Five lessons from thoroughbreds

Be or Do?

I dedicate time to being purposeful and to purposefully being. There is a distinct difference between being and doing. Do you take time out from doing? Can you identify and differentiate blocks amidst your doing humanity to be human (human being)? How do you attain human-being status while busy in your human-doing mode?

Born and raised in the Bluegrass State, famous for Churchill Downs (The Kentucky Derby) and Kentucky Fried Chicken, I have learned to enjoy horse racing and eating. One of my being escapes is Churchill Downs in the Fall. With the pomp and circumstance of the first Saturday in May(Derby Day) no longer visible in the rearview mirror, the track’s terrace boxes are a luxury most of us can occasionally justify. I enjoy an evening watching these phenomenal athletes (thoroughbred horses) demonstrate their skills and prowess. As I do so, I can let my mind create.

Five lessons

I gleaned five lessons from these amazing beauties. Watching them master their environment, I cannot help but identify some takeaways from these thoroughbreds. I challenge you to steal a few minutes from your full schedule of doing. Join me in the splendor of being with these champions. See if one or more of these lessons can bring value to you and your organization. 

Winners often, if not usually, come from behind.

The Kentucky Derby is often described as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Watching these thoroughbreds makes this designation clear. From their starting gate explosion, through the straights and turns, to the finish line, you are on your toes, straining to see your favorite. Your muscles clench as the field bunches together and appear to block your horse’s path. Then, your adrenaline pumps as you see the opening, and your champion starts working through the pack. You leap for joy without regard for the opinions of those around you as your chosen passes the final horse seconds before crossing the finish line. 

Experience shows that, while there are the occasional champions that lead the race from pole to pole, the majority of first, second, and third-place winners fought their way to success by working through the pack. Quit or surrender was not in their vocabulary. Those ahead of them were nothing more than checkpoints they needed to cross to gain their coveted prize.

Carrot or stick? Let the horse choose.

It only takes observation of a few races to notice that some jockeys rely heavily on the crop (whip) while others never touch them. Approaching the starting gate, you see some whispering in their horse’s ear. Trainers, owners, and jockeys purposefully identify each thoroughbred’s personality and reaction to various stimuli. For example, you occasionally see an easily distracted horse wearing goggle-like blinders. 

Whether addressing staff, vendors, or customers, it is the wise entrepreneur who learns and measures her audience. Each receiver is different and responds to stimuli differently. Know whether to use a carrot or a whip and when removing distractions is the most effective.

Work in partnership with your champion.

Jockeys are essential, and trainers are integral. It is ultimately, however, the horse whose nose crosses the finish line. 

Regardless of your industry, the size of your organization, or the nature of your product, you must interact with people. Coercion or bribery can produce results. The key to real success, however, is in partnering. Whether the closest friend or the fiercest competitor, your results will be magnified through partnership. 

Take a page from the trainer’s and the jockey’s handbooks. They get to know their thoroughbred partner. They learn to speak his or her language even while they are tutoring in theirs. 

Know when to break out.

There is a strong risk of peaking too early or too late. Either error can, and likely will, cost you first place. Whether you are addressing an unhappy customer, dealing with a troubled staffer, closing a sale, or introducing a new product or market, your timing is critical. Ensuring that unhappy customer or troubled employee recognizes being thoroughly heard is the largest step to a successful negotiation. The same is true in every encounter. Jumping to a resolution too quickly will cost you the first-place finish you seek.

Excel from your spirit.

Most interviews after championships, including thoroughbred racing, will include some variation of “She ran with real heart!” Horses or other athletes run or play with heart when they are passionate. The starting place is being passionate. If the passion is fading or has faded, it is important to rekindle it. You, your product, and your service will shine best when your passion is overflowing.

A sixth lesson

These lessons from the track inspired me to take my business up a notch. Hopefully, one or more inspires you to take your business to a new level. My passion is to serve businesses and business owners, and I am always eager to hear from you. Hit the below link if a conversation might help you solve an issue or at least frame its question.

My final lesson is to take some time, apart from your daily operation, to give yourself space to dream or daydream. As long as your passion for your business is high, you will not be able to avoid finding parallels that serve as object lessons. After all, a significant source of innovation is simply applying solutions from one area of life to problems in another.