Monday, June 04, 2012

Can you take the good & leave the bad?

At the gym earlier today I was watching ESPN on the giant screen.  The commentators were all fired up about Tiger Woods' unexpected tournament win this past weekend.  They played a series of clips of him in different tight situations over the years, talking about the intense focus he brings to the game.

I was jealous as I watched Tiger sink an impossible shot at one tournament: it was after dark, the ball was behind a tree, and it was raining.  And yet he was so dialed in on what he needed to do. He just got to work and put the ball in the hole.  I'd love to have that ability to execute.

But this also raised a spiritual question I've been wondering about for a few years now: how much good can we take from a person whose overall approach to life isn't something we want to emulate?

I'm not asking about Tiger, per se, but rather about how we choose who we watch, listen to, learn from.  On one level, I believe that when we choose to "follow" someone, we shouldn't be surprised when we end up where they are.  I don't want Tiger's life, so I don't pay all that much attention to what he does.  But can it really be all that bad to read up on his game techniques to see if there might be some pointers that could translate into my life?

There's a rule in criminal law called "The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" that keeps coming to mind for me (complete with horrid flashbacks to my first year of law school).  It says that if one part of an investigation was illegal (searching your home without a warrant, for example), all evidence found as the result of that search (the 47 mountain lions you're training to do ballet in clear violation of your town's ban on dancing animals, for example) is excluded from the case against you.  The whole investigation has to be clean for the evidence to be considered.

Obviously, it's a bit of a stretch to apply this to watching Tiger for tips on focus. And it's an impossible standard to apply in terms of mentors in any capacity, as They'd have to be perfect. We're all human, which means we're all a mess.  But where is the line at which point following anything someone says becomes a bad idea?

For example, would you take putting tips from Charles Manson (he's had some time...his game might be quite good...)?  How messed up can a tree be before you'll stay hungry rather than eat one of its oranges?

I have no idea what the answer is.  Just thought I'd include you as I wonder :)

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