Monday, July 28, 2014

Think Yourself Successful

Recalibrate Your Reality

Sometimes we find ourselves facing down demons that only we can see.  Most of the time, they're demons we, ourselves, have created.

If you think you're stupid (old, miserable, talentless, doomed to failure), you are going to let that color your perception of the world.  In turn, you're going to be stupid (old, miserable, etc) because the world you just created proved you were.
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Sounds like a pretty dumb plan, if you ask me.

In a recent online discussion, I touched on the idea that many of us are having a hard time becoming the riders (or people) we'd hoped to be, and we can't put our finger on the problem.  I'm going to put my finger on part of it right now:

*CLICK!*

Yep, it's right in front of you.  Have you been to Facebook lately?  Gotten a whiff of the excellence of someone else's life and compared it to the stench of your own?  Have you been told via email (or text) that you're not quite cutting the mustard?  The comment might have come from a superior at work or a co-worker or just some schmuck who happened to see you with your horse and had to "correct an obvious error".  

It was bad enough when we only had to contend with people in our immediate environment talking directly to us in language with all the nuance of face-to-face contact.  Now we've also got total strangers---some, believe it or not, aren't even who they say they are (I know, right?)--more than willing to fill our headspace with stuff that undermines our very personhood.

Why do we listen?  Because we're herd animals.  We're always looking for a leader, and we're always alert to a hint that we might be cut out of the herd if we don't shape up.

But where has that lead us in the horse business?  It's lead us to taking advice where none was asked for and from quarters whence none should be coming.  The online discussion highlighted how easy it is for anyone who wants to to become a self-styled "expert" at pretty much anything.  When it comes to learning about horses, listening to one of these folks can be deadly.  
Move along now. No star quality here.

Sure, it's great to spend an hour or seven watching videos of great riders and thinking about how bad we look in comparison.  And it's even more fun to spend time watching the Epic Crashes compilations and the Stupid Human Tricks mashups.  We try not to see ourselves in the bad stuff while we envision ourselves  as stars in our own Best Of....  

I don't know if anyone is still out there just experimenting with learning about horses the obvious way, by spending time with, near, and on them.  Give a moment of thought to whoever taught Xenophon to ride.  Nobody, right?  He just did it, and we're still reading about it centuries later.  Yes, I had lessons early on.  I learned how not to fall off just ambling around a pasture.  I learned a bit about more serious riding skills, including what turned out to have been Cavalry Seat.  I didn't learn enough to safely do a trail ride despite my blue ribbons and trophies.  That took a lot longer and a concussion and broken arm to prove my unworthiness.  It took spending hours getting on and off a horse and even riding around a little.  It took holding my breath while my young daughter, in ballet slippers, tried riding standing on her gelding's back and mounting by flinging herself at his leg...and getting up the courage to try that stuff on my own horse.  And succeeding.  And failing.  And sort of both.  And my proudest moment was when a new employee commented wide-eyed that I have the best-trained horses he's ever worked with.  No, I can't do fantabulous gymnastics with a bunch of naked, free-ranging horses following along behind me, but my horses know a lot of stuff that I spent time teaching them while I was learning. That's what we do when we're not worried.  We succeed in odd ways that won't win us blue ribbons but buy us a lot of smiles.  

It's been 54 years now, and I can honestly say that while I've had a couple of truly brilliant mentors, my best instruction came from my horses.  And my best instructor understood that one lesson a month gave me enough time to go home and practice and experiment and move forward at my own speed.  It's not easy to set aside fear of failure, fear of derision, and fear of, well, death and dismemberment (there's insurance for that, in case you were wondering).  But once shuffled off to a side pocket, those fears turn out to be pretty small.  

Getting a good start on a good horse is key.  If you're going to spend time and energy with a pro on any part of this process, that's the part where it's most important.  A good school horse is worth its weight in anything you can think of.  A good first horse won't be a Derby winner or an Olympic hopeful.  It'll be a nice, quiet, probably older animal with a good attitude and a lot of patience.  

So start there.  Put away the computer and the phone and go find a good horse to ride.  Think about all the successful moments you'll have, and go make them happen.  

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