Psychology from the University of Tennessee, specializing in mentoring young athletes and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
There could be no better use of his talents, because while Inky is unquestionably an outstanding individual, his story, and particularly the way he set about achieving his goals, holds some very valuable lessons for everyone.
Matching the “How” to the “What” – Unearthing the “Process”
All the KOHR Golf Academy students that I am blessed to work with understand that their task is to think carefully about their outcome and process goals, placing particular emphasis on process.
Another good way to think about goals is to ask students what they want (outcome) and how they are going to get it (process).
At KOHR Golf Academy we are never dismissive of what students say they want to achieve, no matter how unrealistic it may seem that the gawky kid might one day win the Open Championship, be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, or in Ink’s case, play in the NFL. Everyone has to start somewhere.
The task for a KOHR coach is not to be realistic; it is rather to make sure that the student’s process goals are appropriate to the outcome goals they have set themselves—that the how matches the what. It should be obvious, for example, that a young golfer whose outcome goal is to play the PGA Tour, but whose process goal is to practice for a couple of hours a week, is unlikely to succeed. But of course, there will be many far less obvious misalignments that need to be corrected.
Determining your Why – The Most Important Key to Strong Motivation
The final and perhaps the most important piece of the goal setting jigsaw is to ask the student to carefully consider why it is that they want to pursue their outcome and process goals.
Most KOHR students will find the question puzzling at first. Perhaps they’ll respond that they have to practice because their parents, teachers, or coaches say so. Or they may point out the obvious attractions of status and financial rewards that come with winning trophies or winning on the PGA Tour.
But it’s my job as KOHR’s mental performance coach to dig a little deeper, because the research evidence is clear that the most powerful and resilient motivation comes from those internal sources that are generated and owned by the individual. These may include the enjoyment of practicing and playing for their own sake, the challenge and excitement of competition, and the pride that comes with the development of high levels of skill. Strong internal motivations may also include, as in Inky Johnson’s case, an urgent desire to provide for and be an example to others that are faced with the adversity of poverty.
Inky’s Personal “Why” and the Triumph of the Individual over Circumstance
Inky Johnson is by any standards a remarkable human being, but his powerful story carries important lessons for people of far more ordinary capabilities.
Faced with the sudden and irreversible loss of the NFL dream he had cherished for so long, Inky might easily have fallen prey to anger, bitterness, and “why me” resentment. But his lifelong focus on process, starting with his nightly races from light pole to light pole, had given him the inner strength and psychological excellence he needed in order not to quit. It was, as he says, the process that saved his life.
More important still, his early experience of adversity had endowed him with an acute and invincible sense of why he was setting out on this path. “You’ll never work another day in your life,” he had told his mother, and motivation like that is not to be extinguished by the mere loss of an external goal, no matter how dearly cherished.
There is no “why me” for Inky; only a far more powerful “why not me” attitude, which has allowed him not only to accept appalling misfortune but also to achieve outstanding external successes, albeit that they are very different from those of which he dreamed for so long.
If Inky had conditioned himself, like so many do, to focus on what he wanted from his life, his ability to deal with this level of adversity would be nonexistent, and he would have been another potential that had the legitimate excuse of injury blocking them from achieving their lifelong goals. But Inky is different to most of society. His psychological habits, ones that he has trained since the tender age of six, mental patterns, his focus on his process (how), and his purpose (why), enabled him to pivot in the midst of adversity and launch a career that I am sure fulfills him spiritually and emotionally, and allowed the promises he made to himself, when he looked deep into his mother’s eyes, to come true.
WARNING: I watched this video with my cat, and it became a lion!
“What, How, Why” Goals
It was simple for Inky; at six, he decided what he wanted, how he was going to get there, and why he wanted it.
What = Play in the NFL.
How = Run light pole to light pole; give it all he has got; stay behind after training and do extra work while his mother is working; never cheat; study film on opposing teams.
Why = The look in his mother’s eyes; the desire to show the people in his family that looked up to him that they do not have to be in and out of jail like their uncles.
Inky lived and breathed his how and his why.
To learn more about KOHR Golf contact Academy Director, Iain Highfield, firstname.lastname@example.org Cell (352) 978-8322
KOHR Golf will be hosting junior golf open houses in May and June where Juniors can try out the KOHR Academy programming for FREE!
CLICK HERE to reserve a spot at one of the open house events.