Don’t let the Critics Define You; Why I am Rooting for Tiger Woods.

I love people who overcome the odds. A great comeback story, whether in sports or business, is something mesmerizing to me.

Recently, I have been listening and watching with great interest to the self-proclaimed experts on Tiger Woods and his golfing career. Many of his critics have probably never picked up a golf club or, at best, are 18 handicappers at their local Muni.

I want to share with you some perspectives of a successful CEO who also has been a scratch golfer.

In the last 24 hours, I have read these headlines:

“Tiger Woods will never win another golf tournament.”

“Tiger Woods’ leave of absence signals the end of a legendary career.”

“This is the end for Tiger Woods”

“Tiger Woods Is Finished”

For those of you who may have not heard, Tiger Woods announced this past week that he is taking an “indefinite break” from golf, saying his game is “unacceptable for tournament play.”

Folks, that’s OK. Just because Tiger is taking what I perceive to be a calculated break from the game does not mean the golf world and Tiger Woods have to come crumbling down. How soon we forget that just five short years ago, his career was declared finished when he backed out of his driveway Thanksgiving weekend in ‘09, his marriage in shambles, his many indiscretions revealed, and a plethora of injuries ensued. The critics at that time declared him finished.

What if Tiger himself had believed the critics in 2009 and 2010 (a year in which he never won a PGA event) that said his career was over? How short are our memories? Tiger came roaring back in 2013, won Five Tournaments (who does that?) was Player of the Year, and regained his status as the #1 player in the world.

The truth is we all face challenges. All of us fall down, both in business and in our personal lives. And unfortunately, some people get enjoyment over seeing the mighty fall. Yes, Tiger has made mistakes. massive ones in fact. He HAS opened himself to penetrating scrutiny, but I still hearken back to a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again but..spends himself in a worthy cause…”

And friends, whether you like Tiger or not, he has been in the middle of the fray.

What if Steve Jobs in 1985 when he was fired from Apple at the ripe old age of 30 had believed his critics? Others will try to put you down and construct artificial walls for you from which you can never escape. But the key word there is artificial—these walls do not exist in reality and this is the point I would emphasize for Tiger Woods.

To Tiger I cite what Steve Jobs said:

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

I have always told my children and grandchildren to not allow the narrow perceptions of others constrain what they can become. The great pioneer leader and spiritual giant Brigham Young said, “Why should we worry about what others think of us? Do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?”

One of those children, Angela Bradford, was a bit of a phenom in golf herself, having won something like 60 golf tourneys as a youth. Together we have watched Tiger’s career blossom and fade.




Having watched Tiger up close and personal, I, for one, am not ready to say he is through.

I would remind Tiger of this saying:  “Your past mistakes are not meant to define you; they are there to guide you.”

I believe Tiger Woods has all of ingredients to prove the critics wrong. I recently heard world famous inventor and Venture Capitalist, Marc Andreessen, describe the two qualities for which he looks when he searching for the top Entrepreneurs in the world. These are the same qualities possessed by all great champions of sport and business:

  1. Courage – Sheer guts, determination and a willingness to learn from adversity. Tiger Woods has shown time and time again that he can be the most mentally tough competitor out there. He has done the seemingly impossible so often, it is almost expected of him.
  2. Genius – Pure talent. People may dispute this, but I believe Tiger Woods is the most talented professional golfer in world history.

I believe he knows how to overcome yet another obstacle to create a magical success.

Sam Snead, who holds the all-time record for most professional golf victories, once said:

“The mark of a great player is in his ability to come back. The great champions have all come back from defeat.”

Something magical can yet happen.

In the end though, it is up to Tiger. If Tiger decides to make Golf his top priority again, I have no doubt he can raise his status again to #1 in the entire World. He is blessed with both courage and genius. We had one remarkable experience some years ago that told me all I need to know about Tiger.

In 1997, Dr. Linda Bradford and I went back to the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. It was a glorious couple of days watching Tiger dominate the field. After the third day of competition, as we were walking away from that magnificent Masters venue, we looked over as the sun was going down and saw ONE PERSON ON THE DRIVING RANGE. It was the man who held a 9 shot lead—21 year old Tiger Woods. The man not only had the greatest talent in the world but with courage and determination he became dominant.

At that Masters event, Woods won his first major championship, twelve strokes ahead of his nearest competitor. It was the largest victory margin for a major until Tiger dominated the US Open by fifteen shots in 2000. Some would argue that that was the greatest athletic performance of all time

I have seen massive turnarounds in business engineered by brilliant CEO’s. In 1985, when Apple fired Steve Jobs from the company he founded, the end was near. Yet today, due to Steve Jobs’s courage and genius, Apple is worth a half-trillion dollars making it the #1 most valuable company on the planet.

Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s, thought he was done in 1982. James Near eventually took over the CEO role and started the turnaround, but his genius and determination brought Dave Thomas back as the company spokesperson helping to drive the Company to massive success with 6,500 stores in 26 countries making it the world’s second-largest hamburger fast-food chain.

Just 10 years ago. Best Buy was named Company of the Year by Forbes. It battled 100’s of cheap retailers both online and offline. After its stock price plummeted to $11 a share, the company brought in CEO Hubert Joly to take the reins in late 2012. Through guts and genius, Best Buy now enjoys a Market cap of nearly 14 Billion and a stock price around 40 bucks a share.

Individuals CAN turn things around. I would contend it is tougher to turn around a large company then turning around an individual.

President Ronald Reagan once said, “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

Tiger – You can do this…if you want. But it’s also fine if you decide that raising your children, working in the business world and/or developing other personal relationships are more important in the long run.

I, for one, am rooting for that massive turnaround. Go get ‘em, Tiger.

Posted in Posted in Lessons Learned, Life Balance, Networking, Sports, Up Principles, What I Learned From  |  13 Comments

13 thoughts on “Don’t let the Critics Define You; Why I am Rooting for Tiger Woods.”

  1. I think Tiger’s problem is more a mindset one than physical. He needs a brain-fix. I am not saying he needs a visit with Tony Robbins, who did actually fix Andre Agassi.
    After his father passed away and Tiger’s divorce he has been through a lot of internal turmoil. He needs to win that battle, find a big why to a comeback and then go for it.

  2. I’m with you David, hoping Tiger will make a come back. However, it’s up to him, NO ONE ELSE. Love Teddy’s quote and YES, we all need to learn from our failures. That’s what makes for success!

  3. David – this is an outstanding blog entry. Sent it on to 20 of my friends, because the “theme” of reinventing (Jobs), reinvigorating (Roosevelt), and recovery (Thomas) is a great set of metaphors to tie in to this story. Loved it ! That said, while I have never been a “scratch” golfer, I have been as good as a “3”, and the NUMBER ONE hardest swing flaw to come back from is the putting or chipping “yips”, and watching Tiger stub chip shots 6 feet was painful. Ask no less (if he was around to ask) golfer than Ben Hogan, who had the putting “yips” end his career. Ditto one of the greatest ball strikers of all time, Johnny Miller… So LOVED the theme, not sure about the specifics of Tiger being able to recover from the depths of his short game foibles….

    1. Scott – very fair comment here on the short game. I have talked to Johnny Miller about his putting and it is definitely not an easy thing to overcome. But in my mind, Tiger Woods clearly had the greatest short game ever – and he has got to be able to get that back.

  4. My wife and myself are fans of Tiger Woods also. We followed the daily critism and outrage he received in the press (much of which he deserved) but you are right, we all fall from time to time from different heights. We too are hoping for an improvement in character and game!

    On another note, thanks for being such a great home teacher to my mother over in that part of your neighborhood. She told me about the book you gave her on one of your visits after I had already purchased and read (loved it and recommend it to all). She also mentioned you brought a gift and visit for Valentines Day. Thanks for being a great person along with author!

    1. Thanks for the kind remarks, Steve. Jeannine is a wonderful person. Love her enthusiasm for life. My best to both and you and Kathi. Kindly, David

  5. David, This is very well written. I believe the lessons apply to many people who, because of their humanness, have stumbled and fallen. Your insight and clarity is uplifting. I recently took some time “away from the game” to regroup and it was the best thing I have ever done. Bravo..

  6. Thank you for this Mr. Bradford. I am a Tiger Woods fan, but more importantly a “life” fan. Tiger’s story is truly inspirational and I thank you for utilizing his tremendous career to shine some necessary light on things that should serve to inspire us common folk who don’t have notoriety and fame in our lives. The media is masterful at producing negativity because that sells, but the positive breathes life into the world…your words have done that for me today.

  7. David,

    I really enjoyed this! Tiger Woods’ situation is a great context for a super message about overcoming obstacles, determination, and winning. I, too, hope he can return to his winning ways and continue to inspire so many. I also hope he improves his game off the field and grows from these experiences. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  8. David,
    I commented earlier but it appears not to have made it through the filters and/or fog of cyberspace. I really liked what you said, not just about Tiger but also the additional examples and references you cited. When I was a high school athlete, I read the Teddy Roosevelt quote you cited every day – it was printed on a large sign high on the wall of the wrestling room. I think every kid who ever wrestled at Worland High School can recite that quote from memory even today. Like you, I would never bet against Tiger, nor would anyone else who has ever competed against him. Thanks for all you do. Rondo

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