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A Zen Conversation

Here is where you find the permanent record of the “Zen Conversation” between me, the author of this blog (hi, I’m Tim, nice to meet you!), and Patrick McCormick (he says hi too!), the author of “Zen and the Art of Disc Golf”.  This is just an experiment we thought we would try and I hope you enjoy the ongoing result.

This conversation last updated05/19/2015

Remember to go get Patrick’s book, Zen and the Art of Disc Golf.  Signed copies available on the Zen Disc Golf website.  And if you haven’t heard about his book, check out my review!

Tim:  Patrick, I can’t tell you how much I dig the book.  It must be really cool to have a book out with your name on it.  Especially one that is getting as much traction in the community as this is.  As a wanna be writer myself, I can kind of relate to what an undertaking it must have been.

Patrick: It is really cool. And to be quite honest, I had no idea that the whole thing would take off like it has.  I am insanely grateful for the success that is happening, but what makes it even better is that a positive message is spreading and people are eating it up and that means even more to me than any kind of personal success. Money comes and goes, but ideas endure. I have so many books that have impacted me over the years that impact my daily thinking. To think that maybe my book is impacting even one person’s daily thoughts positively is incredible to me.

Tim:  I agree.  I can’t seem to read enough and I always scratch my head a little when people tell me they don’t read.  I always think that it’s because their only exposure to reading was bad teachers forcing books on them that didn’t interest them.  It’s crazy how many people got soured on reading that way.  I’ve always got a little internal mission to get people to read more by exposing them to the right books.  For me, I have a list of books that I recommend all the time.  “Striking Thoughts” by Bruce Lee, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, and “On the Shortness of Life” by Seneca are all personal favorites.  I’m also a huge fiction fan.  Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, and Tim Powers are my top three.

I noticed that you have a pretty solid bibliography in the back of your book.  If you were to select 2-3 of those as must reads for your audience, which would they be?  What book do you suggest to people who say, “I don’t read”?

Patrick:  I guess must reads would depend on what they are searching for. “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass is a visual masterpiece and gives an overview of many different spiritual concepts and ideas. “Embraced by the Light” is a book about one woman’s very vivid near death experience that I believe is an absolutely beautiful account of what we should be doing here on earth as well as many things we shouldn’t be. For those who say they “don’t read,” it’s all about finding something that interests them. I think we have all looked something up on wikipedia and that led to clicking link after link. The brain is naturally a sponge. People who don’t read just haven’t found something that interested them enough to get them started.

Tim: I’m for sure going to check those out.  The Ram Dass book is one I own but haven’t yet read.  I think that one of the challenges for reading is that it takes time.  Between writing and playing, I’m guessing neither one of us has a ton of time for that.  And that brings up another thought I had as I read your book.

One of the things that always strikes me as ironic is that most of the things that grow our sport don’t involve actually playing our sport.  I know for me, I give up a lot of playing time to write this blog, keep up the Instagram and Twitter feeds, and do other disc golf related projects.

It’s so hard to have the self discipline, especially on a really nice day, to not spend my whole day playing when I know I have writing to do.  What was your motivation to stay disciplined in the process?  How did you have the self control and drive to give up a thing you clearly love so much to write this book?

Patrick:  To tell the truth this book took so long because I would go through periods of really focused writing, then life would happen and it would be set aside for a while. Then all of a sudden I would hit the course and the have some small revelation and would often I would either take a quick note or drop everything and leave the course to go write about it.  I believe the secret to productivity is routine. I was far more productive when I kept a disciplined routine.

I have always been a project oriented person. I love the feeling of completing something I can be proud of. It’s sort of a high I chase. I hate having unfinished things out there. Sometimes I involve other people and promise completion to ensure that I actually complete somthing. In this case social networking was my go to. As I continued to promote an unfinished book I added more and more people to Instagram and Facebook that I felt like I was promising a product to.  Even though those people had no idea, I continued the project because I felt like I owed them. I also thanked many of those people in the back of my book.

Tim:  Ah the power of a routine!  I’m actually going to be writing a blog post about that sometime soon.  In addition to just finding time, having a routine, and just plain sacrifice, I’m guessing a component of that question is how did you find your “why”?  Without a strong why, none of that can be very effective.  How can our fellow disc golfer find their “why” for the things they want to do in their lives?  I think that applies not only in writing books and playing disc golf, but across most of people’s goals and aspirations.

Patrick:  As people, we are always looking for “why”. For me it was the idea that maybe something I have to say could improve other people’s lives. Why keep something like that a secret?  So I guess you could say instead of asking why I asked “why  not?” In the end, people read it or they don’t. They get it or they don’t. But even if it only impacts a single person, then why not do my part and give it a shot.

In my book, I talk about “leaving everything better than you found it”. It is a principle I try to live by and knowing than I cannot live forever, the only thing I can leave leave behind is a legacy. Why not try to make it great?

Tim:  That’s really cool that you put it that way.  I know a lot of super successful people that I read about say they start with the legacy in mind and that shapes their day to day decisions.  What’s that old saying?  Something like “A person is not truly dead until their name crosses the lips of a living person for the last time”?  I guess we all have such a limited amount of time on this earth that it’s pretty important to do something meaningful with it.

Patrick:  That’s a great way to put it.

Tim:  With your career choice and the things you have said so far, it seems like you have a sincere desire to really help as many other people as you can.  One of my favorite people, Zig Ziglar, is most well known for saying, “You can have anything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

Patrick:  The most important part of that is understanding it is not a tit for tat.  The universe doesn’t OWE you anything.

Tim:  You are so right about that!  You do for others merely for the sake of doing for others.  Then and only then does the universe return the favor.  It wasn’t until I got older that I really started to grasp how true that was.  It’s a really rare and admirable quality and I’m always curious how people get it.  So many people never do and they go through life totally self centered.  You see that on the disc golf course all the time.  Some people really root for everyone they are playing with and others wish for you to hit a tree.  I think that the attitude on the course is such a good indicator of how they treat everyone in their life.  Was an attitude of service to others instilled in you by your parents, have you always had it or did you get it another way?

Patrick:  An attitude of service was instilled in me very slowly. It wasn’t one thing or one person. It was just the realization that “As you give, you shall be given to.” You just sort of start seeing it happen in your life and in peoples lives around. Watch how people live. See if the things they are doing are making them happy or miserable. You can always trace it to their daily attitudes.

Tim:  So I think all of this leads to one of my favorite hot button topics.  Taking care of our courses.  I was absolutely thrilled to see you devote some time in your book to this.  This is one of my soap box topics and I’m super passionate about it.  Not just in the basic stuff like picking up after yourself, hitting the garbage can, picking up garbage you see left around, and not breaking stuff.  But also in club work days.

Patrick:  Taking care of our courses is on the top of the list of things that are going to grow this sport. We must show people the beauty this game has to offer in order for them to see it’s not all about lobbing “frisbees” in the woods. This is one of the reasons why I try to share a beautiful disc golf image a day on my Instagram and Facebook, hoping people share with others and show them the beauty that a disc golf course has to offer. Taking care of the course begins with people playing the course. Clubs do great jobs of assisting and maintaining, but even 1 day a week of maintenance can’t keep up with 6 days of destruction.

Tim:   I, unfortunately, end up working during most of our club work days, but I know we have a semi hard time getting any good number of people to show up for them.  I also know our club is not alone in that regard.  But even outside of formally organized work days, there are other things people can do.  I know I’ll grab a garbage bag or two once a week and just pick up as much trash as I can find in a round.

Patrick:  Taking pride and ownership. That’s number 1. Treat the course as if it is your home. I would hope you just don’t throw trash in your yard, or destroy lawn furniture you paid for. Take some responsibility for your course. You may not have trashed it, but if you can fix it, do it!

Tim:   Why do you think it’s so difficult to get the bulk of the disc golfers out there to embrace this concept?  Is it a large global problem, or is it just a handful of inconsiderate people who make the rest of us look bad?  What do you think are some possible solutions to this?

Patrick:  When people do not have “skin in the game” it’s easier for them to destroy. This is just going to be the nature of a low cost to enter sport. I’m not advocating that it shouldn’t be, but it is a fact – people who don’t have skin in the game or do not take pride and ownership in something also do not respect it. You and I, we respect disc golf. It’s hard for us to imagine trashing a course. Sometimes the course is trashed by non-disc golfers and sometimes it is merely something to do while you enjoy other not-so-legal activities. Either way it’s difficult to say what the answer is. But the development of pride and ownership in general is the key.

Tim:  So this is one of the biggest selling points of making courses pay to play.  More than one pay to play proponent has made their case that people who pay will theoretically take better care of the course.  Many passionate people out there are trying to raise that low cost of entry into our sport in part to screen the hooligans out.  While I agree that that will likely be one of the effects, I don’t know that that actually fixes the problem.  All that does is keep a certain number/group of people off of the course.  In my mind, those are the people that may benefit from our sport the most.  Instead of alienating them, I think we should take on the harder task of changing their perception of what it is to be out on the course in the first place.  Like you say, develop pride and ownership.
What do you think about pay to play?
Patrick:  This is a hot button topic but I am going to be extra candid with you and lay it out in a way I hope most people can understand.
Payment is an exchange of work or time for something of value. When we work for money – someone is seeing value in our time and work and in exchange gives us money. Keeping this in mind – people will pay for something they value. When people pay for disc golf, the natural progression will hopefully be more courses that are better maintained. I believe the sport will continue to be better respected as the public and businesses begin to see value and also that there is money to be made in disc golf. Not to mention more people can make a living off of the sport, from courses design, to maintenance, to products and services based on more demand.
Tim:  Now you are hitting one of my hot button topics.  There is a large group of disc golfers out there that feel that no money at all should be involved in any aspect of disc golf.  They feel no one should be profiting on anything and that it ruins the sport if money somehow gets involved.  What they don’t realize is that money in and of itself is not bad or evil or capable of ruining the game.  It’s greed how people choose to go after that money that is the problem.  I would pay to play a quality, well maintained course any day.  I do it for ball golf, I’d do it for disc golf.  The difference is that almost all of our courses are already free.  If given the choice, do you pay to play a sport that you can otherwise play for free?
Patrick:  No one ever thought people would buy bottled water. Why would you do that? You can get it from the tap in your home. Pay to play in the future will be all about the quality of the product, it’s packaging, and it’s convenience.
Bottled water sells because of the quality it claims to offer – distilled, purified, glacier water from Greenland. People will pay to play quality courses that are well maintained and they have seen the pros play.
People buy bottled water because of the packaging. How we package courses in the future will effect whether people come to them, that is their amenities – camp grounds, restaurants, nice on site pro shops. To take it one step further, I don’t drink but hear me out on this, many people play ball golf because they can drink on the course. What that means to their devotion to the sport is a whole other conversation, but they pay big money to be outside doing something where they can relax with a beverage of their choice. Private disc golf courses can offer this amenity that public courses cannot due to open container  laws. Whether you or I like it or not, it’s another way to grow the sport. I’m sure we both know disc golfers who are on the course today with a hidden beer can, playing disc golf, who may or may not throw it on the ground when they are done. Pay to play brings it out in the open, profits on it’s sale, and allows a paycheck for a high school kid who loves disc golf to pick up cans and empty trash bags at his local course.
Lastly, like bottled water, pay to play will be about convenience – more courses will spring up when businesses realize that the investment in land and amenities will help them profit. Many disc golfers believe “profit” is a bad word. Profit is what will build more and better courses, it will create a higher payout to pros, and it will #growthesport like everyone wants.
People buy bottled water, but tap water hasn’t gone away. There is certainly room for both pay to play and free to play courses.
Also, “free” is mostly a loaded word. Nothing is free. Parks may have “free to play” courses, but they are not “free.” Tax payers pay for them – most of them non disc golfers I might add. And if the non-disc golfing tax payers pay for them, guess what, they can stop paying for them when they decide they want to mow down some trees for some tennis courts or the next strip mall because the “free” disc golf course wasn’t bringing in the money they wanted. That’s when “free” can bite you in the bum. Ask any disc golfer who lost their course in this way. Then ask them if they would have rather paid $3 a day to keep their course.
Tim:  Does adding an entry fee to your local course in any way take away from the Zen of disc golf?
Patrick:  Absolutely not. Zen in disc golf is to be in nature. It is to relax and let go of thinking that limits your excellence. Public courses often get neglected because the parks department doesn’t have enough personnel to maintain them. They fall prey to trash, graffiti, and theft. A nominal entry fee can help preserve nature a little better so a player can focus less on the destructiveness of others and more on themselves and their round.
Tim:  You know, you are right.  Some of the most beautiful natural environments I’ve found myself in are ball golf courses.  We have several here that work with the Audubon  society and partner with them for conservation efforts.  They are just stunning and I always wished I could be there playing disc golf instead of ball golf.

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This conversation will be continued in future posts.  Thanks for following along so far.

If you are looking for more books that might help your disc golf game, check out our reading list at the Mind Body Disc disc golf reading list.

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