The following article appeared in the September 2003 issue of Science
of Mind magazine (www.scienceofmind.com).
Baseballs Hottest Young Pitcher Reveals the Not-So-Secret Source of His Success: the
Ideas of Ernest Holmes
By Mitch Horowitz
By mid-summer of 2001, 23-year-old
Barry Zito was in a major slump. The Oakland As star young pitcher was winding down
his second big-league season with a 6-7 win-loss record and an earned-run average of 5.07
figures that could politely be called modest.
Basically, I was at rock
bottom, Zito told Science of Mind. And, a lot of times, you need to
be at rock bottom before you can open to a whole new way of thinking. For Zito, that
new way of thinking would come in the form of Ernest Holmes 1919 book, Creative
Realizing that his sons career
was in trouble, Zitos father Joe, a classically trained musician who had conducted
for Nat King Cole, came to Barry in July 2001 with a simple, radical idea found in Creative
Mind: The power of thought shapes the circumstances of our outer lives, rather than
the other way around. He introduced me to Creative Mind and he stayed with
me for four days going into my next [pitching] start, Zito said. We read Creative
Mind for five, six, seven hours a day. I made notes and I made affirmation tapes and
put up signs in my room affirming who I was, and the power that I have.
It worked. Zito went on to win a
stunning 11 of his next 12 games. He famously rounded out the 2001 season with a 17-8
record and a 3.49 ERA. The southpaw whose second big-league season had looked like it was
headed for disaster instead won two consecutive American League pitcher-of-the-month
awards by the seasons end.
You could call it a
miracle, Zito told Science of Mind. The bottom line is that I went
from being one of the worst pitchers in the league and then, post-Creative Mind
Zito often speaks of his career as divided before and after his discovery of Creative
Mind I went from being well-below average to being named pitcher of the
month for the American League for August and September.
Zitos 2002 season went even
better. He closed it out with a 23-5 record, a 2.75 ERA, and a Cy Young Award
pitchings top honor tucked under his arm. In one year, Zito had gone from the
near-bottom of the major leagues to winning more games in a single season than any
American League pitcher had since 1988. Dude, he told a reporter from the Chicago
Sun-Times, thats not a coincidence.
Today, Zito sits atop the
sports world as one of the most successful and intriguing personalities in
major-league baseball. But to understand what motivates Barry Zito, one must first
understand where he comes from. Zito speaks fondly and frequently of his
father, Joe. Born in 1928 to a strict Catholic upbringing on a farm in New
Yorks hardscrabble Catskill Mountains, Joe, as Zito describes it, was a freethinker,
an outsider before such an archetype had even entered American culture. He took a
lot of time to detach and be alone and really figure out what he thought aside from
religion, aside from basically being force-fed a lot stuff without getting to chose for
himself. He figured out a lot of different principles on his own, and years later he
picked up Creative Mind and he was just blown away that the ideas he had were
already in a book.
Before Joe discovered the book, he had
already developed a personal philosophy similar to the one that would be popularized by
figures like Ernest Holmes and Norman Vincent Peale. He called it universal
law, Zito explained. Joe understood universal law as a kind
of gravity or electricity something that we cant quite explain, but that we
just know how to use. He determined that thoughts would set up some type of electricity in
the atmosphere; and these things would come back to us.
Remarkably, Joes was not the only
side of the Zito family with mystical yearnings. Following a divine visitation
in 1969, Barry explained, his maternal grandmother founded a spiritual movement of her
own: the San-Diego based Teaching of the Inner Christ. Its basically the same
principles [as Creative Mind] described in a different way: That we can
create through our thoughts whatever we desire in our life, Zito said.
Zitos mother, Roberta, is an
ordained minister who previously presided over the Teaching of the Inner Christ Church in
San Diego. Roberta named her only son after her brother Barry, another beloved
freethinker of the family and an acolyte of Zen who mysteriously vanished in
1964 at the age of 22 near Big Sur, California. He was the original beatnik,
Roberta told the Sacramento Bee. He was the most original thinker I ever
knew. (Zito has another notable uncle: the actor of Dallas fame, Patrick
Roberta and Joe sought to instill the
independent values of his namesake uncle into their son. Ive been raised by a
family that has always told me that I could do anything I wanted, Zito said.
My dad always said, Youre a great champion, you can do whatever you
want. Even from the time I was seven, eight, ten, twelve, fifteen, if you asked me I
would say, Im going to be a big-league pitcher. I didnt know how
or where or when, but I saw the end result. I didnt know what all the details would
be going into it; but I always knew it and that was from them instilling the
beliefs in me that I could be whatever I wanted. Zitos beliefs, of course,
were accompanied by equal parts hard work. His father built a pitchers mound in the
family backyard in San Diego, and Barry began practicing seven days a week starting at the
age of seven. Today, he continues to workout everyday, even on vacations.
Zito further credits his receptivity to
spiritual ideas to the strong female presence in his childhood home. Guys want to be
masculine, they want to say they have it all figured out, Zito said. A lot of
times it shows vulnerability when you say dont know something, when you look to
something higher for guidance. It shows that you dont know it all and theres a
lot of guys out here who have been raised by their dads who said, dont ever
let em see you sweat, son. So, I think girls are just more in touch. I was
raised by two older sisters 9 and 13 and a mom, so I dont have all
that egotistical stuff that goes on with a lot guys.
Taking It Onto
Following the heroic finish to
Zitos 2001 season and the Cy Young Award that capped his 2002 season, sports
journalists began to take a second look at the pitchers metaphysical beliefs.
Profiles in The New York Times (A Pitcher Outside the Curve), USA
Today (Zito Wins Mind Games), and the Los Angeles Daily News
(Zito and Zen) increasingly called attention to his spiritual side.
After Zito pitched a 2-0 game against
the Yankees in May 2003, the New York Times reported: He frequently pulled
off his cap, but not because he was sweating or uncomfortable. Zito was reading the
positive messages reminders to trust himself that he writes on the bottom of
the bill of his cap. In a sentiment
rarely expressed in the sports pages of The New York Times or any national
newspaper the story was headlined: Yankees Fail to Shake Zitos Trust in
The sports journalists who now
regularly cover Zito have taken to reporting that the southpaw pastes the affirmation
inside the rim of his cap: Be still and know. Zitos inspiration is from
one of the shortest and most powerful passages in Creative Mind, a
single-paragraph chapter called The Highest Attitude of Mind. It reads:
The highest attitude of mind, from which all else
springs, is one of the perfect calm and absolute trust in the Spirit. The one who can with
perfect confidence look into the future and with perfect ease of mind rest in the present,
and who never looks backward, but who has learned to be still in his own soul and wait
upon the Spirit, he is the one who will the most completely demonstrate the
supremacy of spiritual thought over all so-called material resistance. Be still and
know that I Am God.
Zito has a spiritual training regimen
today that grows from the lessons he learned after first working with Creative Mind
in 2001. In order to save my year I could have told myself, Look, youve
got to be the best pitcher in the league in the next two months and that
would have felt like such a burden to live up to. But I didnt; I focused moment to
moment. And that philosophy underscores, if not quite a Barry Zito Program than
certainly a programmatic approach to using the power of his mind to improve his game.
Mental training starts, Zito explained,
by using ones mind more actively to avoid being continually jostled by outside
circumstances. I try to be at the center of my own world and, as hard as it is, not
to be affected by all the stuff flying around and all the thought-forms and negativity.
Just let that bead off of you. I just encourage everyone to live like that and not give
power to other peoples beliefs and opinions and all the stuff that brings us down.
Live your life by inner realization.
This doesnt mean adopting a
monastic lifestyle. In Zitos view, the power of mind can be harnessed in the here
and now. His own practice might be divided into three basic steps:
- Affirmations. My big thing
is putting up signs in my room reminding me who I am. I use affirmations that I say to
myself while Im driving or that I put on an audiotape.
- Centering. I will get quiet
before I go to sleep, or before I get up.
- Expectation. I take a goal
and I say it as if it were the past tense
Wear the mood that youve already
achieved the thing youre trying to accomplish.
Zito is adamant about the need to
maintain a regular spiritual practice. If you dont keep a consistent routine,
youre not going to have a consistent mindset,
he said. When Im really struggling, Im doing a lot of mental work. In
the four days going into my [pitching] start, Im picking up Creative Mind
and Im listening to affirmations and sometimes it just gets locked in and
then I wont pick it up for a couple of weeks because I am thriving on that belief
system. Im in a state where its cycling, and then sometimes it deviates and I
have to get back in it.
Creative Mind is not the only
spiritual work Zito reads, but it is his favorite. He and his father have come to see the
book Ernests Holmes first as the core statement of the
philosophy Holmes founded. I could go
and read every single Holmes book but thats not going to help me, Zito said,
explaining that he wants to avoid getting too caught up in theory. He
believes, instead, in finding what he calls the one true directive within any
book or idea. Its good to pick
your book or pick your paragraph. There are, however, other works of Ernest Holmes
that he draws upon. These include Thoughts Are Things; Love and Law: The
Unpublished Teachings; The Science of Mind textbook; How to Use the
Science of Mind; 365 Science of Mind; and Creative Mind and Success. Zito recently spoke of Creative Mind and
Success to the Los Angeles Daily News: You read it a couple of pages
at a time and its very deep. You can read a page and it takes you an hour to digest
it. Its not for the weak-minded.
Zito is also interested in the work of
his grandmothers Teaching of the Inner Christ and in the writings of influential
20th century metaphysical philosopher Neville Goddard, who wrote under the solitary
penname Neville. In the work of Neville, particularly in his compendium Resurrection,
Zito finds that the key to mental power is to: Feel that feeling that you would have
after you have accomplished your goal. Feel that feeling all the time, and pretty soon all
that can happen is that. In Resurrection, Neville writes:
If you knew how you would feel were you to realize
your objective, then, inversely, you would know what state you could realize were you to
awaken in yourself such feeling. The injunction, to pray believing that you already
possess what you pray for, is based upon a knowledge of the law of inverse transformation.
If your realized prayer produces in you a definite feeling or state of consciousness,
then, inversely, that particular feeling or state of consciousness must produce
your realized prayer.
Since, 2001 Zitos spiritual search has brought him
to a place not many people associate with spirituality: It gave me a lot more
accountability. And thats why a lot of people, if you try to tell them they create
their reality through their thoughts, dont want to know that; they dont want
think that what they have in their world is because of their thinking. They want to think
its because of fate or because some people were gifted or other people werent.
Its about accountability. Whenever I lose a game I take it fully upon myself.
I dont say the umpires were bad, I dont say the hitter got a cheap hit, I
dont say my arm wasnt feeling good. Because when you when win you dont
say, that umpire sure was amazing and
without him I wouldnt have won.
Spiritual Values, Material World
As Zito has occasionally discovered, an
original thinker is not always understood within the often-conformist world of
professional sports. The Chicago Sun Times recently put it this way:
Baseballs jowly, pinch-mouth establishment sometimes feels threatened by him.
They call him a typical lefty, a flake. Some
people affectionately tag the freethinking pitcher Planet Zito or
Its an easy way out to say
that Im a little weird, Zito says of his critics. But the bottom line
is, if you ask guys [on the Oakland As], I think theyre very intrigued with
the way I lead my life. Half of me wants to push these principles on guys, because I think
Ive really come upon something simply amazing. But the other half says dont
try to force it, theyll accept it when theyre ready.
Looking at Zitos spiritual
commitments, and the results they bring, its almost impossible not to see him as a
model of practical idealism anything other than the head-in-the-clouds New Ager
that some might paint him as. Indeed, some of Zitos own teammates have developed a
healthy curiosity about the source of his ideas. But putting that curiosity into action,
Zito observes, is another matter. Guys
dont really talk about our craft as much as you would think. Were all good
friends, but no one really says, Im just not confident right now.
Theres a guy on my team who is one of my best friends right now, and hes
struggling mentally and I just tried to help him today and he doesnt want to be
helped; so half of me is hurting and the other half is saying, look I love you and
Im trying to help you. I introduced him to Creative Mind and
hes spoken to my dad a couple of times.
The way Zito sees it, people will
embrace new ideas when they are ready and its best that way. I
dont try to force it; because if you try to force it on someone you open yourself up
for scrutiny. People can be quick to criticize, and Id just rather not have
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that
Zito has found on the spiritual path is the confidence to move beyond the publics
perception of him as a ball player even to contemplate a second career in the arts.
In addition to spiritual matters, Zito has been heavily influenced by his familys
extensive musical background. Like his father, Zitos mother is a classically trained
musician who also performed with Nat King Coles band. His sister Sally is a budding
performer who shares her brothers ideals. My sister is a singer/songwriter and
she uses the exact same thing Creative Mind in her
method, Zito said.
An avid guitarist himself, Zito
recently jammed at a benefit concert with the 1970s super group Chicago. He has
been taking marathon guitar lessons and seriously considers a post-baseball musical
career. After baseball I want to do some things musically and maybe with acting,
photography, art. Ive got so many creative things I want to accomplish. Im not
going to stay around the game of baseball when Im done. Im going to do other
stuff. Im not one of those guys whos going to coach or be a general manager.
Baseball is a kind of venue for me to express myself not just a sport that I thrive
If there is a key to Zitos
success, this may be it: life is not so much what he does, but how he
does it. For Zito, life is a process based in self-expression and personal excellence.
Im here at the highest levels of baseball and Im working everyday to be
one of the best, he said. Its just a constant journey within myself to
see how much of me I can bring out.