Green-to-tee Strategy, and other fun

“For smart, talented, and ambitious people, winning is sometimes so easy that it makes true success elusive. That’s because victories, easily obtained, can obscure the ultimate goal.”

That’s a quote out of Hannibal and Me, Chapter 6, which is about life strategy. It’s also how I open my latest “teaser” post in the Harvard Business Review. It segues, as one does, from Hannibal in 216 BC to Carl von Clausewitz to, yes, Tiger Woods. 😉

It’s all about strategy, you see — about thinking backwards, from the green to the tee, no matter what the life situation happens to be. (Thank you to Ryan D., who suggested this angle last time.)

Meanwhile, Doug Desalles and I had a great chat on his cool radio station in Sacramento, Radio Parallax. It’s about a half hour long, but we really go quite deep towards the end.

Talking with Fiammetta about Hannibal & Me

Fiammetta Rocco

Here is an 8-minute podcast of a chat between Fiammetta Rocco, our Books & Arts editor at The Economist, and me, about Hannibal and Me.

We were all over the place in our actual conversation, but our colleague Lucy Rohr did a Herculean job of editing it down to 8 minutes.

Topics covered: Tiger Woods and Eleanor Roosevelt, in particular, plus some Meriwether Lewis and the rest of the gang. 😉

(And if you want an amusing visual of how I tape these interviews with London, go back to this old post.)

Tiger Woods and the two impostors

Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. You’re making me … re-write my manuscript.

My book, as a reminder, is about success and failure and how the two can be, as Kipling put it so poetically, impostors. The main character is Hannibal, and his story introduces the various themes that come up in the course of a life, each of which is then illuminated with other lives, ancient or modern.

Here is how I went about it:

  • Mainly I chose relatively obscure people for my characters studies, which is to say people who are interesting or known for a good reason but not ‘famous’.
  • When I did include somebody conventionally famous (and there had to be a good reason!) I focused on an obscure or non-obvious aspect of that person’s life.

Well, Tiger falls into that latter category. I examined one aspect (I won’t say which) that he shared with Hannibal, and one that he didn’t, both of which made him unbelievably successful.

And now… the babes. So many of them. They’ve started keeping a cheat sheet to keep track of them. Plus: Wives swinging golf clubs after mid-night car crashes; cable-TV know-it-alls pontificating about morality; coy mea culpas and a career inter- and perhaps dis-rupted.

What can I say? I notice that everybody suddenly has a strong opinion about this young and immature genius. Tragic hero? Victim of hubris? Pervert?

Somebody from Pakistan informs us that it is entirely normal to have lots of women if you can. Somebody else explains why black women are not mad at Tiger. And so on.

My own default position in these matters is to be cavalier. But Tiger’s self-immolation now looks to be epic in scale. And tragic if the flames sear his children.

Among athletes, Diego Maradona comes to mind–the best in his sport, only to waste it all in decadence. Among politicians (well, where do you start?), perhaps Eliot Spitzer.

Yes, they were successful. Yes, their success was an impostor, by goading them, psychologically, into self-destruction. Is it simply the old Greek theme of hubris? Was it a character flaw? More subtle?

One thing is clear: I have to adjust my manuscript.

And one other thing should not be forgotten: Kipling said triumph and disaster are impostors. Tiger is young, as is his wife (not to mention their kids). As a great advertisement featuring Tiger (before his fall) once put it:

It’s what you do next that counts.

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