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Paul MacCormack

Golf Course Superintendent
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About Paul MacCormack

  • Birthday 09/16/1973

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  • Club/Course/Company
    Fox Meadow Golf Course
  • Location
    Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Interests
    Mindfulness, solitude, and quite time...and rock n roll.

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  1. “Superintendents are their own worst enemies.” — Anonymous Greenkeeper Many of us know this to be true and can think of a time in our careers when we made things more difficult than they needed to be. Perhaps we suffered through expectations that simply weren’t realistic, constantly aimed for perfection, or tried to do it all on our own. Our jobs are demanding enough to begin with, but by times we layer more on and suffer because of it. I revisited this notion recently as I made my way through the latest book by author Greg Mckeown, called Effortless. McKeown rose to prominence with his first book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (if you haven’t read this one I encourage you to pick it up). Essentialism deals with the art of distillation and paring down your life to what really matters. Effortless takes this practice one step further and lays out a blueprint for getting there as easily as possible. The foundational ethos for this book is that of “wu wei”. It’s an Eastern philosophy that basically means, “without action” or even “trying without trying.” Wu wei is the state of flow one achieves when work, play and creativity become easy. We don’t overexert, overthink, or overdo anything, and yet we achieve the results we are seeking seemingly without effort. This idea flies in the face of many of our cultural notions that surround the idea of work, which is so often at odds with good health and well being. Wu wei is a concept which challenges the idea of “hard” work and welcomes the reader to the idea of moving through life with greater ease. Many of the themes McKeown touches on within the book are also many of the same ideas we have discussed within this very blog from time to time. And like many sage points, they bear repeating. Here are a few I noted… Presence – As one moves their life in line with presence, things inevitably become easier. So many of the problems in our lives are simply based on the fact that we are not paying close enough attention to what is actually happening. As we practice presence, solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems present themselves without our searching for them. Ease – What is wrong with things being easy? Why does that word inevitably make us think about the word lazy? How much of our day could be done with ease if we only paused and took a breath instead of soldiering on? Our jobs and our lives improve instantly when we adopt a mentality of ease and calm instead of grinding ourselves into dust. Rest – It’s difficult to put into words how important rest is in our lives. Ask any veteran greenkeeper if they wished they’d spent more time at work instead of choosing to rest. Sleep, vacation, time with loved ones; they all add up in a positive way. Simplicity – How can our lives or operations be simplified? How much of what our team accomplishes gets tied up in the complexity of constantly overdoing things? Those unrealistic expectations we spoke of earlier fall into this category. What if we dropped a couple by non-judgmentally letting go? Would it be the end of the world? Could we lean into this idea with a sense of curiosity? Learning (and unlearning) – There is much value in gaining knowledge on a Superintendent’s journey. There is also equally as much value in unlearning. We sometimes get so caught up in the notion of constantly adding things to the repertoire that we forget that old habits and worn out thoughts can create unnecessary problems for us. Trust – How many times in our careers have we created preventable problems simply because we couldn’t delegate? We decided to do it ourselves (because we think that only we can do it right), we stayed late and burned out, only to develop resentment because it appears that no one is helping. Sound familiar? Trusting in our ability to teach and in our teams’ ability to follow through on said teachings creates space. Space for rest, ease, and even more focus so that we can address other issues before they become problems. Action – Sometimes the toughest part of tackling any issue is actually getting started. By shifting our process to one of small, incremental gains over a longer period of time, we eventually begin to see large changes. We all know that topdressing basically works one grain of sand at a time, but only if we actually spread it. This makes me think of a saying my mother-in-law used to have on her cupboard: “When you add a little to a little, this too becomes large.” Our lives often times become overburdened and complicated. We get tied up in trying too hard and holding on too tightly to what we think should happen. The more effort we put out, the more difficult things become. It’s only when we pause, step back and recognize this flaw in our process that we begin to see new, less complicated pathways. McKeown’s book Effortless is a welcome reinforcement of ideas that run very counter to our industry’s measurements of success, but they just might be the shakeup that turf culture needs.
  2. Hi Amy, We use quite a lot of fescue on our property actually, its the main fairway and rough turf. As far as Zoysia grass, I would assume we are much to far north to sustain any type of warm season grasses. Our latitude is quite a bit north of Georgia. Thanks so much Paul
  3. I agree fully Tim. Taking the time to be present with each day and the process is key. Thanks so much for reading.
  4. Most supers I know have at least one special spot on their properties that is their quiet place. It usually has a nice view, is set apart from the line of play, and generally brings with it a sense of peace. I happen to have more than a few spots like that (I like to pause often) and I recently found myself in one of the more unique spots reflecting on this post. The spot I speak of is actually on an adjacent property to the golf course, but is used to be part of our operation. This property used to be a golf academy run by a local college and then run by Fox Meadow. It housed a double ended range, multiple practice greens and bunkers. The maintenance of this facility was managed by our turf department and for years the quality of this academy matched that of the golf course. As I sat quietly watching the fescue waving in the breeze, the wildflowers buzzing with pollinators, and new trees popping up everywhere I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to a time when the conditioning of this property mattered so much. The manicured mowing lines, the moisture management, the fertility scheduling, and divot repair… it all seemed so vitally important at the time. And now as the property lays fallow and nature has begun the process of reclamation, the very nature of impermanence came into sharp focus. We curate our golf courses but for a moment in time. Basically, every cultural practice, input, and project we undertake is but for a moment. But often times they are changing (think mowing) as soon as we complete the task. It may seem difficult to contemplate when we are so caught up in managing so very many things, that these properties won’t be golf courses forever. Our stewardship is but a blip in time and eventually these places will transition to something else entirely. This realization is not meant to have us throw in the towel and and leave the greens unmowed tomorrow. On the contrary, this realization can serve to widen our perspective and develop a deeper appreciation of the journey we are all on together. Our daily processes have a wider importance than we may see on the surface. We are curators of moments. Each mowing line, rake furrow, crisp hole and smooth surface presents an opportunity for our golfers to experience one of these moments. It may be a one of joy, sorrow, comradery, or even one of deep connection with their natural surroundings. This collection of moments brings folks a deep sense of appreciation for the game they love. The moments we experience maintaining our properties are no less important. As we train our teams and strive to build a culture that promotes well being and a sense of community, we are also creating moments. These opportunities to share life experiences, teach valuable lessons and learn from one another serve to strengthen the fabric of what it means to live well in this world. But like all things in this world, these moments do not last. This truth in no way diminishes their importance, but rather serves to bring us fully into presence and appreciation of how special they are. When we focus on the moments that matter and are not constantly caught up in the planning, strategizing, and worrying we come closer to finding a sense of place in it all. So next time you pause and sit awhile in your quiet place, open yourself to the nature of this truth. Reflect on the notion that the grandeur of what lays before you is in a constant state of transition and eventually will become something else entirely. Pause and allow this realization to settle in. Open yourself to a sense of gratitude for your time of stewardship and the infinite number of chances you’ve had to create moments that matter. Thanks for reading.
  5. You are indeed correct Richard. Its hard when we are young to see the idea of less being better. We only tend to see the option of addition, mostly because we feel the insatiable need to prove ourselves and please others. Thanks for the comment.
  6. Thanks so very much Randy. Figured it fit well for the "skeletal golf theory" Take care Paul
  7. I’ve been thinking about less a lot lately. Exploring the idea of subtraction, but more so about the notion of addition by subtraction. Our culture seems bent on development, expansion and constantly adding to what already exists. Opposition to this idea can leave you in the company of a very small minority, but what about the virtues of simplicity, unlearning and removal? How many times in your life has taking something away left you with something far more precious and manageable? How many times has stepping out of the constant hustle and bustle, taking a breath and truly appreciating the space created, been of benefit? In his recent book, Subtract - Untapped Science of Less, author Leidy Klotz postulates that… “In our striving to improve our lives, our work, and our society, we overwhelmingly add. We overlook the option to subtract from what is already there.” Klotz shares a story about how his 3-year-old son Ezra solved an imbalance problem with a Lego bridge by not adding more blocks but by simply removing one. His solution to the problem became the inspiration for a university research study whose results showed that participants all tended to solve the problem by adding blocks rather than removing them. Think about most of the projects and things you do on the property you tend. How often do you improve things by the simple act of subtraction? Removing overgrown trees, reducing inputs like fertilizer and water, the removal of thatch, and my personal favourite… removing bunkers. Each of these scenarios is an example of choosing to remove something in order to allow for a better outcome. The space created by subtracting actually improves things in the long run. We live in a culture which has taught us to throw ever more consumer resources at a problem. Just buy this and all your problems will be solved! We also live in a society which has pared down financing for human resources to a bare minimum. Our work lives reflect the imbalance which arises when we live between these two realities. Now think about all of the things you do at the golf course which involve adding things. More staffing, more on course amenities, more trees, more fertility and water, more features? Do these additions serve to simplify your departments or do they only make things more complicated? Obviously, the answer to this question can vary depending on what we choose to add (more staff can be a big help by times) but invariably addition serves to squeeze out valuable space and leave less time for more important things. What if you turned the mirror around and looked at your own life? Pause and reflect on a time when you faced a turning point or dealt with an issue that needed to be solved. What was your initial reaction? Did you automatically turn to the idea that adding something will solve things? Think of any of the major life situations you have found yourself in. Was there a story that held you back? A long-held belief that you had to let go of to create the space for something new to emerge? When you choose subtraction, you remove a barrier. By removing this barrier, you inevitably create space where before there was constraint. Your thoughts, personal stories, judgments and opinions are the same as the clutter and overgrowth on our golf courses. You tell yourself how vitally important these are to proper functioning, only to find out that once they are removed, things seem to flow a little easier. When space is created by letting something go or simply removing it, perspective changes and you tend to see things from a new and fresh point of view. So, if you are up against it lately and trying to desperately solve a problem, be it on course or in your personal life, consider the idea of subtraction. Reflect on the notion of removing something in order to allow for a simpler, more elegant solution to your issue. The space you create might just allow for a far better outcome than you have been socialized to expect. Thanks for reading
  8. As superintendents we are very familiar with patterns. They affect our jobs in a great many ways. We fine tune mowing patterns on a daily basis. We keep schedules and time clocks to maintain the work patterns for our teams. And we keep meticulous records of all of our comings and goings in order to recognize flaws in the pattern in order to make any necessary corrections to keep our operations running smoothly. One pattern we tend to follow more than any other, some would day even religiously, is the weather. Over the years many Greenkeepers develop what could be deemed a sixth sense in the ability to predict the weather. With the amount of weather watching that we do this shouldn’t be surprising. Weather affects just about everything we do in our profession. As the climate continues to shift and change right under our noses, the weather of our younger years now seems a distant memory. Weather patterns are becoming less and less predictable. Whole seasons have shifted by weeks or even months and there has been an increase in catastrophic weather events. In addition to weather shifts, this past year has also been one of great volatility and instability when it comes to our societal patterns. Things once held as sacrosanct have proven unstable and unreliable. Our systems of governance, economics and culture at large have struggled under the weight of the pandemic and new models of operation have seemingly sprung up overnight. This massive change has left a great many people feeling unsure of many things they once took for granted. With this disruption comes a unique opportunity for not only society as a whole, but also for us as individuals. It’s given us an unprecedented chance to step back and look at the patterns that govern our own lives and begin to get curious about them. Our habits, our defaults, our stories about how things are all come into question when we go through major events. When we look at our journey as a whole rather than just what we had for lunch yesterday, are there any observable patterns? If we pause and look at how our own life has unfolded, can we see patterns that have led both to success and difficulty? These are fascinating questions to ask ourselves, and if approached with kindness and curiosity, we might be interested to see what arises in response. If we can observe the mosaic of our lives, see patterns of behaviour that have worked against us in some way, we can work to ensure that we don’t repeat them again. We might also see that some of this behaviour was completely beyond our control; a simple by-product of our upbringing and cultural influences or any traumas we might have endured. Once we can bring these patterns into our conscious awareness, we can see them for what they are and make peace with them. Patterns often times repeat themselves until something comes along to disrupt the chain of events. The disruption can be something huge like a global pandemic or more minor such as a curious question asked of oneself while sitting on the front porch enjoying the sunset. Either way, when we realize that nothing is permanent, we have the power to recognize and change long held patterns in our lives with greater ease. Wishing you the great gift of pausing with the questions and breathing with the answers. Thanks for reading! Be well, Paul
  9. I think the message David is more one of managing expectations rather than lowering them constantly. Having expectations that exceed both you and others may feel are possible is fine, until those expectations begin to carry with them things like judgement and a negative relationship with failure. If we move through our lives with expectations that could never possibly be met and then use them as fuel for judgement against ourselves, then we are not relating to our lives with presence. Chasing perfection may bring excellence...but it can also bring misery if one is not mindful. Take care! Paul
  10. Thanks so much Joe. Hope things are well. Take care Paul
  11. Thanks so much for taking the time to read Mark. Take care Paul
  12. Take a moment to reflect on a major journey that you have embarked on. It could be anything at all really; from pursuing a lifelong dream or goal like growing and mowing grass for a living, conquering a fear or barrier, or facing headlong into a major health crisis. You may even be in the midst of the journey at this very moment. Allow yourself to pause and let the reflection permeate your consciousness… feel it in your bones and sit with it for a spell. How do you process the idea of the journey? What are your touchpoints when you are smack in the middle of a major trek? How do you relate to yourself when the going inevitably “gets tough”? Is there kindness? Or heaps of judgment while you keep trying to pull up the proverbial bootstraps? What is the quality of your relationships with those who matter most, including yourself? I am presenting these questions because I have personally been reflecting on them quite a bit lately. More than three years ago my wife Jill and I were seated at a local coffee shop reflecting and discussing the possibility of us both embarking on what would become a life changing journey. We didn’t know how or why it had to manifest, but we both knew that it simply had to happen. In the end we made a decision, took a great big leap and did what needed to be done for me to undertake the study and practice to become a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. This past week the formal part of that journey came to an end with my completion of the program. As with the very best adventures, this experience has led to far more questions than answers. It challenged my assumptions, tore down my opinions, and changed my perspective. Along the way I have come to a few revelations, as well. You are never alone… ever. No journey of worth occurs in a vacuum of individuality. You are supported in so many different ways (even if you don’t always ask for or appreciate it). The sacrifice of and support by those who care for you is a foundational element when navigating your way through any situation. Think about your teachers, mentors, family and friends. You simply wouldn’t be where you are today without their help. The path is the journey. The end of a journey is really an illusion. It never exists as a point in exclusion from the rest of your life. Think back to when you decided to become a superintendent. You gathered intel, got a turf degree, worked the long hours as an assistant…and then you achieved your goal. But did anything really end when that goal was achieved? Or was it really just the beginning of something larger? It’s always part of something larger. Any passage through something difficult is always about something larger than what you first perceive. Whether dealing with grief when you lose someone close to you or working your way through rehab after an accident, you are part of something larger and more profound than it may appear while mired in the slog of the journey. Building in time to reflect on this regularly is very beneficial. What you leave behind is just as important as what you pick up along the way. The process of letting go of all that simply does not serve anymore is a critical part of any journey. You are often times so focused on acquiring knowledge or skill when embarking on a new goal that you forget the real wisdom comes from how you deal with unlearning things. Adopting a mentality of flexibility with your opinions and beliefs allows for ease as you move on down the line. You are far more resilient than you think you are. As you proceed through any event in life, rough passage is simply a given. The wise adage oft cited by my mother-in-law (a Franklin Roosevelt quote) comes to mind, “A calm sea never made for a skilled sailor”. How you process the rough patches and respond internally is what builds the strength and courage you need to make your way. Rest is key. No journey proceeds in a linear line of constant stress and pushing. Being able to pick your rest stops and give yourself a break allows you space to heal and grow. I always loved the analogy of the kayaker who has to be aware of the “eddies” in the river; those places behind rocks where the water pools and the current bypasses. The eddies provide respite from the torrent of water and constant movement. They allow for space, rest, and recalibration before continuing down the river. Watch for them. Create them, as needed. The smallest acts of kindness, to both yourself and others, are what ultimately gets you through. No matter what you are facing; a new job, a change in a relationship, or life during a pandemic, being compassionate and kind makes the journey a more tolerable one. So whether you are about to embark on, in the midst of, or nearing the end of a major life event, don’t forget to pause often and thank those around you. Remember to give yourself time for rest and rejuvenation. Remind yourself of the bigger picture and don’t be afraid to drop some things along the way. Your life is a constant journey so you might as well be present to it. Thanks so much for reading.
  13. Thanks so very much for reading Leanne. Means a great deal that you take the time. Wishing you peace and ease as we move into 2021!
  14. “Don’t turn away. Keep your eyes on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” — Rumi As this year that has felt like a decade draws to a close, it’s been interesting to watch and listen to how people are relating to it. The chorus of “good riddance”, “so done with 2020”, “2020 dumpster fire”, and “can’t wait for 2021” appear to be ringing out in unison. It seems like most people simply can’t wait to discard the year that was so we can “get back to normal.” It is incredibly important to honor this time for what it was. It was (and still is) a time of great discomfort, upheaval and suffering for many people. But to solely focus on the negative also dishonors all of the good that has come from this past year as well. By times, the news has seemed/seems like a never-ending stream of heart wrenching stories regarding the full trauma of this time of crisis, but behind every difficult one, there were also stories about the compassion, caring and triumphant nature of the human spirit. Even the news reports about social unrest and protest, while causing discomfort, began meaningful and important deeper conversations about the tremendous inequality and imbalance in our society which were long overdue. Both collective and personal tragedies have a way of forcing us to pause and take stock. If we are present enough with the situation and can stay with it (even when we want to run away) a great many subtle truths can reveal themselves. If we can be with these truths with both honesty and kindness, we can use them as fuel to make necessary change in our lives. It can be terribly uncomfortable, but also can bring a deep sense of renewal at the same time. Here are a few of the reflections that have revealed themselves to me over the past while: Trauma and fear are powerful forces. How we relate to them, how others use our vulnerabilities to manipulate and gain power, and how they can lead us to places that we never would have imagined ourselves previously are important things to consider. Learning how to process them with both wisdom and compassion is important. Gratitude is also a very powerful force. Infusing your day with gratefulness and appreciation for what you have can shift your perspective on a great many things. Simplicity, no more, no less. This time has shown us that distilling our lives down to their simplest forms is so incredibly rejuvenating. Learning the value of letting go of the baggage we carry creates space for goodness to rise. Pausing is such a useful tool. Meditation, quiet walks, and taking a moment before a response are all powerful tools at our disposal which should not be underestimated. Uncertainty and change are the natural way of things. There is no escaping the reality of change and the little control we actually have over how things unfold. This pandemic has shown us this in spades. Do not be afraid to lean into this fact and allow it to soften your harder edges. Self care and learning what nurtures you are vitally important. Not in a selfish way, but rather in a way that honors that fact that when you are well, others are well. Letting go of opinions and the need to be right can be very therapeutic. The last thing this world needs right now are more people shouting about how they know all the answers. Me and you included. Being kind to both yourself and the greater world around you is a good way forward. This crisis has shown us all that we are vulnerable creatures on this Earth, in need of caring and support. Dropping the judgement and choosing kindness for self and other will help things work out better in the long run. We are far more resilient than we think we are. The depths of our courage and creativity are staggering by times. We need to remember this as these are historically tried and true paths through the darkest of times. In tapping into our courage and creativity we become the light we seek; the light the world needs going forward. Amazing things happen when you bring your attention to the small, good things in your life. Be they physical activity, hobbies, meditative practice, moments with your friends/family… these small things add up over time… and through them we craft a life of meaning. Let’s take our time as we move forward into this New Year. Pause often. Make some time for silence and allow space for reflection. Consider letting go of something that no longer serves you. Give yourself a gift that nurtures your physical and mental well being. And above all choose to be kind. Thanks for reading. (header photo credit James Karl Huntoon @huntoonjmsc via Twitter)
  15. “When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” — Stephen Hawking There have been many occasions during the past number of months for pausing and reflecting on how the pandemic has impacted our lives both personally and professionally. At any given time, we can find ourselves getting frustrated by the ways our current reality is not matching former expectations of self and other. We generally operate at a certain level, and when that baseline is challenged as it has been during this pandemic, it can feel like we are in a constant state of destabilization. Why doesn’t what used to work for me in a given situation just not work anymore? Frustration with our current reality not matching our expectations can manifest in many different forms: We can be frustrated with a reduced level of staffing and its effects on the maintenance of our respective courses. Many of us have operated with reduced staff and budgets, but the play has exploded and golfer’s high expectations of our product haven’t changed over the course of the season. We may find that there is a gap between our expectations of our own performance and our ability to meet our own standards. We may find our expectations do not match what our staff has to offer lately. Our interactions with family and friends may be more strained than usual because everyone’s coping is maxed out and people may not have the resiliency they normally do. It may seem obvious when someone stops and points it out because there is a glaring reason for all of this. We have collectively been going through something that has been wearing us down in a way that is hard to describe. It’s as if we’ve been dragging around a 50lb weight for the best part of a year now, and as a collective, we are getting weary of all the heavy lifting required just to manage what was normal in our lives pre-pandemic. So how do we best navigate this incongruence between our normal expectations and the ability to meet them under the new pressures we are living? As Superintendents we pride ourselves in our attention to detail and usually have high expectations of how we want the job done. But how do we manage when we are struggling to meet the level of excellence we and the public have come to expect? Do we push ourselves and our staff harder? Do we mete out tougher consequences? Do we recalibrate and raise the bar even higher? This may sound radical to many of us, but what if instead we simply lowered our expectations? What if we stepped back and really took a more open and compassionate view of what we have all been through over the past number of months and gave more latitude to those people who matter most — including ourselves? It’s really hard to know how people around us are experiencing the effects of this pandemic. What may not be so difficult for one person may be almost insurmountable for another. “Success is most satisfying when you have high aspirations but modest expectations. You can set ambitious goals without taking for granted that you’ll ever attain them.” Adam Grant What if instead of pushing and pushing ourselves and our staff for that high goal we are all used to attaining we rather pause and ask everyone how they are doing through all this? Stopping and carving out intentional time for someone who is having a tough time can mean far more than we first realize. Allowing someone to vent and share their vulnerability in a safe space can be a powerful experience for all involved. The cultures and businesses who put the well being of their employee’s front and center during times like this will be the ones who still have employees when this is all said and done. Instead of feeling like they were taken advantage of and their internal experiences not appreciated throughout this crisis, they will emerge with a sense that they were actually cared about; and that is a priceless feeling for employee and employer both. The toughest set of expectations to temper are always our own. What if we took a step back and had an honest look at how high the bar is internally set right now? Would it be the end of the world to lower it ever so slightly? Studies show that at the end of our lives most people don’t reflect back and wish they had worked more and been harder on themselves and others. No one laments on their death bed that they really wished they had just spent one more evening at work when they could have been home. Maybe we could just try relaxing our own ideals a little and see what space opens up for ourselves and others in our lives. And remember that either way, expectations don’t always line up with reality. We can set goals, make plans, and strive for excellence but in the end, it doesn’t always work out. Then there are other times we surprise everyone and surpass expectations set for us. It can be difficult to accept that we don’t actually control nearly as much as we think we do. Leaning into and accepting this uncertainty can create more ease in our lives. When we let go of things always having to meet our expectations we make more room for how things actually are. And that can lead to a great amount of freedom. Thanks for reading!
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