The Dan Plan: Can You Too Be Anything You Want to Be?

By Shlomo  Maital   

        Dan Plan

  Michael Kruse is a Tampa Bay Times staff writer. He has been covering the adventures of Dan McLaughlin and “The Dan Plan”.   Here is a summary:

   “A year ago, Dan McLaughlin spent hours every day at the St. Petersburg golf course Mangrove Bay, putting, putting, putting. He was not quite a year into what he calls the Dan Plan.   McLaughlin had decided at 30 to try to become a professional golfer on the PGA Tour. He had never played the game. He had almost no interest in the sport. What he really wanted to do was test the theory that anybody could become expert at anything with 10,000 hours of measured, deliberate practice.   The resident of Portland, Ore., quit his 9-to-5 commercial photography job and started living, frugally, on about $100,000 of savings. He came to Florida because of the warmer winter weather.”

    Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers showed, you may recall, that the secret of success for baseball players (Ted Williams), basketball players (Michael Jordan), violinists, and nearly everyone, is mainly hard work – namely, 10,000 hours of practice.   Well, McLaughlin and The Dan Plan have invested about 4,000 hours of practice to date in golf.   Results?    Dan has a 7 handicap, which makes him better than 85 per cent of the amateur golfers in America.

     The Dan Plan is succeeding, because McLaughlin has become a celebrity, with stories running on him in The Times, Business Week and nearly everywhere,  tracking his progress.    But what about Dan himself?  Is he sticking to his plan?

   After playing two rounds with McLaughlin, economist Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame assessed his progress this way:  “He is about 15-16 strokes per round away from being good enough for the PGA tour. That means he has to shave off about one stroke for every 500 hours of practice from here on out.  “I suspect he can keep that rate of improvement for the next few thousand hours, but it will be a tough haul after that.”  “I’ve learned a lot about patience,” McLaughlin told Portland Monthly, “but the most important thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to get the ball in the hole.”  This ongoing pursuit for McLaughlin continues to be a question for the rest of us: Is talent made, not born? Can you be anything you want to be?  Maybe he will make the PGA Tour, or maybe he won’t. But this, of course, is not ultimately about golf.  “I’ve learned a lot in the past year,” McLaughlin said the other day on the phone.  “But hopefully everybody learns a lot in a full year.”

Is he still totally committed to the Dan Plan? He answered the question by saying the same word four times. Yes.  (He’s done 240,000 practice swings so far).  

  I’m not sure that you can be anything you want to be.  But I am sure that a great deal of persistence and hard work will achieve any reasonable goal.  In my work with entrepreneurs, the key quality THEY cite for success is not brains, or creativity, but simply persistence and resilience.