167: Rick Sessinghaus: The Power Of Full Commitment: A Coach’s Journey Into Enhancing Others’ Performance Through The Ultimate Mind Game Of Golf
The mental and emotional game is just as important as our physical when it comes to success. Long intrigued by this fact, former professional golfer, Rick Sessinghaus, studied the mental and emotional skills that make or break a performance. In this episode, he joins host Thane Marcus Ringler to share those with us along with his journey as a mental coach, helping others’ performances through the ultimate mind game of golf. Together, and with the help of Rick’s book, Golf, they cover a wide range of topics, including learning from failure, holding high integrity in your life, Rick’s career path, the importance of full commitment, the role of meditation, and why self-awareness matters. Through it all, Rick has now found more satisfaction helping others achieve their dreams than ever before. Listen in on this conversation as he lets you in on that and imparts great wisdom to guide you in your own journey towards success.
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Rick Sessinghaus: The Power Of Full Commitment: A Coach’s Journey Into Enhancing Others’ Performance Through The Ultimate Mind Game Of Golf
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This is an interview featuring Rick Sessinghaus. Who is Rick? As a former professional golfer, Rick has now found more satisfaction helping others achieve their dreams than he did in his own competitive career. Long intrigued by the fact that physical skills were rarely the determining factor in athletic success, he studied the mental and emotional skills that make or break a performance. Adding to his Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communications, Rick received his Master’s and Doctorate Degree in Applied Sports Psychology.
As he continues to enrich the quality of people’s lives through his proven performance enhancement system, Rick is constantly researching the latest scientific findings pertinent to achievement in golf, business, and life. He authored the book Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game and Rick has been PGA champion Collin Morikawa’s swing and mental coach since Collin was eight years old. Rick is also the Mental Performance Consultant for UCLA men’s golf team. He lives with his beautiful wife, Kathy and daughters, Grace and Katy, and son Grant in Burbank, California.
This was a fun conversation and interview with Rick. We cover a wide range of topics, including learning from failure, holding high integrity in your life, his career path, the importance of full commitment, the role of meditation, why self-awareness matters. Rick’s new book and work focus on his success with Collin Morikawa and much more. It was jam-packed and having similar backgrounds, I connected deeply with Rick. I appreciate his time, energy, personality and the work he’s doing is exciting. If you like the game of golf or you want to learn a little bit more about what goes into coaching the game of golf and the mental side, this is one you’ll definitely enjoy. It relates directly to life. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Rick Sessinghaus.
Rick Sessinghaus, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much, Thane. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Ever since first connecting in LA, you’ve been on my mind as someone I’d love to have on and dive in deeper because we share a lot of ideas about the game of golf and how it relates to life. I want to dive into all of that, but also all of your story that’s fascinating. You were generous for your time earlier and now. Thank you for coming on and sharing.When you have a very clear boundary/standard, it helps us have clarity for what we want. Click To Tweet
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
The first place I want to start is this question, what is total commitment to you? When did you first learn it? To give people a context on that, when I asked some background references about Rick, I often ask how they would describe Rick in two words. Multiple people said committed or totally committed. Commitment is a big part of who you are. I’m curious, what is total commitment to you? How would you define that? When did you first learn it?
I first learned it from failures, from looking back at why I didn’t achieve a goal and knowing that if I did it at 95%, I could look at it and that the 5% may have been the difference to not being able to be there. When you go through enough failures or when you let yourself down enough, you finally have to look in the mirror and say, “Are we either in or out?” As I’ve grown as a person, when I do commit and I’m all-in, there are no excuses, there are no rationalizations. It doesn’t always mean I succeed, but when I’m committed, I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “You did all you could today. Your mindset was there. You took the actions that you said you were going to be. You held yourself in high integrity of what you said you did.” That to me is total commitment.
When I was younger, whether it was golf, you say, “It’s the physical skills and if I hit the ball better,” and stuff like that. Yet I knew deep down, it was also about mental skills, going into the gym, and eating right. It was all about that. Total commitment to me is all in. There’s a saying that it’s easier to do something at 100% than it is 99%. When you have a very clear boundary/standard, it helps us have clarity for what we want. The most thing was to be in congruency with myself which is this is what I want to do. This is what I know needs to happen, do it.
In those early years in those failures, do you have any favorite failures or ones that stand out that instilled this deeper within you, to where it led to you finally recognizing or making these changes and instilling or living a life of total commitment?
A story that I say a lot in some of my corporate speaking and I share with some of my golf clients is I had the opportunity to try out for the Cal State, Northridge golf team as a freshman. I was doing well until the last shot. In that last shot, I had a decision to make of going for this par 5 and 2. If I parred the hole, I probably would’ve made the team. If I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make the team. It was very much here’s the line in the sand. You’re going to succeed or you’re going to fail on this huge goal of mine, which was to play college golf. At that moment, my whole mindset and emotions shifted to one of fear, to one of don’t hit it in the water, to don’t screw this up.
Fortunately, I did hit it in the water because that changed the course of my life, where at that point I thought it was all about the physical. For 71 holes, I was in control of my emotions. I was in control of my focus. In that last shot, I was not. I was distracted. I was in fear-based and it cost me to be on the team that year. What it taught me now was that I had a blind spot and that I needed to train that blind spot. That’s why I said even though it was a failure, it was the best thing that could happen to me in my life because that led me down that road of understanding mindset and other principles that’s helped me as a coach. That’s helped me as a career. Now my career is all about that mindset. It does stem from that one golf shot that went into the water.
That is a powerful illustration and story. In these moments in times that are massive shifts in the way we think about things, we can all relate to that, but then comes the process of making that the habit and instilling it. From that point on, what would you say are the phases, the seasons or the process for you of living and holding yourself in high integrity? I’d love to have you speak a little bit on that because this idea of holding yourself to high integrity is a powerful concept. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on that and the process it was for you.
Growing up, my parents were very supportive. My dad was hard on me when it came to sports. My mom has unconditional love about sports. She didn’t care if I won or lost, but my dad had some different motivations for that. Once I declared to other people like my parents that I want to be a professional golfer, or to my wife that I want to be a performance coach, they’re going to hold me accountable for that. “You told me you’re going to do this and I haven’t seen that yet.” Early on, I relied on people that I trusted and that I knew wouldn’t let me get by on just talking. They wanted to see action. My dad, as hard as he was on me at times, which I felt was unfair, that same discipline of what he instilled in me did make a big difference as I got older and older. There was hard work that was required.
My wife is now someone who says, “You said you were going to do this,” and say a little waffling. She’s going to help hold me accountable. I can’t say that I have this undeniable internal drive all the time. That’s just me. I’m fortunate that I’ve had parents and a wonderful wife. I have some other friends that I share some of my goals with that may remind me every now and then to say, “You said you were going to do that.” As with anything, you have a habit. Once you make that statement, “This is my intention to do this,” you do it a little bit more and a little bit more. It does build its muscle to where you finally know that is who you are. That’s everything from working out in the morning to meditating and stuff like that. That’s who you now become. I’m very much into your identity and who do you want to become, what are the behaviors that would lead to that, what are the habits that are going to lead to that and let’s start with the simplest one first.
In your life now, what would you say are some of those habits or structures for you? What helps you live with integrity now?
Clarity of not only what I want, which used to be a big focal point, but clarity on who I want to be. That’s why I say I’m more identity-based now than I am goal-driven. I tap more into my values of wanting to be of service to others and wanting to be a coach that cares and listens. I tap more into that. The big shift for me in the last few years seems like a very simple exercise of a gratitude journal. When I focus more on what I’m grateful for than what I don’t have, it’s amazing the shift that occurs in my life.
I look at everything differently. Even if something on the surface looks like something bad happened to me, I then look back and go, “I’m grateful that that occurred because that led to something else.” I’m a lot less reactive than I have in the past. That’s part of gratitude journal. My meditation practice is more of guided visualization than it is maybe a typical breathing meditation or something like that. That’s also helped me get clarity on visualizing not what I want, but who I want to become.
I’m curious to hear a little bit more on the meditation practice because this is something that is growing in popularity for good reason. There’s more and more science proving the Eastern way of medicine and also life and how meditation is integral to not only clarity but also living in alignment with our identity. There’s a lot of confusion. There’s a lot of information and people often don’t know where to start. For you, what helped get into meditation? How would you describe the guided visualization? It sounds like an interesting version that I haven’t heard of before.
As a game coach, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. I’ve read certainly about meditation for years and I did not practice it per se. I’ve always felt that as a coach, I should at least try things that I am telling people to do. It started off as that, whether it was simple breathing patterns that I wanted to try or mantras or something like that. At the start, there were very minor benefits, but a lot of it was about self-awareness. Once I became more aware of the present moment, aware of my thoughts and also knowing that I could refocus, then I go, “I don’t have to be as reactionary as I used to be.”
That was the starting point. What I found is everybody has busy schedules. I try to always leverage my time. I said, “If I’m going to spend 10 to 20 minutes,” which is a normal block of time for me when I wake up in the morning to do this, “could I add any other elements that could help me?” I studied a lot of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work. He wrote a book called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, which is one of maybe my top three books of all time. I downloaded his app and I’ve done some of his meditations. I liked the combination of starting off with maybe some more traditional meditation of focusing on breath, maybe focusing on how your body is feeling and then use that. Now you’re in a certain state and then going into a guided meditation of more of what I want to be or already see myself being that person.
Also, a little bit of potentially what those goals were. As I said, it was more about the beingness and also with mindfulness. I’m certainly using it with my athletes and clients knowing that you have the ability at any moment to refocus. We don’t look at meditation as, “I can’t do it and I’m bad at it.” It’s missing the point of the exercise in and of itself. It’s an exercise. It’s a tool. For some, it can be spiritual-based and it can be something they do in their religion. That’s fine. For me, it’s an exercise of awareness and understanding that I do have a choice on what I focus on next. That’s my biggest part of mindfulness meditation. The guided visualization. It helps keep my mind active in a way. I know some people say, “Meditation is about slowing things down.” I get it but I like putting that emotion in the visual of what I want. It kickstarts my day with intention because now it’s setting the stage, “Rick, you visualize what you want to be. Now, it’s time to live that way.”
That is a powerful form and practice of it and it’s also actionable. It’s super easy to say, “I get that structure and framework and I get why that works, and now I’m going to test it out. That’s a helpful form and I’m excited to do some of that myself. I’ve done more of the mindfulness meditation side of things and that’s been super helpful for me. Yet, it’s still hard to commit to because for people that are on the go and trying to accomplish things, I’m an Achiever on the Enneagram, which can get me in trouble at times. That doesn’t feel like achieving, but that’s the point. It’s a practice. That’s always been the obstacle for me and I was better at it when I played golf, but now it has been harder to incorporate for sure. You mentioned Dr. Joe Dispenza and I am a huge fan. His book, You Are the Placebo, was a mindblower and so powerful. I’m excited to get the one that you mentioned as well. Who are some of the other authors that you’ve looked to in this space that have benefited or grown your perspective in these realms?Flow is not about when things are easy. It is having the tools and strategies to take on challenges where you can be fully present. Click To Tweet
It’s a funny story. When I was sixteen years old, my parents asked me a typical question, “What do you want for Christmas?” This is a long time ago. At that time, there was a shopping channel called QVC and they were selling Denis Waitley’s The Psychology of Winning audio and a video set. I said, “That’s what I want.” They go, “What? That’s what you want?” I go, “Yes, I like it. He works with the Olympic.” That spiraled into Tony Robbins. I’ve gone to a couple of Tony Robbins seminars. It’s gone into a lot of Dr. Joe Dispenza. The list does go on and on but if I’m thinking of the last few years, I’ve been studying a lot of stuff with Navy SEALS, some Mark Divine. He’s so influential because he’s been in the war zone and how he can come out with such a calmness about him. He has a few books out there that I’ve gone into.
There have been many people. I have a ton of books, but I may not read them cover to cover. I like to read on a subject. Let’s say it’s emotions, I can pick a chapter out of that, that was about emotions. That’s how I like to research things. I get into a specific subject matter, then I take a lot of different things from different people. When I was younger, Wayne Dyer was a big influence on me a little bit on the spiritual component. Honestly, it became a lot about sports psychology and whether it was Terry Orlick or Jim Loehr who had The Power of Full Engagement, which is a great book. That starts off as sports, but then it gets into corporate. There have been a ton of influences on me.
The Power of Full Engagement was such a beautiful and simple framework for a powerful and important concept. You mentioned Mark Divine. That guy is a stud. There’s so much we can learn from those people. Have you ever heard of Kokoro Camp?
Certainly. I was supposed to do the twelve-hour one. I did injure my knee but I was training. I was doing CrossFit for two years. I was getting in pretty good shape. I did a Spartan to get prepped for it. I definitely know a lot about the Kokoro.
It’s been on my secret bucket list for a while because I know how much it could unlock, but the price tag and the suffering involved, it’s scary in a lot of ways. I feel like that’s the most beautiful thing about it.
I took on a Spartan race as a mini version of that. It’s something I’ve never done. I try to get my clients to get outside their comfort zone. I try to do one thing a year that gets me outside of my comfort zone. In 2019, I took a wonderful coaching class called Optimize and went through their certification. At the end of it, your graduation was to do a Spartan Race. Even though I felt I was fairly athletic, I had never done any obstacle course racing. You now have this thing and it was very uncomfortable. There was a lot of anxiety that came to me as we got through the first obstacle.
It kicked my butt. Yet, I look back and go, “I can’t believe I got through that.” I had a friend that helped me honestly get through that. His coaching and kicking me in the butt and saying, “Come on, let’s do it. One more step.” That was my version of that. That can build like with Tony Robbins. I went to the Unleash the Power Within where I’m walking across the hot coals. There are things that once you get through that, it’s now in my own computer file up there saying, “When things get crappy, I’ve done that stuff before. I can pull that back up. You could do that.” Maybe you take a small version of it right now and take that next step.
I’m going to take that advice. I need to think on what that will be. One thing to get out of your comfort zone is such a great ritual and rhythm. Do you have any other notable or favorite uncomfortable experiences from that commitment or what is the one coming up on your list to be done?
There are two right now. One is I’m writing a new book and this book is more personal than the other book that I wrote. It’s requiring me to go at a deeper level emotionally, to be vulnerable and to push myself. Writing the book itself is a pain in the butt. This has a little difference to it because I want this to be a book that impacts many. I want it to have a high standard to it. With that, I know there has to be another depth of me as an author to that. That’s what I’m going through there. There’s another project that I’m working on about flow in life. I’m very excited about that. It hasn’t been made public yet, but I’m going to be a spokesperson for a particular company that is related to let’s live life in more of a flow state, in a focused state, in a loving life for what it is in that moment. I’m very excited about that, but that has taken me out of my comfort zone.
Rick, what you said about this concept of flow and living in flow is something that could be powerful for individuals and communities alike and beyond. It leads to some major impact that’s needed. I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about what living in and with flow in our everyday lives could entail.
For me, flow always started with sports. Certainly, I’m in a flow state. I’ve had athletes who have been in a flow state where they’re at their best. They perform their best and they feel their best. I contrast that with unfortunately, how a lot of people are living their lives right now. They’re living their lives through reaction. They’re allowing the environment to tell them how they’re supposed to feel. They’re allowing their phone to dictate their focus. They are getting bothered with politics and news and that’s going to dictate how they feel. It saddens me because I don’t want to give up my control of how I’m going to feel. Our society is doing that more and more.
I work in some of the corporate environment and I see burnout and stress. I see people who are not fulfilled with what they’re doing. I’ve studied a lot of the flow state, which is you’re at your best because you’re fully focused on the present moment. You’re bringing a true drive and love for what you’re doing in that moment. There is no extrinsic reward to it. You’re doing it to do it. When we can now be intentional with our focus and we can be intentional with how we want to be, that’s what life was supposed to be about. I’m living life. In our environment where there’s more pushed on us, people have more responsibilities, they’re overwhelmed and they’re stressed. I’m not hearing from a lot of people that they’re fulfilled. Flow is a way to deal with what’s happening in your environment.
This is not about going on a mountain top and being away for a minute. Flow is about challenge. It is about taking one challenge. We talked before about I want to make myself uncomfortable and be able to deal with that uncomfortable in such a way to where I thrive in it. One of the key elements of focus is the skills and challenge combination. If I am being challenged, I got the skills to take it on. How rewarding is that when we have a challenge in front of us? It does require all of our skills. It requires our focus. We’re so focused and we take care of it. We do it and we go, “That feels awesome.”
Flow is not about when things are easy. Flow is not about, “This is a perfect utopia world. I get to be on the beach all the time.” It’s about having the tools and the strategies to take on challenges in such a way that I can be fully present in the moment, and want to be in that moment. Most of us look at, “If I could get through this, I’ll get to that.” That cycle is continuously all the time. I believe flow is going to be a game changer as we move forward.
I heard you mentioned how it leads to less fulfillment when we are more reactive and not in control of our own mindset, reactions, and thoughts. I love how you framed that it’s not happiness, it’s the fulfillment that we all long for in a lot of ways. You’re so right. I know from my own experience, anytime that I’ve had a challenge that seems almost beyond, but maybe within my grasp and you’re able to do it, that is the most fulfilling feeling in the world. It’s unlike any other. It’s like you in the Spartan Race. Even in the midst of it, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and still finishing and having that exhilaration that comes from it. It’s fuel and a life-giving source in a lot of ways.
In the line with the challenge, some of the latest research on flow says that when you’re challenged 1% to 4% out of your current skillset is when you’re going to get into flow. When people have a lot of anxiety in their life, they’re in that moment. They’re viewing the challenge is greater than their skills. As a coach, but even in my own life, if I start feeling anxiety, I look at it and go, “In this moment, the challenge that’s been brought to me,” which happened to be a deadline on a project. It seemed too great. The old me would have gotten stressed, overwhelmed, and allow that to dictate my emotions the rest of the day. I’m still learning by any means. I still have those reactive days, but now I look at it and go, “What can I do? Is there a certain thing I can do to bring a different skill to the table? Could I have somebody help me that has their own skills to bring to the table? Do I need to change the challenge level? Am I even looking at the challenge and the correct perception and in the right way?”
I have now been able to look at challenges differently. It’s back to what we were talking about even with mindfulness meditation. I now understand when I’m being reactive. In sports, if the team is not doing well, the coach calls a time out. Sometimes you’ve got to call a time out and say, “It isn’t working right now. We need to regroup. Let’s take a breath. Let’s focus for a second on what we need to do.” Maybe I’ll walk my dogs around the block. That gets my mind off of the problem and then I can come with a different perspective. Those are the things I’m still learning, but it has made a big shift into my life. I’m hoping to make changes in other people’s lives with that.
I’m excited to see what comes with that project. When it comes out, I’m excited to learn more. You mentioned writing. I want to talk a little bit about that too. You had a first book titled The Ultimate Mind Game. I’d love to hear a little bit about that initial book and what that was all about for you and how you’ve even changed as a writer. You already touched on that briefly, but maybe give people a little bit of sense of that. I’m curious to hear a little bit more on it as well.A fundamental question of personal development is self-awareness. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting because writing the first book brought up a lot of beliefs. I’m going to say limiting beliefs here because they were. It was my final project for my doctorate in Applied Sports Psychology. I had an opportunity to either do a research paper or they said you can publish a book and it had to have X amount in it. I said, “I’ll just write a book. How hard could that be?” It had an end goal to be published and then that would be my final project for my doctorate. What it helped me understand was I did have a limiting belief saying, “Rick, you’re a better speaker than you are a writer.” I’m already creating these belief systems and it could be every simple thing like, “I’m not even sure what proper grammar is.”
I have a lot of these belief systems that were coming in because this was going to be a published book. This is not a blog post that three people are watching. I had to deal with some of that at the start of the process and then I was fortunate enough that my dad was a part of this. I had another friend who was an editor and I said, “This is what this book is going to be about.” As I started writing, I started getting into my own way of framing it. How I wrote the first book was every chapter was framed in a certain way. It was basically an outline. To me, I could deal with an outline more than I could deal with a blank piece of paper that said, “What have you got today?” I threw out concepts first and created a somewhat structured outline, and that at least got my writing moving forward.
Once I got past the limiting belief of, “I’m not a good writer,” and how I did that was I had a belief that I’m a very good speaker and communicator. I said, “What if I brought the same voice and tone to my writing as I do my speaking?” That’s what started me moving forward and gaining some momentum. I took something I felt I was good at. It’s still communication. It’s in a different form and brought that into it. That book was written many years ago. What I’ve learned since then is as my new book coaches and talked about the first draft is horrible. Do not have the first draft be what you think you’re going to be publishing because it’s not going to happen.
You and I have talked about this with golf. I don’t look at it as a failure per se, but if that first chapter doesn’t meet my expectation, that’s okay. Let’s learn, make some adjustments and move from there. That first book was one of those challenging things. I had to break through some limiting beliefs. As I got more momentum, I created my own voice with it. I’m proud of the book. Now, I look back at it and it reads a little bit like an instructional manual in a way. It’s a little bit more regimented in here are the things you’re going to do. Here are the bullet points and stuff like that. As I said, I’m proud of it. I evolved now many years later to write this next book. I have a coach who’s pushing me to create stories and to get deeper. It’s not all about the facts and all that stuff. I’m evolving now as a writer for this next book.
Thank you for sharing your process in that. That’s helpful for me or anyone to know in the process. It’s never this clean step-by-step regimen that you go through to create anything and let alone a book. Hearing how you overcame those self-limiting beliefs, especially in setting yourself up for success by framing it in a way that you could get behind of the outline. I did a very similar thing with mine as well because it gives you some place to start going, “I don’t even know where to start.” By putting this framework together, it’s like, “I can start moving forward.” It’s such a helpful way, especially if someone is wanting to write for the first time. What a great way to follow and mimic. That is wise advice.
As you’re saying now, what I’ve realized too in my writing is the same thing. Stories and illustrations are often the hardest thing to get right. Anybody can get the facts together, but telling a compelling story that makes it sit down deep in your bones, it’s the same as speaking, but that’s a refined skill that is very undervalued. I want to get to your doctorate and in some of your other certifications, but I want to paint a little bit more of the backstory before we get there. You mentioned at sixteen wanting this book series for Christmas. That’s very unusual for most sixteen-year-olds, myself included. I wanted the newest toy or probably new shoes at that point. What was your childhood like and where did this drive for success or performance come from for you?
As I look back, I love sports. That was something that was always offered to me from my father. I played baseball, basketball, football, tennis, then I played golf. I started golf right before I turned thirteen. We had a basketball hoop in the backyard. We played football. That was always there. I associated sports with time with my dad. That was for the most part, positive. My dad was my football coach. He was a disciplinarian when it came to sports and he had high standards. I look back at it now and it helped me become disciplined. I understood the work ethic that was involved to get to a goal.
I’ve had this conversation with my dad. It led to me being a perfectionist that the only way that I was going to get my dad’s attention was not only to play sports, but to play it at the highest level and to be perfect. You and I both know that that’s unattainable yet in an 11, 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old kid, if I’m saying, “I want to spend more time with my dad. I want my dad’s approval,” we’ll call it that. If I do this better, I’m going to get more approval. I was pretty driven from a sports standpoint. I was a decent student. I wasn’t somebody who was trying to be a straight-A student. This was only specific to sports. For whatever reason, when the Denis Waitleys or the Tony Robbins came across me, I used it as it will make me a better golfer. It wasn’t always about being a better person per se. It was more sports first, but as you and I have talked about before, sports become a metaphor for life or you can say sports is life and life is sports.
At that age, when I’m sixteen, I had to make a decision. I had stopped playing football. I played in freshman year as a quarterback for the high school team. I was putting it all-in on golf. That’s where there was a shift for me of being all in and commitment. One of the hardest conversations I ever had was telling my dad I’m quitting football. He was a football coach. I was a quarterback for the sophomore team for our high school team. He loved that. I had to tell him I’m going to play golf. He goes, “What? Are you kidding me?” That was hard for me now to move on. I put even more pressure on myself that I had to be a great golfer to show him that that was the right decision.
If I look at these different tools like books, audio programs, and this is before podcasts, it’s I was trying to find answers. Deep down, I was confused because I thought it would be easier. I thought being a high-level golfer would be easier because other sports came to me. I wasn’t going to be a world-class football player, don’t get me wrong. I felt I was athletic enough to get through those stages and feel like I was doing it. Golf was a completely different animal. It is extremely challenging. It slapped me in the face pretty quickly of how challenging it was.
I’m so curious what it was that led you to dwindle down that wide range of sports to only focus on golf and even at a later stage in childhood development. Most of the time, it’s being decided before you’re even ten by us or by our parents, especially now. What was it about golf that drew you in and said, “This is it for me?”
There are a few things. There was this idea of the simplicity of it, a little white ball into the hole. At the start, I had a fantasy that this was easy. Once it wasn’t, that challenge became the driver. It’s like, “Why isn’t this easy? I thought I was a good athlete. This is supposed to be a sport. This is not making sense to me.” I got obsessed with the love of the game. I wanted to be great. I loved every part of it. I got my first job when I was sixteen at a golf shop. I loved being around golf. I loved watching it on TV. I love following the PGA Tour. The other part though is the autonomy of it.
I did play some tennis, but the other sports all relied on the team, on coaching and on other stuff. For whatever reason, there was a freedom in golf of I had to own my results. If I played well, I could say I did this, but then there’s the other side of the coin where it doesn’t go so well and you want to throw the clubs into the lake. I also had to be able to say that was me also. Those were my results. I can’t blame it on a teammate. I can’t blame it on my dad. As challenging as that was, deep down what was a driver for me was this sport pushed me as a person because I told my dad, “I want to play golf because it’s about me. It’s not about my team.” Once I said that he’s like, “Okay.” It’s all on now because my dad could call me out on it. You said you want to be this. You’re not doing the work.
That’s where that obsession with golf probably from the age of 16 to 25 has kept pushing me and pushing me and sometimes in some negative ways. I did not deal with poor results very well. I went to counseling when I was a seventeen-year-old because I couldn’t deal with some of the poor performance. It did have some negative impact on my relationships with my dad and stuff. Golf meant a lot to me. There are many layers to why I got obsessed with it. Most of it was very positive but it exposed and made me vulnerable in some other areas too.
I relate so much with what you’re saying. Honestly, the reason why I got into the game was almost identical in the sense that as a kid, it’s very appealing to be able to take full ownership for the results because you’re like, “I don’t have to worry about other teammates. I get to do it all and if I’m good enough, I’m going to win.” It’s the child-like ignorance that we have in naiveté about it. You get a little older, that means for both the failures and the successes and there’s way more of the failures than these successes. This isn’t as good of a deal as I once thought it was.
The challenge then drives you. It’s so enticing that you do have full ownership of that. You do have a goal that is worth achieving, but so lofty that you have to stretch yourself and never stop stretching yourself for it. That pursuit is addicting in many ways. I relate deeply with that. What was it like for you as you got through into college? I know that you mentioned with your first year not making the team and then progressing through college, and then ended up competing professionally for a bit, and then now staying in the game and in the sport. What was that journey like and how would you describe those different seasons for you?
At the start of golf because it was the fifth sport I was playing, it was something to do in the summer when I was 12, 13, 14. It was a nice outlet to spend some time with friends, but as it became that sport when I turned sixteen and this is my sport, I talk to people a lot about relationships with your sports or in this case golf. It started off in such a positive way and I loved it. Once I made this like, “This is what I’m going to do,” it started to become more and more like a job instead of a passion and a love. As I went through college, I did earn a spot on the team the following year. I had a very average Division I college career. I had some pluses and some spots. I never even qualified for the travel team.
Going back to that one shot I hit into the water, it did spark this idea of improvement on the mental side. I always go back to that shot as being the fork in the road that led me down this road that I love so much, which is about performance, mindset, and mental side. As my game is progressing and I’m becoming a better player, and then I turned professional, there’s also a reality check that goes with it because golf is an individual sport. I got tired of telling myself the story, “Rick, it will get better next year. Those guys have all those sponsors and they have this and that.” I found myself telling a lot of stories that were distracting me from the true thing, which was I wasn’t good enough.Sports teach us that there is always a very apparent cause and effect on things. Click To Tweet
I could either do something about it and work harder, work smarter, do those things necessary or I may need to find something else to do. That was probably the next key area on 23-ish, 24. I tried a couple of mini-tour years. This goes back to the commitment question you asked me before. I honestly was not committed to be a professional golfer. I wasn’t willing to put the work in. I wasn’t willing to put the travel in. I wasn’t willing to do the things that were going to be necessary. I also had a limiting belief that I can’t be a professional golfer and have a family. Family was a high value of mine.
Now, I’m already projecting myself as even if I was successful, I can’t have this other thing that I want. That’s what a lot of the stuff about reality of the commitment. I wasn’t committed to taking this role on. To be honest with you, I wasn’t talented enough to only do it 80%. There was no chance. I always tell people, 100% I could have got to the level of what now is the Korn Ferry Tour. I could have got there with the full commitment.
One of the things that came from that story that’s beautiful, and I relate a lot to that, is similar to me in the first year. The biggest thing that I struggled with was having a plan, not plan B but plan A.5. It was like, “This doesn’t work out.” That whole little “If this doesn’t work out” leaves room for not a total commitment. That hurt my performance and playing as well. I think most people struggle with it and that’s true in any field. You could be getting a new position that you don’t feel qualified for and there’s this imposter syndrome that we all face. That produces this lack of commitment a lot of times.
What I love about the story that you shared and then your process in that is another word that your friends had mentioned about you, which is aware and this idea of self-awareness. You’ve already talked about it briefly, but the self-awareness you had to be able to see that you weren’t fully committed at such a young age is unusual and super helpful. With self-awareness being such an important piece of our development in lives and even in the story you shared, how has it played a role in your life and how do we develop self-awareness? How do we grow in self-awareness? A lot of times we talk about it, but we don’t always know maybe what the steps or process it takes to do it.
A fundamental question of personal development is self-awareness. It’s challenging. As a coach, it’s easier to coach because you are not being self-aware of yourself. You’re trying to make the other person self-aware by asking proper questions. Questions is where it starts. For me at an early age, it was very much about positive effect. It’s that, “Here are the results. I’m not happy with the results. What happened?” At the start, believe me, the self-awareness is not very good. It’s making excuses. It’s their fault. The coach made a mistake here. You get to a certain point where you start seeing the same results after results and you finally have to look in the mirror, and that is very uncomfortable. I believe for whatever reason that at an early age, I had a little conversation with myself in the mirror and at least said, “Today, I’m going to do a little something about it.”
My life completely changed or anything like that, but a little bit about, “You can at least show up and do your practice today. Let’s just do that.” When I started to see that if I was honest with myself, that I finally started to see some improvement, I started associating with that a little bit more. That tie in the cause and effect like I said, “Here’s a result. I’m the cause for this, for both good and bad, but I better take the bad now too. What can I learn?” Sports taught me that there was always a very apparent cause and effect. In golf, the ball goes where the club tells us. There’s a very cause and effect. For whatever reason, I tapped into that mindset first, but that doesn’t mean I was always honest with myself.
The second part of awareness is to truly understand this is what is up to me. We all have biases already, but through a lot of my reading and whatever other people are thinking and their ideas, I’ve always been a very curious person. If I am curious because I want to help my own self, great. As I become a coach of others, asking these questions, getting this information from many people that I agree with, and some that I don’t agree with. Different perspectives have been very important for me in my growth. I know you started with self-awareness, but adding perspectives has helped me look at things in different ways.
The two things is one, perspective like you said, and the second is taking time to understand the cause and effect and what led to those. If we never take time of pausing to understand, none of that awareness will come. That pausing is often the hardest first step because we’re so focused on going and doing and getting ready for the next that we don’t pause and then consider and sit with what is and what has happened to learn from it. That’s a powerful story and you’re right. It’s a lot easier to have someone like a coach to help us be a mirror for us to see more clearly, but we can also do that for ourselves when we take the time to do it. Learning from different perspectives amplifies it. I feel like it’s a whole other level beyond that. In transitioning from golf playing and competing to helping coach others, what was that like for you? As a competitor, you want to win and having this not work out how you thought, now coming alongside others to help make them better, was that hard to make that transition for you?
It wasn’t because I was more aligned with my values of helping people and seeing their eyes light up when they hit a good golf shot. I don’t think it was one of those like, “I could have, would have, should have been this pro.” I dealt with that pretty quickly after I said, “No, this is not going to happen.” I threw back to commitment. I threw myself fully into being the best coach possible. Getting the joy of seeing somebody hit a great shot or getting their personal low score or smile on their face, it was the reward for me as a coach. That was a fairly easy transition. I liked being around people who were also passionate about the same thing I’m passionate about.
Those lessons could have been with a strict beginner who were so fired up about being there. Those were more fulfilling for me than the person who signed for twenty years that came to the lesson with a bad attitude and didn’t care like, “This is going to be a long one.” It didn’t matter the quality of the player. It was more about the energy they brought to the game because I loved it so much. I loved sharing that passion with them. That’s what I’ve been so blessed with and so fortunate is that I get to talk golf and coach golf to people who are also obsessed with this.
It’s a sweet space to be in. I love how you transitioned well on that because a lot of times that transition doesn’t go well for most people. This intermediate period where there’s a lot of either depression or lethargy or this wanting for more. To hear you make that transition so well is encouraging because I know it’s hard for all of us in that time. With your work first on the swing and now on the mindset and combining those through your experience, you’ve had a lot of certifications and programs that you’ve gone through.
You are a Certified Master Trainer of NLP, Mental Game Certified Professional, Mind Factor Certified, Certified Professional for the Habit Factor, Athlete Assessments, DISC profile, a Bulletproof Coach, Certified Optimize Coach, the list of things that you’ve invested in yourself and in your ability to coach and come alongside others. What have you seen from that? Even pursuing your Doctorate, all of those take a lot of time and money and effort. Have you seen that to be worth the time, effort and money? How has that made you a more complete coach now?
I’ll be honest with everybody. One of my high values is curiosity and learning anyways. I’d love to learn. Though a lot of those certifications have nothing to do with golf, but they have to do with learning about life, performance, and how I can be better. That’s always a driver going into it. Here’s the other part that is tricky. I also have to take ownership that I bring something to the table with my own experiences and with my own outlook that can be valuable. My wife can definitely talk about this, but early on I would read all these books and do all these things. She was saying, “You don’t need to be Tony Robbins. You don’t need to be that person. Who you are can bring a lot to the table.”
I needed to still be who I was and get these different perspectives. What I’ve also found out when I was first teaching golf, I was what I would call a systems teacher, “You had to put the club in this position, etc.,” because that structure, that system made it safe for me as the coach. I learned pretty quickly that wasn’t the best way. There are a lot of individual physical body types. There are a lot of different learning styles. There are a lot of all these different types of things. I needed to be open that there are a lot of different ways to do it. Thus, I should open my own mind to some of these possibilities. It’s like you start learning more and more, and the more you learn, you realize the more you don’t know. That’s the path that I’m always on. I’ve never got to the point saying, “All is taken care of. I know everything about the mental side of the golf.”
I’ve been doing a ton of stuff with a flow research lately going, “If I wouldn’t have known this years ago, I would have completely changed my coaching.” I didn’t know that. I’m evolving as a coach and I’m getting better and better. I’m huge into learning. The application of the learning is a different discussion because I used to read a lot of books but not apply it. Now, I am able to filter it through and say, “Not only does it apply to me but, could this tool be useful for my coaching clients? Could this be a different perspective that I could throw into a coaching call?” That’s how I utilize it now. I don’t think there’s one system per se that is the best. I’m trying to create my own way of presenting it having these different tools. It still comes down to the energy and the communication that we bring to it that I want to be authentic with and connect with.
That’s such a cool journey and process to go through. It’s true for all of us in any career or endeavor. Usually, it’s applying those universal systems or principles and then we start learning more of the individual and then the nuance and how it applies differently. It is a dance and the beautiful thing is when we start embracing the dance versus trying to avoid the dance. One of the interesting things I heard is you had experimented with something called the Focus Band. This is an illustration of one of the different tools or experiences you’ve run. What was that process like for you?
To give you some context with this, as a mental game coach, the most challenging thing is to make it tangible, to make it measurable. When I’m coaching somebody, they can see a difference and there’s something they can take away. When I hired a sport psychologist when I was a professional golfer, that relationship was more about just be positive, just do positive thinking. That didn’t resonate with me because I didn’t think that was tangible enough. We fast forward and especially in the technology that we have nowadays, we can measure brain waves. We can measure heart rate variability. We can now measure physiological signs that can help us understand that a thought pattern could have a different reaction. How do we make mindset and mental game more tangible and something that we can train?
With technology, Focus Band being one of them, is if you can measure brainwave activity and tell me which side of the brain I’m in, the left side or right side. We can now measure when the brainwaves went down through a proper breathing pattern and a client can see that. They go, “That empowers them. I saw biofeedback that was different. I can change my thinking. I can change how I feel by this breathing pattern.” Whether it was Focus Band or other tools that I’ve used, that’s the reason why.Golf is a very vulnerable sport. It exposes a lot of things quickly. Click To Tweet
We’re only at the cusp of what’s going to be coming out with VR and all these other different things. We can start to understand and how to measure and train the mental game. That’s what I’m very excited about. Technology has changed. I’ve been very open to using technology, especially with my younger clients. A lot of my younger golfers, they’re born and raised with this. This is nothing new to them. They go, “I’ll put on that little thing on my forehead and get my brainwave activity. It’s a cool app. I can see that.” It’s not much of a leap of faith for them. With my older adults, it is but that’s a different story.
I’m sure you see a lot of fascinating differences in the generations. If we had more time or another conversation, maybe we’ll dive into that. I want to talk about this changing of seasons for you. There has been a new season that you’ve stepped in with one of your golfers. I am sure if people are familiar with your name and especially in 2020, they’ve become a lot more familiar with you and your work. What is the season with Collin been like? Maybe for people who don’t know, give them a little context of what 2020 has held.
I like how you’re posing things like seasons. When I first became a golf instructor and joined the PGA of America many years ago, that first season of being a beginner instructor, there’s a lot to learn and there are a lot of ups and downs and bumps along the way. I was trying to improve myself in my profession. I was fortunate enough to meet Collin Morikawa when he was eight years old. His father and him came up to me on a driving range in Glendale, California and asked me if I would be his instructor. There’s certainly a lot of stories within those years. He was like any other student I would want to work with. I poured myself into it. He had a great work ethic. He had a great attitude and there were no expectations. He’s just a kid who loved golf who was playing well.
As that relationship grew, and you could see his talent level and you could see his work ethic, his wonderful attitude and his mindset, in my head, I’m going, “There’s something special about him.” I felt I cultivated something that was already within him. I was his swing coach. I was his mental coach. I still am, but that has now come to fruition. There are many more exciting things on the horizon, but for what he’s done when he turned professional and he’s won three times on tour. He’s won the PGA Championship in 2020. That brings a lot of attention to him as he deserves.
People say, “Who is his coach?” They find out more about me. The season of him winning and what that’s brought to me is opportunities. It’s brought some validation to my coaching. I’ve been fortunate that some people are asking like yourself or being on podcasts where we get to not talk about golf swing mechanics. We get to talk about developing junior golfers. We get to talk about developing people. We get to celebrate greatness, which he has shown that.
I’m using this as a springboard for my next season, which is to now help more and more people understand that golf can be a vehicle for personal development. The stuff that I do with flow training is that Collin’s success has helped validate and brought more people to contact me. I am extremely grateful for that opportunity. Do I know exactly what’s going to happen in the next few years? No, but I have some intention of where I want to utilize this moving forward. I will continue to help junior athletes, continue to help Corporate America to be able to perform at our best when it matters most. That’s where my mission is.
It strikes me that there’s this idea from the Bible even of anointing and appointing. In the Bible, there are stories of God’s anointing someone to be king, but then doesn’t appoint them until fifteen years later like King David, for example. What your story shares is this being faithful in the journey along the way and adding elements in the process to where, when there is something that exceptionally breaks out with one of your students, you’re in a place where this is going to be great to see what comes from it. You’re going to bring more good and more help to many others, then maybe you would have won if this happened 15, 20 years ago.
I’ve told some of my friends in the business that if this would have happened fifteen years ago, I don’t know how I would have handled it. I had a bigger ego back then and I would have taken on it as something that I did. I didn’t do this. Collin Morikawa did this. He worked his butt off and had a great attitude. He sacrificed a lot to achieve his goals. I was part of a team that helped him cultivate that, certainly, but it wasn’t me. He entrusted me and that’s something I’m extremely grateful for, and we create a very good team environment. He has a wonderful caddy. He’s got a wonderful girlfriend. Fifteen years ago, I would have taken a lot more credit than I deserve. Let’s put it that way.
That’s some beautiful humility there, Rick. I appreciate that. This is something we’ve danced around, but not directly addressed. What would you say golf teaches us about life? How does the game of golf make us better humans?
There are many levels to it. I’m going to start with the most basic for me. The results that you get in golf are a direct relationship to you and your own behavior because there is no relying on anybody else. We have to deal with adversity all the time in golf and being able to have that right in our faces. I hit a ball in the trees, now I have to deal with getting out of the trees, which for some people might look at as a negative, but some golfers look at it as a challenge. They look at it as I get to create a shot. I can’t wait to hit the shot. Talking about perspective, it’s helped me reframe situations on the golf course. How I’m seeing this is vital.
Golf, it’s a basic thing. It’s a cause and effect relationship. I hit that ball. It was me, not somebody else. I have to take responsibility for that. That’s what something that helps a lot of people when they use the game in a healthy way. It certainly teaches us skills about focusing and about dealing with fear, “I don’t want to hit it in that water.” I worked with many clients that are worried about what other people think. “Is somebody else going to think about my golf swing and how it looks? I’ve got to play well because I want their approval,” and that’s life also.
I get somebody that goes, “Why did I make it such a big deal playing with that person when they didn’t care what I was doing?” It accelerates some of the things that you and I have talked about in life. Golf is a very vulnerable sport. I believe it exposes a lot of things quickly. It exposed a lot of my temper and frustration as a kid, a lot of my own uneasiness and stuff. The vulnerability, the results are straight in your face and there’s a lot going on there. I’ve always said golf is the ultimate mind game because it’s right there in front of your face all the time.
Three one-offs and then we are done, Rick. What question do you ask yourself the most?
What first popped in my head is how do I have to show up in this next event? Whether it’s this show, how do I want to show up for this? I do a lot of identity type questions. That would be my answer to that.
If you could study one person for an entire year, who would it be and why?
I’m torn here on there are some more typical answers that would come like a certain athlete or something like that, but I’m going to give you two people. We’ve already mentioned their names. Dr. Joe Dispenza has been a big influence on me of somebody who had to go through tragedy in his own life to find a new way, overcome that, go against the norm of what’s accepted and what’s known. He seems so genuine. He seems like he wants to care and love. I’ll use him. That’s somebody who I would love to get to know more and study. I love his mission and what he does.
Last question, and this is something we ask every guest that comes on. If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why? This is a text message they’d receive daily in the morning as a reminder from you.
“What’s the best version of yourself right now?” Every 9:00 in the morning, that’s the reminder I get on my own calendar. Why I do it at 9:00 AM is because I’ve already done my meditation at 5:30. I’ve already had some intentionality to my morning, but sometimes life gets thrown with curveballs in that morning time. I have three children. I’ve got a family. That 9:00 AM reminder for me is to reset me. For those out there, it’s about intentionality and what’s the best version of yourself right there. That’s my text.Golf is the ultimate mind game because it's right there in front of your face all the time. Click To Tweet
That rings true with what the show is about and what this community is about as well. Thank you, Rick. Thanks again for the time. This has been a blast. It was everything that I had expected and would be more. Where can people find out more about you, your work, your programs and the future offerings that are coming up?
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve enjoyed these questions and this dialogue. That makes me feel in the flow when I can talk about these things with somebody. Thank you for that connection. I don’t do a ton of stuff on social media but my website is my full name, RickSessinghaus.com and on social media every now and then, on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s Rick Sessinghaus. I will talk about things that are going on, whether it’s some of the stuff that I’m working with PGA Tour or maybe some upcoming interviews or articles that I’m doing. That’s the best way to find me.
Rick, thanks again. This has been awesome. I can’t wait to see all that’s ahead for you and your work.
Thank you so much, Thane. I appreciate it.
For all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week because we are out.
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About Rick Sessinghaus
Corporate coach, mindset principles expert, and former professional golfer Rick Sessinghaus has long been intrigued by the fact that physical skills were rarely the determining factor in athletic success. He has studied the mental and emotional skills that make or break a performance and quickly realized the lack of their application in the corporate arena. Today he passionately speaks and consults around the country, helping professionals and businesses identify their needs so he can help them better PERFORM FOR SUCCESS.
Rick is America’s coach and expert on mindset principles that make or break performance both on the course and in the business world. With his PERFORM systems, PERFORMers are evaluated on their behavior under stress, as well as their mental and technical skills to uncover the best path for improvement and success. Rick is an expert on the crucial performance factors that PERFORMers need to reach their goals. As a sought after speaker, trainer, and consultant to companies looking to improve key skills of motivation, focus, confidence, and execution, Rick’s PERFORM system for mastering the mental game has provided companies with an innovative and unique business training format.
Rick is also an Instructional Editor for Golf Tips Magazine and has been featured on Fox Sports Network as a mental game contributor. Rick’s book, Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game, has been highlighted in national golf magazines and used by leading golf instructors across the country as the “best resource to improve your mental game.”
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