Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison are household names. Bryson DeChambeau is not. However, with his impressive victory at last week’s US Open, DeChambeau joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to have won the US Amateur, the NCAA individual title, and the US Open. Pretty heady company for a 27-year-old golfer often referred to as the “mad scientist,” and whose unorthodox methods, until recently, were rejected by the golf community.
DeChambeau is known for his application of physics and science into how he approaches golf and everything else in life. His recent forty-pound weight gain, fueled by an intense strength training regimen and countless protein shakes, has been the talk of the golf world. But the qualities that have made him exceptional are no different than the traits shared by the most influential people the world has ever seen.
It is still too soon to tell how far Bryson will go, but he is on track to separate himself from everyone else. This is because not only is he getting better at the game of golf, but he is also getting better at getting better. In other words, his rate of improvement is accelerating. Using mathematical language that he will surely understand, his second derivative is off the charts. The gains he is making are happening faster and faster.
Other players better take note, because if this rate of improvement continues, the difference between Bryson and everyone else will get larger and larger, until it becomes insurmountable.
Bryson is not the first to separate himself from his peers using a process of trial-and-error, innovation, and continual improvement. The methods he uses, such as single lengths shafts on all his irons, or an uncomfortable-looking stiff-arm stroke, or even searching for the science of breathing, are considered unconventional. But this “eccentric” approach towards improvement has been responsible for some of the most significant achievements in history. It mirrors many of the qualities that have helped Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and others transform the world.
Below are three traits that DeChambeau shares with Jobs and Edison:
A Focus on the entire system:
Thomas Edison invented the modern lightbulb. But a lightbulb alone was only marginally valuable. Edison needed to build the entire suite of products or an ecosystem that made the lightbulb usable, scalable, and practical. His creations to support the lightbulb included the distribution of electricity to homes, the ability to track usage (the electric meter), and many other things that brought out the value of the lightbulb. Edison created an entire system of value that we refer to as “the lightbulb.”
Steve Jobs did the same with the iPhone. It wasn’t just the device we hold in our hands that made the iPhone special. The entire cluster of value surrounding it, including the app store, the relationships with carriers, the pricing model, and the ecosystem of partners and developers, makes the iPhone invaluable.
Similarly, DeChambeau has created his system of value that results in outstanding outcomes. Everybody talks about his newfound power, which is remarkable as he has increased his driving distance by over twenty yards just over the past year. This means that every hole is 5% shorter than it was a year ago, and a 7,000-yard golf course reduces to under 6700 yards.
But if you want to emulate his results, bulking up alone will not do it. Bryson has developed the entire ecosystem that maximizes the value of his weight gain. This includes flexibility, swing mechanics, and even strengthening his fingertips and working on efficiency with his wedges, something he needs to rely on a lot more. Focusing on one thing alone is not enough. Only through an integrated program of improvement can you achieve incredible gains.
Applying knowledge from other disciplines:
DeChambeau keeps pushing the boundaries of the game of golf. The only way to advance any field is through learning and incorporating ideas from other people and other disciplines. Steve Jobs has mastered this art, and Bryson is doing some of the same things.
Take the iPhone for example. Just about everything that made the iPhone special (the multi-touch screen, GPS technology, the full web browser, Siri, the compression technology, etc.) came from other fields and domains. The genius behind the iPhone was assembling disparate components into a beautiful package that all of us lined up to buy.
Sir Isaac Newton, one of the world’s most influential scientists, attributed his world-changing accomplishments to the knowledge he gained from others. Newton leaned on the in-depth knowledge from experts in fields as diverse as chemistry, mathematics, optics, religion, history, and philosophy to create his groundbreaking theories that have left an indelible mark on the world. It was this approach to learning that led to his timeless quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
DeChambeau has done the same thing. He has learned to apply knowledge from other disciplines to advance his own. Whether it is physics, biomechanics, nutrition, physiology, or psychology, he has consumed the wisdom of many and created his unique expression of them, which are currently the envy of the golfing world.
Self-belief and conviction
Conventional wisdom never results in breakthroughs. There is always reluctance or even outright rejection of new ideas. Traditional thinkers have a history of rejecting things that are obvious today. Naysayers, disbelievers, and skeptics have been a drag on innovation throughout history. When DeChambeau first appeared on the golfing scene, he was an anomaly. No one could relate to what he was doing, and pundits could not accept his approach to golf.
He is not alone; people also laughed at Darwin when he introduced his theory of evolution. The telephone was never supposed to be successful, presumably because there was no shortage of messenger boys. Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs was called “ridiculous fiction.” According to experts, online shopping was never supposed to catch on, and neither was the iPhone, the personal computer, the TV, or the automobile.
But every single one of these examples was driven by someone with a strong belief and conviction. Someone who not only had the creativity to come up with a new approach; but also the strength and confidence to stay true to it, despite what the naysayers said. These are the people who have changed history.
The most exceptional people are multifaceted
Many elements make someone exceptional. You need to born with natural talent, and you need to work incredibly hard; you need to be committed to your goals, and you need to be obsessed with details. These are the elements that everyone who has reached an elite level in a field possesses.
But, every once in a while, someone like Bryson comes along and, just like Jobs, Edison, and a handful of others, possesses certain intangible and rare traits, like the ones we just discussed. These qualities separate the most extraordinary individuals from everybody else. With Bryson, we are just beginning to see the outcomes. Other golfers should take note because if Bryson can continue doing what he is doing, they will soon be out lapped. We are at the beginning of a rare and special story.