Late morning, I untie Buck from the long line in Shawnee State Park, ready for an outdoor adventure touring southeastern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills near the Ohio River banks. This fabulous wilderness was once the hunting grounds for Native American Shawnee tribes.
Rugged landscape of the one-thousand-ninety-five-acre park is nestled within the sixty-three-thousand-acre Shawnee State Forest, often called the “Little Smokies.” Combined with the state forest, the scenic trail system offers a variety of options for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, including two lakes for boating, fishing, and swimming. My preference, is touring the majestic mountains in the saddle of my trusty friend, Buck.
We planned to do at least eight hours’ riding the rugged outback trails. It’s a tough workout for horse and human. My backside might suffer, not having ridden regularly for a while. My thighs would ache, and there would be pain in my permanently injured back. I was sure to walk bowlegged for days afterward.
Heart pounding in anticipation, I brushed my sturdy steed and dressed him in his familiar tack. A packed saddleback was tied to his rear, along with my slicker in case of rain.
Well-worn boots comforted my anxious feet. I settled weight of my favorite cowboy hat atop my ponytailed coiffed head. Stepping into the stirrup, I hoisted my bottom into the oiled leather seat. I wriggled into my favorite position, as I looked along the path in the distance and thought, “There’s no place I’d rather be.”
The park provides seventy miles of bridle trails and a quaint, primitive equestrian camp along a creek within the park itself and adjacent to Shawnee State Forest. There’s no way we were going to tackle every inch of trails in one day, but we would put a major dent in them over the weekend.
Apprehension of leaving work behind, home chores needing to be done, projects in process and obligations rambled through my mind as we began the slow trek. The saddle club’s horses strolled single file in a line of more than twenty in our group. I gave my concerns a quick run through; but by the time we hit the edge of the forest a few yards from camp, I’d made a decision.
I would be present and enjoy every single second. I would revel in comradery of my trusty Buck and riding companions, and I’d push every care but safety and fun out of my head.
This was a battle that raged in my head daily. I have a full load of responsibilities and interests. My family, friends, our home and animals must be cared for. I am a full-time author, which means I’m also a part-time marketer, CEO of my own business and in charge of my career.
I consistently have to make the hard decision—what to do and what to push aside. Whatever I choose, I need to focus on that and that alone.
1. It’s hard, but it’s incredible and worth it.
I don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes I regret choosing one thing over another, but worry and regret are a waste of time. I don’t have time to waste. In spite of my shortcomings, I’m exceedingly grateful for lessons I’ve learned from horseback riding about success in life and business.
I relaxed in the saddle and started feeling fantastic. Weather was perfect. I was alone in my head in the foothills, just nature, my horse and me. Other riders were nearby, but they were engaged in their own wondrous journeys.
Unused muscles ached as time passed. My behind cringed at over use. None of this phased me.
Buck appeared to hear my very thoughts. I sensed his next move and felt it in my body. We were true partners in the amazing experience we shared.
I’ve had the same understanding in every major event of my life. Whether starting my business, raising my family, working on my farm, tackling a difficult project, or writing a book; each paramount undertaking has been hard. Then it’s been incredible, and it’s definitely been worthwhile. This has been true—every single time.
2. People are a driver for success.
You can be alone on a trail or alone as an entrepreneur. It’s possible, but what fun is it?
Connection with others makes the world a better place. Companionship makes everything more fun. Riding with a group keeps me inspired and capable of striving at whatever comes my way all week long.
In business, in my career, as a parent, in friendships and relationships, it’s similar. Surrounding myself with people keeps me accountable. For me, that means being part of a close-knit, professional group—my tribe—and creating a business mastermind to bounce ideas and questions off of.
Not any one person knows it all. We can each learn something from the other. I learned this from an old book written in 1937 called Think and Grow Rich. Napoleon Hill explained in his book, how captains of industry came together to achieve greatness—creating their own master mind group. It worked for them. It works for me. It’ll work for you, too. Find your tribe. Create your master mind group.
3. Gratitude is essential.
Gratitude has a consistent reciprocity. Focus on intentional gratitude, and allow yourself to be grateful at unexpected times.
An overwhelming force allows me to experience gratefulness during a long ride, like no other experience I’ve had. Being one with the horse carrying me and one with nature surrounding me, provides an extreme, energizing sense of wonder and thankfulness for being alive. The closest other experience to this I’ve had playing with my kids when they were little or with my grandchildren. I get a similar high when enthralled in the writing experience.
It’s not so easy to be grateful in the middle of a stressful project or toddler meltdown. What I learn from riding is to maintain that sense of connectedness and calm. I try to bring to that to those hectic situations. Letting stress drift over and away from me keeps me from becoming part of the problem. Staying calm in such instances sometimes allows the stressor or child to act the same, thus defusing the state of affairs. It takes practice; and like riding, it’s worth it.
4. It’s important to stay fit.
I have a life plan to stay in shape, to be healthy and watch my grandchildren grow to adulthood. I long to see them live fulfilling lives and want to be part of that.
It’s easier than it sounds. Being fit requires consistent movement and light training to achieve that state. Then it’s just maintenance.
In business, my goal is to be successful my field. This requires constant learning, so I’m ready when opportunities arise. If I don’t stay fit, I can’t be successful in business. I can’t maintain a healthy, strong life. I can’t ride my beloved Buck. I’m almost guaranteed to miss out on the most fabulous life experiences.
Fitness takes planning steps ahead of where I am today so I can be ready for great things that arrive tomorrow . . . and so on. It means being proactive and organized, creating the kind of experience I want. What does fitness look like for you?
5. Stepping out of my comfort zone creates an environment for excellence to happen.
Have you ever worked so hard at something that you were exhausted—you gave it everything you had, and were left depleted, with nothing left to contribute? Wasn’t it magical?
Riding has taught me there’s beauty in developing endurance, to see how far I can go and what I can do—when I push myself. I feel that way about work. There’s something incredible about putting everything I have into a project.
The point of exhaustion is a falsehood. There’s always more to give.
Leaving my comfort zone enables excellence I don’t know exists until I achieve it. In the moment of giving it all, in whatever conditions, at whatever place, in that way, I realize my own greatness.
It’s not always tidy. It doesn’t necessarily fit society’s definition of greatness, but there’s nothing truer than laying everything you’ve got on the line to do something truly difficult.
Whatever your equivalent of riding is—yoga, dance, walking, hiking, biking, running or whatever—these lessons I’ve learned about success apply.