The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

The Need To Please


On a long flight recently, I took the opportunity to read a biography on Tiger Woods. Everybody knows the story of Tiger, but I am interested in father-son relationship between Earl-Tiger.    Earl was a former Green Beret, who was determined that his son could change the world, literally.  He had a disciplined focus on that objective.

Earl taught Tiger the disciplined focus of Special Forces – accomplish the mission.  I remember a Colonel saying “you may have to go through hell to accomplish the mission and, if so, I expect you to go to hell!”  For example, Earl would shout obscenities at Tiger as he was swinging at the ball, simply to break Tiger’s concentration.  It is no surprise that Tiger became such a focused competitor.

The difference between father & son was that the son had a need to please his parents.  Earl had no need to please anyone.  (Any such need by Earl would have been extinguished in Special Forces.). Tiger’s need to please his father probably made him the greatest golfer of our time.  I suspect that also made him emotionally vulnerable, making him different from his father.

Teaching disciplined focus to an emotionally vulnerable person is problematic.  Normally, the more focused you are, the less people are pleased with you.  In Tiger’s case, the normal response was overwhelmed by the millions of dollars suddenly flooding into his family, as well as the glory and adulation by millions of fans.  Tiger thought he was pleasing the whole world and was proud of that.

As they say, pride goeth before the fall, and Tiger fell hard.

Maybe, the lesson learned is that hard-charging Alpha-male fathers can, with the very best of intentions, do real damage to their sons – at least sons with a need to please.

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