Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Success By Any Other Name....

  don't even have to write a blog post this week.  This video should be sufficient.  Not only is it a marvelously on-target self-help piece, but it's also got a few good laughs incorporated.

But, lest it be said that I can't find something marginal to say about anything ever, I'm going to hark back for a moment to the last post where I mentioned Michael Johnson's Healing Shine  and suggested it would be a truly important book in anyone's library, horseman or normal, sane being.  One of the best things Mr. Johnson did for me as I listened to the audio version of that brilliant piece of philosophy and self-help was to force me to say to myself, "I did this".  "I screwed up."  I screwed up myself and the horse all by my very own self.  It's a very freeing  passage, I assure you.  If you did it, you can probably undo it, and that's the beginning of a new challenge and a learning experience.

That's a hard thing to admit, particularly for someone like me for whom success in many areas has not only come easily but who doesn't mind flaunting it (and who has no problem lowering the bar until "success" is assured).  Admitting that I did that wasn't easy.  The video above explains why.  In case you didn't watch all the way to the end (I certainly appreciate your dedication to getting to my unforgettable post, but that was mandatory), he points out that we humans worship ourselves.  What a concept!  We hold nothing more sacred than us.

Before you have a fit over the use of "sacred" there, in particular in the face of Mr. de Botton's contention that historically we worshiped something "transcendent" as opposed to our current structured self-importance, this is where I have to disagree with him.   Even our Sacred stuff is historically all about us.  Think about it.  Believers in a Higher Power of whatever description are convinced that there's a Presence that cares deeply about our personal preferences, behavior, needs and wishes.  Does it get more self-serving than that?  We not only adore ourselves, we believe even an all-powerful Creator has the same deep-seated interest in us! 
No worry about success here....just sunshine and cookies.

So knowing that, the fact that we can't admit being wrong just follows along like a kid dragged through the pasture muck by his pony.  It can't be anything we did.  Someone, somewhere screwed it up, but it sure as heck-fire wasn't us.  Nuh-uh!  No way!   And as long as our vision of success includes never being wrong (and hedging on the rare occasion when someone else is equally right), we can't succeed.  We can't succeed personally, and we sure as manure balls can't succeed with our horses. 

I also take issue with Mr. de Botton's contention that we are drawn to Nature because it takes us away from our own drama.  I like the thought, and I'm sure it's true to an extent.  Sorry, but what I see is us bringing our drama with us, making vast efforts to control Nature, and when we fail, smacking Nature around in our frustration.  Looking at glaciers may make us feel peaceful for a time, but before long we want to climb them, leave flags stuck in them, have a picnic atop them, and eventually melt them down.   The Human Touch.

So it is in our horse life.  We love the feeling of being closer to Nature that our contact with horses brings us, but how often to we just luxuriate in the moment, and how often are we thinking ahead to the next training step or how we can get the horse to poop in only one corner of his stall for easier cleanup?  How often are we disgusted with our own inability to get past a training roadblock?  How much frustration is in our riding?  And why can't we ever let the horse just be right?

I suggest that success can only be measured by the cessation of all of that directional thinking.  When the horseman stops considering changing the horse's behavior and accepts that horses just behave without adding a quality judgment, maybe that's success.  And how many of us will ever really get there?

De Botton states (and I couldn't agree more) that we are highly suggestible.  We have notions of success and failure that are strictly memetic in origin, and many of them don't actually work for us as individuals.  That certainly holds true in the horse world.  "Justice", he says, "is impossible."  I believe he's right.  It will continue to elude us as long as we ignore our relationship with the world around us outside the human element.  Be a failure!  Be a  happy failure!  Be happy that you found your favorite t-shirt today!  Success!  Love the fact that you and your horse have gotten through another ten minutes without mayhem!  Success!  A new view of success might be the best thing for you and your horse.

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