To say there’s a lot going on in the world right now would be an understatement- or I guess with so many people staying inside their own house, maybe an overstatement. Either way, these are strange times indeed- we are all in uncharted territory, which in and of itself may be the cause of most of our uneasiness. It is human nature to shy away from uncertainty. Think about it… We don’t tell people how we really feel about them because we are uncertain that they will feel the same, we hesitate to set goals that we are uncertain we will be able to achieve and we tend to choose the known over the unknown.
Today we find ourselves in this very serious situation, where we don’t know when things will return to normal and we don’t know how much damage will be caused in the meantime. I think that most of us are trying to not be too upset about the goals that we are putting on hold right now given the gravity of the situation- but let’s face it. We all have things to be disappointed about.
My cohost and best friend Emily Hamel, who has been through her fair share of highs and lows in the horse industry (as seems to be inevitable to make it to the top in this sport) FINALLY felt like things were starting to come together this year. Qualified and entered to compete in her very first 5 star at Kentucky on her Cross Country sports car Barry, the team is stuck waiting for their time to shine- to no fault of their own. The pair were really hitting their stride- laying down top 10 finishes in their prep events and feeling their years of building a partnership together start to pay off.
Photo by @shannonbrinkman
It’s actually kind of funny, I talked to Emily shortly after she had officially sent in her entry to The Land Rover Kentucky Three Day event when she was overcome with emotion, not sure whether she should run around the room and jump for joy or crawl into a ball in the corner and cry. At the time I told her “Emily, you should be nothing but excited - because this is going to go one of two ways… either you get to go and fulfill your dream of running around a 5 star track and you’ll get to be an inspiration to others chasing after that dream OR you’ll encounter some kind of roadblock along the way and you’ll use your setback as an opportunity to connect with other people who have experienced similar difficulties.” At the time, I don’t think that national pandemic canceling horse shows and most of the country's normal operations were on our radar… But here we are, so I wanted to shed some light on the situation.
Working really really hard to achieve a goal is intimidating. On some level, we all live with this fear that says “what if I give this my all and it still isn’t good enough.” This is the same reason that in order to find success you need to embrace failure. You need to ride that line of going all in so you can learn the ways you can extend your capacity. Because the truth is, no matter how hard you work today there is no guarantee that it will pay off tomorrow and when you think that you have nothing left to give, you’ve only just hit the tip of the iceberg.
Photo by Rebecca Lazarus
Then there’s the danger of working hard “towards something”... Goals and events might act as an external checks and balances system that tells you how you are doing in relation to the rest of the world but true mastery doesn’t involve ribbons and medals - it is the daily execution of pursuing excellence. It’s a hard pill to swallow to think you’ve put in all this work “for nothing” - but if you take a second to think about it the work IS the thing. Kentucky would have taken 5 days out of Emily’s year, and I’m sure that the feeling of making it around that cross country track would have been exhilarating - but even IF the event took place, there are 360 other days in this year.
There is a time in my life where I would have told you that winning should be the sole focus of those 360 days. However that Vince Lombardi "Winning isn’t everything; it's the only thing" mentality doesn’t always pan out the way you want it to. Sometimes chasing external goals pushes you further away from the things that would truly make you happy. Sometimes things that are outside of your control stand between you and your goals. Right now, there is nothing to “win”, so what does success look to you? The Latin route of the word “compete” translates to “strive together” and I think that’s something that we all need to remember right now- that we should work hard not to be the best, but to find the best versions of ourselves - and to lift up each other in the process.