Jerry Lynch on Making a Difference and the Way of the Buddha

While most would consider him simply a sports psychologist, Dr. Jerry Lynch is a coach, mentor and teacher who guides and coaches athletes and parents to explore the meaning and purpose of sport, as a powerful vehicle to help us understand the mental-emotional-spiritual components of the athletic game and how they apply to the bigger game called LIFE. 

Dr. Lynch received his doctorate in psychology from Penn State University, and has done extensive post-doctoral work in the area of philosophy, Taoist and Buddhist thought, comparative religions, leadership development and performance enhancement. He has been a national class athlete, having been a member of a national championship team and, to this day, continues to run and bike. He has coached at the high school level as well as AAU sports.

He is the author of 13 books in as many as 10 languages on coaching, leadership, spirituality of sport, warrior spirit, peak performance, and sports psychology. Jerry is the father of four high energy, athletic children. He divides his time between his offices in Santa Cruz, California and Boulder, Colorado where he works and writes in the spirit of what he teaches and coaches.

In your new book, The Competitive Buddha, you write, “I’m not trying to help all of us to become better Buddhists. I simply want us to be better versions of ourselves.” This calls to mind a quote from the Dalai Lama, “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.” Could you describe some of the ways that you have seen Eastern thought influence yourself or others to do just that?

Eastern thought and perspective continues to be influential in my daily life. I wrote The Competitive Buddha because I needed what I teach in my personal life. It has been a 45-year journey of learning how to achieve my primary mission: “to make a difference in the lives of others by being a better version of myself.” Buddhist thought and Taoist philosophy helps me to understand how my thoughts influence my actions. We are what we think. I have learned to be kinder and more compassionate with others. Everyone I meet is fighting a battle that I know nothing about. The Eastern way guides me to understand this and be kinder, always.

One of the things I admire about this book is that you have described some fundamental Buddhist teachings in a way that has made them accessible and applicable not just to athletes, but to the general western population that might be less familiar with this way of thinking about life. Do you think the Buddha Brain and the Mamba Mentality is something anyone can aspire to?

We all can aspire to adapt to the Mamba Mentality. It is a learned behavior and TCB helps us all to understand this and implement it in our daily lives. I have learned that we can all cope with our fears, our failures and setbacks by seeing them as an opportunity to learn what we need to be successful. The Buddha and Kobe help us to look at setbacks as our greatest teachers on the path to being the best we can be. It is the path of Mastery, meaning that there is NO path TO mastery, mastery is the path of up and down, learning what we need to learn.

You have quite an impressive career, from being an athlete yourself to your work as a psychologist and mentor, speaker, and author of several books. What do you feel has been the most rewarding part of your journey?

The most important aspect of all my work is not that I make a living BUT that I make a difference in the lives of others. That is my sole purpose… to serve others and make a difference. To bring joy and compassion to the lives of others is the reward itself, regardless of the outcomes. The work itself is a constant reminder how to be an effective leader as a dad, as a teacher and as a partner. So many people in charge miss this and treat others in a condescending manner in the role of being a transactional leader rather than transformative. My reward is to see how others grow and expand by influencing them in a more Buddha way being a servant leader… kind, inspirational, genuine, authentic, vulnerable.

In the midst of all your hard work and success, what are some of your strategies for maintaining a healthy work-life balance? 

My strategy for maintaining a healthy work-life balance is to be VERY INTENTIONAL about it from the time I wake up to when I put my head on the pillow each night. I call this intention… the way to WIN THE DAY… not my entire life. There is a list on my desk that I see every morning I enter my office. If I accomplish 7 of the 10 items (and I try to do 10 of 10) I consider that winning the day and therefore MAINTAIN THAT BALANCE. The list includes: Doing my gratefulness exercise (in my book), exercise, keeping aligned with my vegan lifestyle, meditation, reading, strength training, affirming (with an email or two) others purposefully, cooking for my family, writing something, working to advance my purpose of making a difference, and one act of random kindness. That’s the list and it is only 8am and I have already achieved half of this.

You draw wisdom from a variety of different faith traditions and cultures, as well as from psychology. Was there anything in particular that piqued your interest, or a specific point in life where you started to feel drawn to some of these schools of thought? 

My interest in faith, comparative religions, philosophy, psychology came about as a little boy… I always asked questions about things that others accepted to be the truth. I always had an interest in understanding life and why we are here. These ways of thought helped me to explore the deeper questions like who am I… really? So I found comfort in learning new ways to see my life and new ways to understand all that was so confusing. I’m a thinker with a deep desire to learn… I have a growth mindset. All of this helps me to follow my heart, my inner voice, to take risks to explore the limitless boundaries of my human capacity. I LOVE living an examined life… there is so much to learn. I have learned that simplicity is the greatest gift and I seek it each day. I believe that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and when we approach it we also experience happiness. Some of the happiest cultures around the world know this to be true.

Finally, how are you nourishing your own soul during this chaotic time? 

The answer to this is related to my answer in #4 above. Nourishing one’s soul is not rocket science, yet there are thousands of books that claim “how-to.” Again, it’s simple BUT not easy. 

A) Lower your expectations

B) Be intentional and be honest with yourself.

Rapid-fire questions:

The most recent book you read? Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Your go-to coffee or tea order? No coffee, no tea, I have hot water with goji berries every morning.

Ideal vacation spot? San Pancho and Oaxaca, Mexico where I immerse in the loving culture and practice Spanish.

Spring or Autumn? Definitely Autumn.

Favorite Olympic sport (if you watch them)? Lacrosse because of its spiritual roots and connection with the Native American culture.

The Competitive Buddha

How to Up Your Game in Sports, Leadership and Life

Connect Spirituality to Sports. The Competitive Buddha is about mastery, leadership, and spirituality. Learn what you need to keep, what you need to discard, and what you need to add to your mental, emotional, and spiritual skill set as an athlete, coach, leader, parent, CEO, or any other performer in life. Understand how Buddhism can help you to be better prepared for sports and life, and how sports and life can teach you about Buddhism. Discover how people from all parts of the world have brought together the Buddha and athletics for greater fun, enjoyment, and pleasure during their performances. Dr. Jerry Lynch demonstrates how certain timeless core Buddha values inspire you to embrace and navigate unchartered waters, and understand the Buddha-mind and the Kobe Bryant Mamba Mentality.

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