One of the incredible things I learned from my mother was to “Enjoy the process.” Now she did not come out and say “Bobby, you have to learn to enjoy the process.” No, she taught me through her actions and words. It is just unfortunate that it took me over 50 years in order for me to understand- let me explain.
When I was young, I learned how to fly fish. Between my Grandfather and my Dad, I learned quite slowly, mostly by watching and, when nobody was looking, by practicing. There were many occasions that I was fishing the hook out of the back of my leg and many occasions that my time fishing consisted only of untangling a snarled line, yet I learned. It was not too long that I had the rhythm and the patience to be able to let that line flow so softly onto the water. It was a majestic thing to see and it felt so good that I was the person making it happen.
So when I would go out to fish, my mother was always my biggest fan and coach. Her last words to me going out the door were always “have fun” and her first words coming back were always “Did you have fun?”. Notice there was never any talk about catching fish! Usually, in our conversation following, I would hear things like “You really love fly fishing don’t you?” or “It looks like you enjoy being out on the lake like that.” We never discussed the catching of fish unless I brought it up…and I never really did. I would talk about the sounds, the calmness of the water, or just the beauty of the evening.
A few years later, when I got serious about playing golf, I noticed the same type of banter with my mom. Before I would go out her last words were usually something like “Have fun; enjoy yourself”, and when I came back her first words were “Did you have fun?”. I do not ever remember my mom asking me what my score was or what I shot. Her questions and conversations were always about the enjoyment of the sport and the beauty of the course. It was always a conversation that I loved having and one that stuck with me throughout my life.
Years later, when my children were born, I did not know it at the time, but I instinctively said and did the same things I learned from my mom with my own kids. Winning and losing were not the end all and be all; I concentrated more on the enjoyment of the activity. Whether it was sports, reading, or working on chores, my goal was to make it fun so that they would enjoy themselves. It is funny that I remember this one incident. After my kids’ mother and I were divorced, I went to watch my son, now about 20, in a wakeboard tournament. As I was sitting there watching him, his stepdad came up to talk to me and proceeded to lecture me on how I had been too tough on my son. I did not say a word, out of respect to my son, yet the guy had no clue. He had never talked to me in his life, had never known a thing about me, other than what others spoke of, and he was lecturing me. Then he went on to tell me that my son had a great work ethic, he enjoyed practicing and doing the things that were needed to succeed. It seemed to me that he had learned to enjoy the process.
My daughter was the same way. We always loved to read, and we all read a lot. We talked about books, about writing, about stories and I can never recall either of her parents ever telling her that she MUST read. She just naturally learned to enjoy the process. She went on to get her degree in Journalism at The University of Florida, and to my knowledge, continues to enjoy reading even now in her early 30’s.
Yes, that is what my mother taught me, to enjoy the process. If she would have asked me if I caught anything when fishing, which most of the time I did not, then I would have judged my fishing on catching or not! Instead, she taught me to have fun, enjoy the beauty, and, because of that, I got better and caught a lot of fish. When golfing, if my score was the only marker on how well I was doing, I would have gotten discouraged and quit when I was shooting around 120. Yet, she helped me to learn the process- to enjoy the practice and the beauty of the game- and the results were that later in life I was a single digit handicap golfer and had many rounds in the 60’s during my life. Not bad for a guy that took the game up in college and never had a lesson. Oh, I take that back, my lessons came from my mom- mentally.
So what does this all mean to you? Whatever you choose to do in life, learn to enjoy the process and you will be better at what you do. I can hear the sarcasm out there now- the naysayers and the doubters- let their words fall on deaf ears and forge ahead. When you learn to enjoy the process you will look at things as less of a task and more as an enjoyable activity. When I read about great athletes, they enjoy the game that they are in and, what’s more, they enjoy practicing to hone their skills. They get it; they enjoy the process.
As I sit here writing this blog, I am taken back to my youth once again, to recall how my mother used to buy me books, take me to the library, and encourage me to read. She never told me I had to read, yet someway she helped me to LOVE reading, which I do to this day. I do not know how many books I read in a year, yet I find myself always searching for new stories or styles. Some people just smile no matter what their job in life is, I am sure that they are thoroughly enjoying themselves and the process.