During his public apology for marital infidelity, Tiger Woods blamed his actions on "selfishness". I thought of nobody but myself, he declared. As I pointed out last week, his actions were anything but selfish. Interestingly, Tiger has been truly selfish at times, and the consequences stand in stark contrast to his current woes and disgrace.
As a teenager Tiger set an audacious goal for himself: He was going to win more major golf championships than any golfer in history. This is not a goal that one accomplishes in the course of a year or even a decade, but over a career. It is a goal that requires a lifetime of dedication, effort, and passion.
The pursuit of that goal has involved much more than simply playing well at the majors. He has one of the most rigorous training schedules of any professional golfer. His tournament schedule is carefully selected to provide both rest and the highest level of competition. And at least twice during his professional career, he has significantly changed his golf swing. Both times he suffered short-term setbacks in the pursuit of his goal, but benefited enormously in the long-term.
Tiger's relentless focus on his long-term goals has been truly selfish. At least on the golf course, nothing could distract him from the pursuit of his values. The results speak for themselves.
Tiger is well on his way to accomplishing his goal. He was--until last November--almost universally admired, and rightfully so. In being truly selfish--placing nothing above his values--he achieved wealth, fame, and enormous success.
Contrast this with the results when he acted against his stated values, when he did not think about the long-term consequences of his actions. He placed the momentary "pleasure" of sexual conquest above his values--his marriage. The result has been disgrace, the potential destruction of his marriage, and a sidetracked career. Nothing that has resulted from his infidelity has been in his self-interest.
The past few months have witnessed a tale of two Tigers. The truly selfish Tiger achieved his values; the selfless Tiger destroyed those values. If Tiger wishes to get his career, his marriage, and his life back on track, he needs to re-dedicate himself to his values. He needs to place nothing above those values. He needs to be truly selfish once again.