Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values


Agent: Nick DiNardo

Agent Activities: Performance Coach, Author and Podcaster

Where to Find Him: @nickdinardo (Twitter)






Author(s): Robert Pirsig

Published: 1974

Report Published: 27th September 2016

QUAKE Magnitude: 9.2 major quake stamp_100x36

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Field Survey

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, is the most important and practical autobiography of the 20th century.  In my experience, most philosophy can be dry and esoteric so Pirsig does a brilliant job of using story to demonstrate his pursuit towards obtaining meaning in his life across multiple decades.  The book chronicles a cross country motorcycle trip with Pirsig (in the first person) and his 11 year old son, Chris.  Pirsig explores what the word “quality” means through the relationship with his motorcycle, and in a parallel way, talks about his journey battling mental illness in his pursuit of authenticity, and how that affects his relationship with the boy.

Pirsig was tested with an IQ of 170 at the age of 9.  At 15, he was awarded a high school diploma, and entered the University of Minnesota to study biochemistry.  By age 36, he is a college professor at Montana State University, focused on teaching creative writing.  Soon after, he is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and clinical depression, and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy.  He explores his thought process as he evaluates the essence behind being human…before and after his mental illness.

The book is a first-hand account of a curious, intelligent man asking himself the deepest questions of what it means to be a happy, impactful human being…and how he can be a great father to an adolescent son.   The ideal reader of this book is someone who wants to ask better questions of themselves, who is a lifelong open-minded learner seeking deeper self-awareness and exploration. It is also for anyone interested in philosophy and psychology, looking how to APPLY such lessons to improve their own life and relationships.


“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. ”

Quake Moment

It happened when I realized how often I drive towards goals that other people have defined for themselves.  I pride myself in self-evaluation and reflection, but when it comes down to it, I spend a lot of time defining myself by the standards set by high achievers that I look up to.  I learned that I must determine my own goals; the things that are important to Nick and not get sucked into the vortex that is defined as “success” by others.


I am in a constant state of learning and evaluation.  My goal is to explore how our toughest moments (adversity, struggle, failure, etc.) are, many times, are our greatest opportunities.  Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has accelerated and optimized my ability to reflect, be present, and establish my own set of core values.  I try to demonstrate this, and continue to explore the topic, through my coaching practice and podcast:  The Sweet Adversity Podcast, where I interview high performers across multiple disciplines (former Olympians, NFL players, bestselling authors, and entrepreneurs/CEO’s). It is the most rewarding work I do.  I hope it helps me to continue touching others as they progress on their journeys.


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