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Paul MacCormack

Golf Course Superintendent
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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Thanks so much Joe. Hope things are well. Take care Paul
  4. Thanks so much for taking the time to read Mark. Take care Paul
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. “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)
  8. “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!
  9. It never ceases to amaze me how many layers and textures slowly appear over the course of a given season. Whether it’s the stages of the melt over winter, the new buds and shoots of the spring or the ever-changing bursts of wildflowers over the summer months giving way to the burnished coppers of autumn, living mindfully encourages us to lend our awareness to this bounty constantly. But, as we are all aware, the demands of our jobs and our lives can make that difficult by times. It can be a tall order to sit still and notice your surroundings when you feel as though you are being pulled in a thousand different directions. In my own experience, I find it easier to access this awareness as the seasons shift. There are many mindful moments sprinkled throughout the year but my practice is a work in progress. Gentle reminders to pause and tune into presence are very helpful, but admittedly I still find myself racing by times and missing what’s right in front of me. The beginning of fall is a time which always yields much time for contemplation and reflection for me. As the end of the golf season approaches, this window offers a brief respite and a chance to breathe before the last sprint of activity and the winter sets in. It’s also the time of year that the splendor of autumn reveals itself through its colors, intricacies, and most of all its textures. Even though all the seasons are full of their own mysteries and revelations, in my experience the fall is when I can access the richness of change in its immediacy and every day seems to be something new; but at the same time old and timeless. What appears to be so constant one day changes overnight and reveals something deeper the next. As nature winds down and readies itself for a winter’s rest, a depth that was hidden is revealed. The properties we manage are a concert of layers and textures. The best architects know the value of textures and go out of their way to build in diversity that must be revealed over time. Often the greatness of a design can only be discovered with multiple visits and different vantage points. A simple fold or rumple built into a fairway can offer different experiences depending on our angle of approach. This is also why the wisest courses and best architects fully admit that this greatness is rarely achieved during the first go around and work to maintain a relationship long after the ceremonial first tee balls. We, as stewards of both our courses and more importantly the land on which they sit, are acutely aware of the value of layers. Things like the complex relationships within healthy soils must be tended with care in order to reveal their true potentiality over the course of time. Short grass, tall grass, water courses, trees, bunkers and contours and can subtly change as the years pass and all serve to enhance the experience. From the intimacy of a secluded green site to the grandeur of a windswept tee deck, how we connect with our natural surroundings matters a great deal. If we are particularly aware we might even catch a glimpse of the changes in our own contour as time passes. Greying temples, smile lines forming, and hopefully a softening of some of our rough elements. As I mentioned in the outset, a contemplation of texture also matters when it comes to our own inner experience. Do we pause and seek out time to see what is unfolding right before our eyes? Or are we speeding through our days looking at things one dimensionally? So often there is such a richness and depth contained within the reality we are experiencing, if we only had the time and wisdom to see it. It also matters in the relationships we have with others. Be it with our assistants, equipment technicians, crew, management/ownership, family and friends; there is always more going on than we often see initially. When we are able to see past what is annoying us about someone and actually appreciate the fullness of their experience, our understanding and responses can change in powerful ways. A space for a more compassionate interaction arises. The best way to fully appreciate the abundance of this season is simply to pause in mindful awareness. Heading out to your favorite nature area or even walking your course can afford you the time to see what is actually unfolding around you. When we do so, our perspective shifts. So, stop and pick up that leaf. Examine its vibrant colors and internal structures. Consider its role in helping create the air you breathe. Know that it is all part of a continuous cycle of growth and senescence which in turn feeds everything you see. Listen to the wind and the sounds of nature all around you. Feel the ground beneath your feet and know that you are part of it all. And whether you’re alone or in the company of a good friend, know that there is a depth and texture present that is far greater than we often take the time to see. Thanks for reading.
  10. No Randi, its a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe...damned heavy and damned loud! Thanks Paul
  11. This summer I was afforded a unique opportunity. Our son Lucas (17) plays guitar in a band and they were lucky enough to land a regular outdoor gig playing jazz in downtown Charlottetown five evenings a week all summer. Only glitch with this plan was that last November Lucas developed a hernia and has been waiting on surgery ever since. This precluded him from carrying any of the gear both to and from the summer shows. Hence, I became the band’s default roadie for most of the summer, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun. As I was waiting for them to finish up last week I began to reflect on what it would mean to be a real, full time roadie. Being out on tour, and setting up and tearing down in a different city each night while sacrificing time with family and friends to be part of something that brings joy and happiness to so many people is what it is all about. Being an integral part of the creative machine that is a musical tour and allowing the musicians the space to do what they do best, is a roadie’s job. It began to dawn on me that working behind the scenes on a summer long tour would be much like being a Superintendent and turf crew. We both work tirelessly when no one is looking. The fans and golfers usually only focus on the end product, not how it came to be. The amount of personal sacrifice to pull it off is by times, immense. Both gigs and golf courses are affected by weather, and most times it’s the crews behind the curtain that bear the brunt of this burden. The amount of technical knowledge required to be an instrument, sound, or lighting technician is staggering… much like that of a superintendent. For me though, it was a wonderful part-time job. I was happy to tag along and move the gear, supporting the boys when I could. It meant a lot knowing that our son and his bandmates were gaining vital experience while having a blast doing what they love to do the most… playing music. I also had a few other reflections of my own… Being of service – Volunteering to be part of something meaningful is such a rich experience. Your attitude matters –Lucas’ gig was an evening one which ended way past my summer bedtime. In any situation like this one it’s easy to get negative and jaded when you are feeling worn out, but your outlook and perspective means so very much. Keeping your attitude positive also helps those around you see things in the larger context. Taking nights off from time to time, and letting his friends help him out with his gear was wise action I applied on more than one occasion. Music is so vitally important to my own well being and the wellness of so many, and an art form intrinsic to the human experience. It was such a joy to be a small part of bringing forth the band’s art for people to enjoy. Just watching the patrons of the nearby restaurant patios tap their feet and nod their heads, getting lost in the music was magical. I am almost forty seven, and Lucas is nearing eighteen and we got to spend precious moments together in the summer during a global pandemic through our shared passion. The summer season doesn’t equal family time for me almost ever, and somehow this year it did. Hanging out on Victoria Row with my wife Jill and daughters Maria and Clara listening to Lucas and his friends play some fine music on warm summer evenings, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m not as young as I once was – The aforementioned Fender amp that contributed in part to Lucas’ injury got its own skateboard for the season…way easier on my back. Thanks so much for reading. There’s always much to be grateful for! Paul
  12. As superintendents, we are well acquainted with the personal vulnerability we feel when our workplaces are in need of repair. Whether it's structural decline, damage from a weather event, personnel issues, or simply wear and tear from the passage of time, we usually have two choices when it comes to facing difficulties within our operations. We can pretend they are not really a problem and continue with business as usual, or we can tackle the issues head on with clarity, moving towards a meaningful solution. Some of us will choose to bury our heads in the sand pile and refuse to acknowledge there even is a problem. Inaction may feel safer initially but inevitably leads to much bigger problems. More often greenkeepers are active problem solvers. We step back, evaluate the issue and come up with a productive solution. It’s not always easy and it might not happen overnight, but in the long run it makes our courses better and our lives simpler. The current pandemic, if it has taught us nothing else, has shown very clearly that there are a lot of vulnerable elements within our society. People already facing barriers such as racial, gender and/or age discrimination, poverty, mental health problems, and such have had these problems further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The dominant culture has failed to ensure that everyone's needs are met in an equitable and sustainable manner. We have had our collective heads in the sand for far too long. Front-line workers, migrant agricultural labourers, and all the other people who have been falling through the cracks for years now are most suffering the wrath of COVID- 19. As a society we are now faced with the stark moral reality that we cannot just turn a blind eye and continue to ignore these deep-seated issues. Our civilization's operating systems have fundamental problems that must be faced with honesty and clarity so we can move closer to the healing and unity we so desperately seek. Returning to “business as usual” is no longer a viable option. Almost every meaningful conversation I’ve had in recent months has had a common undercurrent to it, in that many people are finally seeing the cracks in the paint and facing a greater sense of personal vulnerability than they can ever remember. It’s easier to dismiss vulnerability when life is good and on cruise control, but it can be an entirely different animal when you have to face your own personal vulnerability within the broader context of widespread social and environmental upheaval. It can be overwhelming. Some personal checkpoints which might help: How often do you make regular visits with yourself? How has this present situation stripped away pretense and left you feeling exposed? How do you react when you feel vulnerable? Can you acknowledge the cracks in your own veneer as something which inevitably occurs throughout life? These fundamental questions have been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. From this perspective this crisis has prompted us to sit and begin to examine the answers. Facing the difficult truths in our own lives can help us be better able to recognize and solve problems on a societal level as well. This work isn’t easy, but it is extremely important. I’ll be honest. Many times, over the past few months I have been left feeling uncomfortably exposed and incredibly vulnerable. I have found myself moving between feeling spacious and solid to feeling completely shaken and unstable. It has been quite difficult, but continuing the practice of bringing clarity and compassion to my state of mind has allowed me to move through the tougher moments and open up again. Work has been incredibly busy, home life has been a struggle at times, and the broader societal suffering has been difficult to witness. It’s a constant balancing act, but having a mindful awareness of how I operate inside has allowed me more space to recalibrate when I most need it. Our personal and even collective responses to vulnerability and suffering are choices we have while living in an age of incredible uncertainty. We can choose to desperately cling to our old, damaging and worn out cultural and personal habits, or we can open ourselves to temporary discomfort while recognizing the vital importance of change. In opening to change we develop a new relationship to possibility. Within each of us we have the capacity to choose the path that leads to better long term solutions and new opportunities. Making peace with our own vulnerability can knock down barriers and open us to new growth where no such avenue appeared to exist before. So, the next time you feel backed into a corner or opened a bit too wide, pause. Pause and allow yourself to really experience what is happening right in the very moment. Allow yourself to connect with that deeper part of yourself which can bear this vulnerability. In kindness to self and other, sit in the knowledge that we are all deeply interconnected and facing the same suffering collectively. You never know where it might lead. Thanks so much for reading and take care.
  13. 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.
  14. 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...
  15. 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.
  16. “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.
  17. Thanks so very much Matt. Your kind words mean a great deal.
  18. 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.
  19. It's folks like you that this is written for...
  20. 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.
  21. 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
  22. “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.
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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.
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