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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. A couple of years back I saw an animated short on Youtube (below) narrated by author, ABC news personality, and podcast host Dan Harris. In the video Harris likened the practice of mindfulness to being an actual superpower. Our ability to choose to respond wisely rather than be carried off by our habitual reactions is on par with x-ray vision or shooting webs from your wrists. The interesting thing about most super heroes is that they aren’t just one-trick ponies. Even though the likes of Superman or Wonder Woman are best known for their superhuman strength and ability to fly, they also both have lesser-known powers — things like telepathy, laser vision, or even the ability to speak any of the world’s 6500 languages — that they can call onin a pinch. The art of mindfulness is actually very similar on a great many levels. Our ability to respond wisely and quiet our minds are often the main superpowers people tend to focus on. But there is also a long list of lesser know powers that can be called upon our everyday lives. Things like gratitude, kindness, presence, or seeing the interconnectedness of all things. These can be life changing skills. There is also another power that has the ability to diffuse negativity, help us work with shame or guilt, or even change the relationship with the “evil villains” in our lives. It is the simple but powerful notion of self compassion. Just pause for a moment and imagine yourself face to face with your nemesis of choice from the comic books or movies (or even your own life). This villain has the ability to make you feel intense shame, overwhelming guilt, aggression, anger... basically stir up anything that makes you dislike yourself. Let yourself feel the full brunt of this confrontation deep in your body, inhabiting the sensations completely. Take a breath or two and now shift your perspective to your inherent superpower. Imagine even a warmth or inner light emanating from deep within engaging and diffusing the negative onslaught from your enemy. The power of self compassion has the ability to open our hearts and create space for us to respond with friendliness instead of judgement. This space creates a container to hold the pain and allows us to respond wisely rather than go down the rabbit hole of reactivity. This imagined episode is the same story that plays out with us when we are trapped inside self-defeating storylines. The only difference is that the “arch enemy” we face is our own mind. Practicing and strengthening our ability to respond to self loathing with compassion and love transforms our lives on truly heroic levels. The other interesting thing about superheroes is that they are usually the ones who are called upon during times of great upheaval or crisis. They calmly and wisely respond by using their powers to transform the situation and help others to relative safety. By giving selflessly of themselves they help to restore balance and foster a renewed sense of peace. We are currently caught in the midst of such upheaval. The crisis we are living in real time has brought untold suffering on both a global and intensely personal level. Navigating these perilous times takes a great deal of inner resourcing and patience. As we choose to respond to the crisis with both equanimity and self compassion, we become a beacon of hope and stability for those around us. As they bear witness to our wisdom they can in turn begin to tap into their own inner strength. And therein lies our superpower. We don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound or transport to a different dimension to combat aliens. We simply need to open our hearts and minds to the radical idea of making friends with ourselves. The ripple effect we create has the power to transform our own experience and also that of those in our orbit…and right now that’s a super power the world sorely needs.
  2. Thanks so much for your kind words and wisdom John. We will emerge from all this different than before, but we are always different than before...
  3. Thanks so much for reading Steve. It's such a collective opportunity for growth, we just need to take extra care in the midst of the hardest parts.
  4. “There is nothing so stable as change.” — Bob Dylan In our lives there isn’t much that’s predictable. The only thing we can count on for sure is that things change constantly. On many levels change is imperceptible. Thatch accumulation underneath a green surface, a tree growing a few inches at a time, a change in a belt notch or a hairline receding. The hum of daily life keeps these things in the background, hidden by our toils and troubles, joys and sorrows. Once in a while we all experience great personal change. Death, major illness or job loss touches us and those in our immediate surroundings deeply. These changes affect everyone at some time or another, but when they occur they feel contained within the sphere of our own personal experience. Such changes can force us to evaluate our priorities and shift perspective but in the long run still largely affect ourselves and those closest to us when they occur. Then there are the major events that affect communities in larger ways. These are usually born of tragedy, natural disasters or even small-scale war. These events have the power to mobilize, to alter structure and cause those in charge to adapt and shift priorities. But for the most part, the majority of people outside of the affected community are insulated from the ramifications of such events, because it didn’t happen to them in their backyard. Larger still are the epic, once in a lifetime episodes that shatter everything we hold dear. These phenomena have the power to alter life as we know it on a global scale and leave a lasting cultural imprint. Those who live through such events are changed on a cellular level and their ability to adapt after the fact creates a ripple effect which lasts for generations. We are currently in the midst of such an event. The entire world is being held hostage by the same circumstances (to varying degrees) at relatively the same time. For many of us this is an unparalleled happening for which we simply have no touchpoint. Unfortunately, many people have lived through intense suffering, but again on a more localized scale. This one is different as it is truly global, knows no geographic borders and ignores race, gender and most any variable you want to throw at it (although it does affect those economically marginalized and the elderly with a fierce unfairness due to their increased vulnerabilities). At the moment all we can do is the best we can. We should listen to the scientists and health experts and obey the regulations they put forth. We must stay at home. But in doing so we can pour our personal resources into self care, family well being and taking care of others as safely as we are able to. When going to the grocery store feels like running the Boston Marathon it's best to keep things simple and be kind to ourselves in the process. What can we glean from this global catastrophe? It is difficult to dive deeply while still in the midst of the crisis but within the calamity of this forced pause we can begin to glimpse the impermanence of life. Our illusion of security and stability is just that… an illusion. Such a reflection can be unnerving and scary at first but once you move to a place of acceptance, it brings with it a great measure of freedom. Having the rug pulled out from underneath you obviously knocks you on your backside. But as you lay sprawled on the floor, how does the view change? Does this new way of seeing the world offer you a shift in perspective? Does stripping away all that you thought was important allow you to take stock in a way that until now felt virtually impossible? Using part of this time for quiet, thoughtful reflection can be a gift of immense proportions. Its lasting impact cannot be understated. Personal reflection during unsettling times can allow latent ideas to gently bubble up to the surface. With excessive busyness almost impossible for many of us right now, the muddied waters of daily life are settling out, the silt is taking its rightful place at the bottom and soon the pool of clear water will be ripe with the possibility of new intentions. As Greenkeepers we most likely are going to have more time than usual for reflection over the next while. We are either home with our families, maintaining our properties with a reduced staff and no golfers, maintaining the course with reduced play or doing the best we can with way too many golfers around (that’s an entirely different rant for a different day). We may spend more time than usual out doing the grounds work that we used to do before we were supers and most likely doing it alone. Use whatever time is afforded to you for kind reflection. Be it personal, course related or for the greater good of humanity, use this time to let your creativity and wellspring of inner wisdom lead you where it will. You never know what insights you might find. Most importantly take care during this time of upheaval and disruption. Self care has never been more important than it is now. Recognize that need within yourself, your family, friends and staff. This is a human crisis which will take the best humanity has to offer each other to get us through. Kindness, compassion, love, patience, gratitude, understanding… make these your pillars and share them with as many folks as you can. Recognize that all of life is interconnected and that when this crisis passes, we are still all in this beautiful life together. Be well, play it safe and thanks for reading.
  5. Thanks so very much Matt. Your kind words mean a great deal.
  6. It has been such a wonderful experience both meeting you and having you sit in on the seminars Brad. Thanks so much for the kind words.
  7. It's folks like you that this is written for...
  8. It was no more than a whisper for years. But thanks to the courage of more and more people willing to speak out, the hushed tones are growing into an audible conversation. People who you never would have suspected are opening up to a new narrative. Those who have always felt strongly about it are speaking their minds and sharing with each other openly. Mental well-being, stress management and mindfulness are beginning to take root in the turf industry. This movement towards a more honest and holistic approach to well-being is gaining momentum with each new day and making our industry more sustainable for us practitioners than ever before. The trajectory of this movement has been much like a golf course master plan methodically executed over many years. It began simply enough; with someone willing to open up a few dark corridors, clear out the underbrush and let in some much-needed air and light. New perspectives were taken and folks bravely began looking at the same picture differently. As the project evolved it gained momentum and some of the early skeptics started to become its biggest supporters. But none of this happened quickly or easily and the conversation about mental well-being continues to be an ongoing one. And rightfully so. Any change in the accepted narrative inevitably invites stumbles and harsh responses along the way. Sharing deeply makes many folks uncomfortable, and sometimes in their discomfort they choose to criticize instead of offering a helping hand. Unfortunately that’s how it goes with any new movement; push-back and skepticism are part of the journey forward. But it remains vital that those able to share their story continue to do so. The harshness will soften over time. All we can offer those who choose not to participate is kindness. So many brave souls have stepped up and shown what it means to be truly vulnerable. They have done so with the sincere hope that if lending their voice to the movement helps even one Superintendent open up about their troubles or seek help, it is worth it. And it has been. Superintendents are beginning to understand the value of fully living the themes of leadership, balance, presence and kindness. Any super who chooses to live these values improves the working conditions for their employees and for themselves. Our industry is always looking for ways to make us more sustainable. By focusing more on our personal well being, the ripple effect is palpable. If we can approach our lives and our jobs with a greater sense of spaciousness and kindness, it will naturally filter down to all other areas of the golf world. Eventually the game may even regain some of its simplicity and get back in touch with its minimalist roots. It’s not too much to hope for. I may sound like a broken record, but if you know of someone who needs help, reach out. If you have the opportunity to attend a talk or seminar by any of the wonderful folks who are sharing their version of the message, do so. If you are thinking about making a change in your own life that will make things better for you and the people you love, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose, and in doing so you will become part of a movement which is literally changing the way we tend turf and our lives for generations to come. Thanks for reading.
  9. Cannot take full credit for that one Leanne...my marvellous editor (and full time spouse) Jill came up with that. She thought the post wasn't "turfie" enough. She was correct as per usual! Thanks for reading
  10. “You must experiment. You do things in which you eliminate something that is perhaps essential, but to learn how essential it is you leave it out. The space then becomes very significant.” — Henry Moore A few weeks ago I was afforded a rare opportunity to step away from everything that I deem essential in my life. Work, phone, social media, my friends, my family (by far the most essential one… basically my life as I have come to know it. I wasn’t on a vacation per se, rather an intentional break from the normal routines of my life in order to connect with myself on a far deeper level. This pause came in the form of a seven-day silent meditation retreat, held at the IMS Retreat Center located just north of Boston in Barre, MA. Now you probably read the "seven day" and "silent" part with curiosity and skepticism. Did I actually not talk for seven days? Yes, I did. Besides a daily group meeting for five minutes, I actually did not speak for seven days. There were 100 other retreatants there with me and we all managed to coexist for seven days without uttering a word to each other. To say it was a powerful exercise would not do it justice. To list my entire personal takeaways would require two to three blog posts, so instead I’ve decided to share my top five. Here are a few of the themes I brought back home to Prince Edward Island following my silent retreat: 1. The Power of the Pause For me the simple nature of completely pausing and disconnecting from the world was immense. Around Day 3 I realized how desperately I needed the break from the demands of my busy life, (my wife had been cautioning me on that for months, if not years) and also how difficult I find it to take real vacations: the ones where you leave work behind, disconnect yourself from your phone and which leave you feeling like a new person. I’ve always been the type who takes an infrequent ¾ break, never sufficiently removed from my work to be a full recharge. That changed on this retreat. Work was no longer the single most important parameter by which I defined myself. In fact, one of the talks was on Self-No-Self and this was essential to helping me release the grip that “work” had on my notions of Self. 2. The Container The job that the staff and teachers at IMS did to create a safe container from which to practice meditation was astonishing. They almost seamlessly created both a safe emotional as well as physical space in which I felt completely held in compassion. In doing so they created the necessary container from which I could do some deep diving into my own psyche. Creating a safe container for a diverse community of retreatants is no easy task and they made it look effortless. You knew instinctively that there was a group of folks behind the scenes taking care of all the minor emergencies and details, but they were invisible. More than once I reflected on the importance and nature of creating a similar feeling with regard to the people we lead. Creating a workplace in which our employees feel safe and respected invariably changes things for the better. 3. The Value of Silence Upon landing at the center, my first thoughts were “what have I gotten myself into?” and “how on earth are all these people going to keep quiet?” After a day the first question evaporated and by Day 2 I began to understand the immense power of a large group of people moving together in complete silence. There was no need for small talk, no need to fumble awkwardly for the right thing to say, and most importantly we were left to our own devices. Being alone for that long in silence opens you up and allows you to begin peeling back the layers of psyche build-up. A powerful lesson in psychic de-thatching: once the layers of build-up are removed the possibility for light to penetrate and new growth to occur is staggering. In becoming comfortable with the stillness, the wonders and difficulties of life come into sharper focus. 4. Nervous System Reset One of the unanticipated effects of the retreat was the profound effect it had on my nervous system. By weeks end my volume dial had gone from a steady 8-9 down to a comfortable 3. The feeling within my body was palpable. The sense of calm was one I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. Now upon returning to the “real world”, the volume has gone up a notch or two, but the positive effects still remain. Our nervous systems can ratchet up constantly throughout the season for any number of reasons. Becoming aware of how that feels in your body and developing strategies that help turn down the dial can be extremely valuable. 5. We Are All in This Together As I sat and lived with 100 strangers for a week, I came to realize on a deeper level that we all struggle, we all suffer, and we are all on this journey together. There isn’t anyone you know who doesn't have a tough time occasionally, so tread lightly when it comes to opinions and judgments. It was funny how when you can’t speak to people how reflexive it is to make up stories about them, only to have them melt away once you have the chance to connect with them on a personal level. One of the lines that stayed with me was, “you never meet the same person twice.” I arrived back home with an immense sense of peace and gratitude. The sacrifice that my family made to allow me the time and space to take on this journey was huge. I am forever indebted to them and cherish them even more. The staff and teachers at the center were simply wonderful and so professional. All of us superintendents would be impressed as well with the state of the grounds and facilities, as they were impeccable. If you ever get a chance to take on a similar experience I wholeheartedly endorse it. It’s one of exploration, honesty, and heaping doses of compassion. In the end we are all worth that kind of attention and care, and sometimes you need to strip away everything you deem essential to find out what is really vital. Thanks so much for reading.
  11. Thanks so very much for this post Joe. What a wonderful reminder that a simple shift in perspective opens up an entirely fresh way of looking at one's surroundings. Merry Christmas ! Paul
  12. Thanks so very much gentlemen, you are both creative mentors of the highest order for me. So appreciate our collaborative offerings here on the Net... Take care Paul
  13. I’ll start this post with a healthy dose of honesty. I’m tired. This year has been one chock full of a very many things, a lot of goodness, hardship, tough conversations, and wonderful connections. Now one could say, “well, that’s life”, and that is true… but 2019 was a solid one. As I sit down to write the last post of the year, I simply cannot deny the fact that the cumulative fatigue of the year has caught up with me. When I find myself strung out, writing is tough. The flow of ideas and words just isn’t as easy. Oddly enough, the more I struggle the harder it is to tap into that river of creativity. So instead of pushing forward with a few of the ideas I have on the back burner, I decided to take a different approach; I went back instead of forward. While searching for some inspiration, I spent some time working my way back through the archives of The Mindful Superintendent blog. It took a bit of time, but eventually I made all the way back to December 30th, 2012. Once I reached the end I paused and let it sink in a bit. Eight years is a long time. I reflected on all that has happened to me over that time, to my family and friends. I thought about all of the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with. I reflected on all of the experiences that have come my way, and how they have affected my life. And you know what? I’m just incredibly grateful for every single thing; every up and down, in and out, triumph and fall. They have all served to shape my life experience, and for that I am thankful. I want to thank Peter and the gang here at TurfNet for taking a chance on a pretty far out idea and letting me run with it. For the support from my fellow bloggers, Randy, Dave, Joe, Jon & John…merely the fact I get the chance to write on the same platform as you guys humbles me to no end. You might have noticed that I left out Frank Rossi in the last paragraph. But in truth I wanted to thank him differently. You see, from time to time there are people who push you in directions that you don’t see on your own. Frank is one of those people. He saw something in this blog and pushed me to explore it further. It has led me to places I couldn’t have dreamed possible eight years ago. He created a partnership between Chris Tritabaugh and me that has only just begun to bear fruit. For all he has done and for his continued friendship I am truly grateful. There is also one other person that saw that spark all those years ago and never stopped believing in me. She told me that someday I would be writing to a worldwide audience and changing perspectives. She never doubted the message and has been my biggest supporter and speaker of truth for as long as I can remember. She is my full time editor and shapes much of what you read here. She is my wife and best friend, Jill MacCormack. She is the mother of our three amazing kids, Maria, Lucas & Clara, and she is a rock star. Twenty years as the wife of a golf course superintendent has earned her more hardship than she ever deserved, but through it all she is love personified. So as this year winds down I’m looking forward to some down time. Some time to rest, time to reflect, and time to recharge. But most of all I’m continually being mindful of how lucky I am; so very grateful for everything and nothing at all. Happy Holidays, everyone.
  14. All superintendents have to-do lists. It doesn’t matter how one manages them — smartphone, tablet, app or even manually on a piece of paper — they guide our days and can shape us as much as they shape our courses. Many of us live and die by these lists. The blueprint they provide us is essential to what we accomplish on any given day, week, month, or over the course of the season. But what is your relationship to that list? Is it a positive source of clarity and organization? Do you pause and look back on all that your team has accomplished as you check off the boxes? Or is it a source of never-ending anxiety and angst; an endless reminder of all the things still left to do? If you answer yes to the second part of that query you might be experiencing what is called productivity shame. Jocelyn K. Glei, author and host of the podcast Hurry Slowly, coined that term and explored it on her show. It’s basically the notion that we create endless lists and set goals which are completely unrealistic, and then berate ourselves when we don’t live up the expectations the lists demand of us or fall short of our goals. This particular podcast touches on themes that many greenkeepers can relate to. The first of these is how we view productivity and success. Are you the type of super who only measures success by how many things you have checked off your list? Is the success of your team based only on the measurable, actionable things you’ve accomplished? Or instead, can you pause and step back from the list to see the bigger picture. It’s vital that we as superintendents and human beings create space for reflection and creativity. These aren’t things that are easily measured in a quantitative manner but when incorporated into our lives are critical to our overall well-being. Another key theme related to the idea of productivity shame is that of perfectionism. As turf managers, being slave to a perfectionist mindset can be lethal. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence and attention to detail; it’s our job to look after details. But when those lists and details are never ending, and even worse, when they come to define how you view yourself, then they become toxic. Glei also refers to the idea of socially-oriented perfectionism. This is particularly dangerous, as it stems from our perception of how others view our work and how productive we are. Sound familiar? Do your relationships with golfers, board members or owners have you convinced that you are not measuring up — that your best efforts are somehow not good enough? The dangerous part of this notion is that most times these stories are simply not true. We tell ourselves these lies and they insidiously become part of our self identity. Our social media feeds can also play a sinister role in how we view our success and productivity. We can scroll through twitter and Instagram to see an endless stream of high quality pictures and stories of superintendents getting stuff done — especially so at this time of year when the renovation work starts to ramp up. If we are not careful, we can look at these amazing pictures and behind the scenes vignettes and think that everyone else is getting so much wonderful work done… and then leap quickly into the story of what’s wrong with us that we aren’t getting as much done at our place? We can’t see the imperfect truth behind the scenes of these images, and we often do not consider the budgets, the planning, and the fails they don’t take pictures of. If we are not careful this too becomes fuel for the storyline of how we/our course simply don’t measure up. If you find that any of this rings true, you can begin to release yourself from the grip of this perpetual shame by pausing and simply becoming aware that it’s affecting you negatively. Then, take out your list and instead of focusing on the stuff at the bottom without check marks, take some time to reflect on all of the items that are checked off. Let all that your team has accomplished settle in somewhere and just be with it. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are not this list. You are not measured in checkmarks and actionable items. You are more than both your perceived greatest successes and most devastating failures. You are a person who at this point in time happens to be a golf course superintendent, and what you do or do not get done in the run of a season doesn’t have to shape your inner landscape. Thanks so much for reading.
  15. Love this Randy, exercise is absolutely an essential part of a healthy greenkeeping lifestyle.
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