I recently spent a day on the golf course with my son-in-law. He and our daughter were visiting from North Carolina, and the sun was bright and the temperatures mild for a midwinter day in southern Mississippi. It was the first time I’d picked up a golf club since late October, so I knew I’d have to scrape a little rust off my game.

I got off to a better start than I’d expected, though. We both scored a par on the first hole, with ideal shots straight down the fairway, a wedge to the green and a two-putt from fifteen feet outside the hole.  “Nice,” I thought to myself as I walked back to the cart with a little extra pep in my step. “This is going to be a great day!” I said to Chris during a very confident ride to the second tee box, visions of a scratch score running through my mind.

When we pulled up to the number 2 box, I couldn’t wait to swing again. Every golfer reading this post knows exactly what I’m talking about: the euphoria of getting a par or a birdie on the first hole and the excitement about the great game of golf that’s awaiting you.  It’s a sure sign that there are more birdies ahead, not to mention eagles. In fact, my sights were now set on a new course-record score.  OK, so I’m a bit of an optimist.  Anyway, since I hit first on the first hole, I still had honors.  I teed up, stepped back and sighted my tee shot straight down the 315-yard fairway.  Just like the pros, I addressed the ball, and then I ripped into it like I knew what I was doing.  I looked up to see my perfect shot soar down the fairway well before my club had actually made contact, and then my driver slammed into the tee box about a foot behind the ball, careened off the sod surface and, thanks to a bit of good fortune, struck the ball ever so slightly.  After bouncing and dribbling, the ball finally rolled to a stop ten yards behind the seniors’ tee box.  And then came that sinking feeling in my gut that all golfers know. “Wow,” I said, “I really messed that one up, didn’t I?”

Now consider this scenario: You’re coming off one of the greatest sales appointments of your career, in which you magnificently closed a huge case that just days earlier your manager had considered dead on arrival. “No way you’re gonna close that case,” he’d said. But using your exceptional sales skills, your charming personality and your persuasive charisma, you resurrected it from the dead.  Two days ago, you collected that big check and an “atta boy” from your manager and the profuse thanks of your client. You’re at the top of your sales game!  You’ve even started planning your speech for the “Agent of the Year” award at next year’s sales conference.  And with a great big confident smile right down to your core, you know that tonight’s appointment will go exactly the same way, catapulting you into the “rare air” of being among the greatest agents in your company.

But then, just like I did on the second tee box, you step up to the ball and something goes awry. No matter what you present, the client’s not buying.  No matter how good your perfect presentation is, the client isn’t convinced.  No matter how many angles you take as you present the need for your product, your client doesn’t get it.  It’s just not happening for you or your client tonight.

After two hours of the best salesmanship effort that you have to give, you leave every ounce of yourself, of your very being, there in the client’s home. You slink out dejected, disgusted, befuddled and exhausted.  “How could this have happened?” you wonder as you place your computer bag behind the backseat. “You were so good two nights ago—you remember, back when your life and your sales career were so easy.”  You just knew going into tonight’s appointment that you had this one in the bag.  You’d already counted the premium on this month’s commission check.  “Wow,” you say to yourself, “I really messed that one up, didn’t I?”

Just like on the golf course where I looked like a pro on the first hole and was already counting on a birdie on the second—and a course record by the end of eighteen holes—you’re wondering what went wrong with that last shot.

You’re at a crossroads, with a very important decision looming. You just hit one of the worst shots of your life, and now you’re standing over your ball pondering your future.  You can choose to have selective short-term memory loss and put that last horrible shot out of your mind.  You can think back to the great shots you’ve made on number 1 and visualize success on number 2.  You can line up your second shot right down the middle of the fairway (ignoring the fact that it’s behind the senior tees), address the ball like a professional and take a perfect shot to get you on or near the green.  Or you can choose the other path in this fork in the road. You can let the embarrassment, the disgust and the anguish over that last shot derail your second shot, your third shot and maybe even the rest of the round.  It’s all about attitude, and the choice is yours.  What decision will you make? Are you going to carry the negativity of that last appointment into the next one, or are you going to step back up to the ball, sight it right down the fairway and swing with confidence?

A great manager once told me, “Robert, you get paid in direct proportion to the amount of rejection that you can withstand on a daily basis.” A sales career is a numbers game, just like golf is a numbers game.  In sales, you’re going to have some appointments where it just doesn’t work out.  Sometimes you’re going to hit a bad shot, and other times you might do your best but the course just doesn’t give you the result you were expecting and you come away feeling unrewarded for the great effort you gave.  But to be truly successful in either sales or golf, you need to have selective short-term memory loss.  Because they’re numbers games, you just have to keep swinging and swinging and swinging.

Whether your last appointment was a huge sale that came with great accolades, a pat on your back from your manager, happy clients and an awesome paycheck or a complete and utter failure, you have to proceed the same way: Sight the next shot straight down the fairway, address the ball with a positive attitude and confidence that you’re going to make perfect contact, and then just go up there and make that perfect swing. Tell yourself, “It really doesn’t matter what happened last time. I’m an awesome salesperson, and I’m going to close this one.  This appointment is going to be a success!”

In sales as in golf, you can never let what you did on the last shot affect what you’re going to do on the next one.