Monday, June 24, 2013

Productive Paranoia: Are You Zooming In or Out?

I'm still sticking with Collins and Hansen's Great By Choice, noticeably skipping over the "Twenty-Mile March" for a moment to get to a really intriguing concept that applies in oh, so many ways to horse life and "normal" life alike.  How productive is your paranoia?
Hay!  This is a major source of paranoia for me.
Some day I will run out, I just know it, so I
am constantly on the alert for cues.

Don't say you're not paranoid.  We all are to some extent.  It's what you do with it that makes all the difference in your level of success.  What Collins and Hansen refer to as "productive paranoia" is the state of alertness that allows one to make good snap decisions and change directions on a dime as needed.  Combine productive paranoia with a willingness to rewrite your personal story as needed, and you're on a good track. This requires a level of determination and focus rare in the average human and worth cultivating no matter your interests or goals if you hope to meet with success.  Notice the little things that are likely to be game-changing before the game is out of your hands.

Obvious example:  You are working your new dressage prospect and intend to debut at Second Level (*choke*) when you discover that your hopeful is becoming more and more easily distracted and doesn't seem to have any oomph! in his derriere anymore.  You've long been worried about moving up the ranks and whether or not you'll eventually have to make room on your wall for all the photos and awards, and your paranoia to date focused more on your ability to master the cues and get fit enough to wear the white breeches without feeling self-conscious.  You are focused inward on your feelings of inadequacy.  You haven't given much concern to Twinkle Toes' ability level, especially since you paid top dollar for him and he's been nothing but cooperative along the path to his Big Reveal.  If there's going to be a screw-up, it's going to be on your end, you're sure.

There's plenty of paranoia in that scenario, from unexpected illness and injury (his and yours) to a shortage of funds (yours), but none of it was really productive unless you did something to prevent the Bad Thing from happening or figure out a Plan B in case it did.  Preventing the random from happening is a thankless effort.  If it were predictable, it wouldn't be random. But a Plan B is always within reach.  Paranoia for its own sake is just annoying to everyone except the company making your blood pressure meds and your local purveyor of Xanax.

What to do...?  What to do...?  Well, the step the authors recommend is learning to ZOOM.  Like a camera lens, not like an exercise class.

Think about how your camera works.  You want to see the fine details, so you hit the "+" button, and the lens magically makes everything bigger and closer.  You can see the hairs on Twinkle's nose as if they were touching the lens (which they probably are, being that this is a horse and horses do love good press).  But what else can you see?  Snot, dust...not much else.  Many of us spend our lives inspecting pores, then we're surprised when something happens apparently from "out of the blue".  It was coming at you all along; you just didn't see it.  Click the "-".   If you want to see more you have to zoom out.

Zooming your camera lens or your attention in and out are very much alike.  If you want to see the whole picture, zoom out.  You've been busy staring at a tight close-up of Twinkle's lateral movement.  If you zoom out for a moment, you might see (much to your surprise) that you've got a very unhappy horse in front of you.  You might see not just legs and hooves but ears and eyes, and you might begin to tip to the idea that TT is not Second Level material.  His mind just isn't right for it.  His one conformation flaw that you so kindly overlooked when you bought him (wouldn't really call him cow-hocked, but he is just a tad straight behind) makes it so hard for him to move laterally with fluidity that he's sad and frustrated by the endless attempts.  You're losing his mind.

Zip wondering why we can't all just get along

Zoomed out for the big-picture view, you can now see that there may be options.  You'd need to give up the debut as planned, but away from the pressure of that track, you might have time to get to know TT in a more intimate way and find out that he's got talents and abilities you haven't begun to tap into yet.  Zoomed  out you can see your competition plans laid out before you with all the alternative paths you can take just in case your current one is a dead end.  You can easily pick the ones most likely to work for you.  Then you can zoom back in and apply the patches you found in the most effective way.

Zoomed out, I not only see the ample pasture growing well because of our effort in liming, fertilizing, and reseeding, I see half the hay field still uncut and standing tall.  I also see the stats from around the country on hay harvests and I can get prices on chopped, bagged forage and find a reliable source.  I can find all the alternatives and stockpile them in order of efficacy, and should the worst happen, I will have ample backup for a quick turn on the proverbial dime (would that anything horse-related were that cheap!).

Perhaps the hardest part of the horse life is the need to zoom in and out constantly.  There's never a time when we can be 100% sure that nothing random can throw us off track.  We're not really that antifragile that we build our lives to become stronger with each assault.  There's a lot to be said for setting goals, but even more to be said for having a map of escape routes stuffed under the pommel just in case.


Unknown said...


Joanne Friedman, Freelance Writer, ASEA Certified Equine Appraiser, Owner Gallant Hope Farm said...

Thanks, Cindy. Wish I could take credit for the concepts. I highly recommend the book despite its having nothing whatever to do with horses. LOL