It Takes a Village

Two months ago, I was looking through my Facebook feed and I saw a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger giving a commencement address at the University of Houston. He told the students there, “The self-made man is a myth.” He went on to say, “It’s important to recognize that at every step of the way, I had help. It’s important to acknowledge that. As soon as you understand that you are here because you had a lot of help, you realize you need to help others. Don’t just think about yourself.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger could be by definition, THE self-made man. He is one of the most recognizable people on the planet through his acting career. He made himself, through the sport of body building (no one lifts the weights for you), into a seven-time Mr. Olympia Champion. He reached the pinnacle of his profession by chasing his dreams with a relentless drive. But did you know that he’d achieved millionaire status before he won his first Mr. Olympia crown and in his early 20s, no less? He did that through real-estate investing with huge risk. It is estimated that his net worth today is around $200 million. Not too shabby for a poor Austrian immigrant who came to the land of opportunity with nothing more than a dream.

In that commencement speech, the GOVERNATER gave at the University of Houston, Schwarzenegger credited the bulk of his success to his parents, mentors and teachers. This resonated with me. I was raised by the prototypical self-made entrepreneurs. I was raised in the daily grind that is the life of a small business owner, trying to achieve and make it. So that is my world view. But when it comes down to it, I think Schwarzenegger could be right. All success can and does come from the contributions of others. Let’s see someone become successful on a deserted island.

Look at Apple. Steve Jobs is hailed as a visionary, and he truly did change the world. Apple is reportedly on track to be the world’s first trillion dollar company – that is trillion with a T.  Did Jobs achieve this himself? Nope. Without Steve Wozniak, who knows, we might have never heard of Jobs. I don’t believe that is true, Jobs would have been successful in whatever he endeavored to do. He, too, had a relentless drive and vision to achieve, much like Schwarzenegger.

There is an excellent book that everyone should read: “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcom Gladwell. It is really wonderful and very insightful. What is success and how is it achieved? An over-simplification of what the book is about is that anyone – and I mean anyone – can become an expert at something if they put in 10,000 hours. Want to be an expert playing the piano? Practice for 10,000 hours. Want to be a great athlete? Practice for 10,000 hours. Art, craftsmanship, business, teaching, sales, etc., etc. Put in the time and you can be an expert at anything. The book quotes a neurologist, Dr. Daniel Levitin, who said “that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything.”

Ten thousand hours if done full-time, eight hours per day for 1,250 days, would take you three and a half years. No days off, doing nothing more than practicing. I can guarantee you that Schwarzenegger, Jobs, Michael Jordan, Mozart, DaVinci and the list could go on and on, they put in their 10,000 hours and then some.

So what does this mean for us in the horse industry? Well, it means a lot of work. A lot of time, money, trial and error. We have to do our part, every good thing has a price to be paid. There are no short cuts. If I want to cut cows like Lloyd Cox or show one like Paul Hansma, well I better get busy. If I want to spin like Shawn Flarida or slide like Jordan Larson, well I better get busy. Ten thousand hours will be the same for all of us. We must do our part. Too many in life want to ride the elevator to success. There is a stairway to success.

But so, too, we can’t be successful by ourselves. If self-made is a myth, well, I probably would have never heard the names Lloyd Cox, Paul Hansma, Shawn Flarida or Jordan Larson if they didn’t have that one mentor or owner who believed and supported them with the right horses to give them a chance, give them an OPPORTUNITY to showcase their talent earned through 10,000 hours.

One of the most interesting aspects of the sport of cutting is that to be successful in the show pen, you must have the help of four other people holding the herd and turning back for you. The amazing thing is that there is big money on the line and these hardened professionals are all going for it. But you watch, they will do whatever they can to help each other succeed. What a magical thing that is. They are all competing against and for each other.

I’m a crazy concoction of being a selfish Ayn Rand/Atlas Shrugged, conservative-minded-leaning-libertarian constitutionalist, altruistic Christian, and aspiring business owner and entrepreneur. I know that I won’t be an expert at anything unless I put in the time necessary for success AND I must surround myself with others that want to see me succeed.

We all need each other, this much I know to be true.

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