The late Dr. Robert Lewis, of Princeton, NJ, was a student of mine for several years. Dr. Lewis was a retired pediatrician, and at age 84, had scored below his age on many occasions. He remarked to me in a golf lesson, “You know, I sure do like how you teach one thing at a time. I know I have many things I could change in my swing, but it sure is easier to learn this way!” He then proceeded to tell me this true anecdote about Professor Albert Einstein, TIME Magazine’s Man Of The Century.
In the late 1930’s, Dr. Albert Einstein was invited to join the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University. The purpose of the institute was to provide leading scientists of the day an atmosphere to brainstorm and develop new theories and discoveries. The founder and leader of the institute was a man named Abraham Flexner.
Dr. Flexner, an avid golfer, made great attempts to interest Dr. Einstein in the game of golf. Einstein would have no part of it initially. But after constant urging from his peers, Einstein decided he would give it a try. He ventured to the nearby Springdale Golf Club to arrange for his first golf lesson.
Einstein was assigned a young, energetic assistant pro by the name of Gigi Carnevale. Gigi accompanied his new pupil to the practice green, where he intended to have a simple lesson of chipping and putting. The good professor was famous for the proficiency of his brain, but he was not so skillful with his hands and coordination. Gigi soon realized he had a formidable task! After each of Einstein’s failed attempts to contact the golf ball, Gigi shouted more instructions.
As the lesson progressed this way, Einstein became very confused and frustrated. He finally set his golf club aside, and asked his young instructor to hand him a few golf balls. Gigi quizzically looked at the professor, and then gave him four golf balls. Einstein quickly threw all four golf balls towards the young instructor, and shouted, “CATCH!” Gigi waived his arms furiously in the air, but failed to catch a single golf ball. Einstein paused a moment, raised his finger and said, “Young man, when I throw you one ball, you catch it. However, when I throw you four balls, you catch nothing! So when you teach, make only one point at a time!”
Einstein, unfortunately, never became a golfer. But this story has a great message for golf instructors and students alike. Keep your thoughts simple, and work on one thought at a time. Even the most complicated of tasks may be learned quickly by slow, progressive learning. After all, if the brilliant Einstein could not digest more that one point or thought, what chance do the rest of us have?