It has been some time since I added a blog post. During my hiatus I had a much needed back surgery, and at the same time, frankly I chose to take a break from any “heavy & critical thinking.” I’ve since learned that “taking a break from thinking” is not wise. I’d compare it to living on the edge in some cases!
What does it mean to be Living on the edge? If your like me, and every time you hear that song “Living on the edge” by Aerosmith; you think of the show Deadliest Catch. Every time I hear it I suddenly have the urge to talk in a raspy voice like all the captains on that show (whom should own stock in RJ Reynolds.) Others might consider Living on the edge to be jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a nylon backpack strapped to them and hoping that at the right moment, the parachute decides to open and prevents them from looking like the bugs currently splattered on my pickup windshield. Bonnie and Clyde probably felt they were Living on the edge as they went on their robbery spree. Whatever it is, we all tend to be living on the edge from time to time.
One of my families hobbies is horses. My horse in particular I’d recently decided needed some time and attention from a much more experienced horsemen than I am. Bailey is a wonderful mount but she just needs a good tuneup from a better rider. I had made arrangements weeks ago to send her to a feedlot cowboy who had been referred to me via a good friend. The week came as the time when I needed to load her in the trailer and deliver her to her new home for the next month or so.
For those that don’t know anything about horses, let me tell you that most horses generally don’t find loading up into a horse trailer to be a fun experience. From their perspective I”d guess it probably feels like loading into a small, dark, aluminum can that doesn’t have but one readily available exit. (the one their owner is standing in front of once they are in the trailer) For an animal that is generally fearful by nature and in the wild used to running from fear; loading into a trailer is a tricky proposition. I’d trained with Bailey last year to trailer load and she had gotten over that fear. The training literally took countless hours and many breaks for me so my impatience and frustration would not show and ruin her desire to continue to train. This time, I had not planned ahead very wisely. Bailey had not been in or near our horse trailer since roughly 8 months ago.
This week on the day of the planned trip, I hitched up our brand new, very nice and expensive horse trailer and prepared to get everything ready to load Bailey. In the back of my head I had questions as to whether Bailey would load right up or if there would be a struggle. I tried to suppress those thoughts with my shear determination to accomplish the task at hand. As I’m sure you can now guess, its no surprise that Bailey really had little interest in getting in that trailer. Several times we were nearly there and she over powered me and backed right out of that trailer. I may be bold, but I’m not reckless. When it comes to overpowering a 1,000 pound highly athletic animal I know I’m not going to win. You do not try and over power a horse. After roughly 30 minutes I began to show my frustration. You see, I had places to go and people to see! I wanted to get this task done so I could move onto my next one!
My frustration also began to show to my wife. She was doing her best to help me load Bailey. I got verbally grouchy to both her, and the horse. This is a fatal mistake considering both are female and dont take well to this type of behavior. Both horse and wife now no longer were willing to give me their best when I chose to take my frustration out on them.. My frustration turned into anger and extreme impatience. Those two destroyers took the better of my rational mind and I made the choice to tie off Bailey when she was partially in the trailer. Anyone with experience loading horses knows you don’t do this. Its a sure fire way to have a horse become frightful and try to no end to pull that lead rope lose and escape. This is exactly what Bailey did. Unfortunately for both Bailey and I, she was tied with a good lead rope and on the other end of her was a good knot holding her in place. She reared up, kicked, the whites of her eyes the size of saucers, and just went ballistic. This beautiful animal now looked like the meanest and nastiest Bronc at the rodeo blowing up on the Bronc rider trying for dear life to stay on. My wife, who was involved in a freak horse accident last year and experienced some head trauma was wise and stepped out of the way quickly. After several minutes of Bailey’s explosion of fear I pulled out my knife and cut the lead rope to release the tension. After my wife, Bailey, and myself all took a brief second to let our adrenaline levels drop I confirmed my wife was ok, then looked around on both Bailey and the trailer for any damage. We got lucky, real lucky. Bailey came out with a minor scrape on her leg and head (from banging her head on the rough of the horse trailer) The horse trailer did experience some damage on the rear door. The aluminum outer skin of the door had been punctured at one of the hinges. All in all the trailer damage probably will exceed $1,000. As for me, I was physically fine but my pride had just been rolled over by a locomotive.
After several more attempts to load the Bailey, I finally gave up and decided we’d have to try this another day. Until later that evening all I could think about was “that stupid horse” and how “she” caused all this damage and frustration. I was angry. I felt “she” had wasted my time and all of this was her fault. Later in the evening as I had time to calm down some reasonable thinking took place on my part. I realized I was the one who made the mistakes. I caused all this mess. I put Bailey in a position to where she was scared and would do what any horse would do. How is that good horsemanship? I was the one that caused the damage to the horse trailer (and my pride.)
So what made me come to grips that I’m back to Living on the edge? Recently when I decided to put my “thinking cap” back on, I realized that for me, Living on the edge often means leaving myself no margin (or minimal.) What do I mean by margins? Like many, I lead a fairly busy and active lifestyle. I’m the father of two beautiful daughters, married to a wonderful (and beautiful) women, have several successful businesses with many employees and projects that keep me very busy, active in our church and different organizations, I farm on a small(er) scale, always have at least one construction project going on around our property/house, and have a wide range of hobbies. All in all, there is literally not a day that goes by where I don’t have a project that must be completed. More times than not, I have more projects than I have hours in the day. So for me, margins are excess periods of time I can use for whatever I want or need too. They often times are needed for periods of physical or mental rest. Like many, I don’t operate at my peak performance when I’m overly stressed with the burdens of this life. Margins are a time to reset, gain composure, or think about things in a different way than I have previously. I have very little margins as of late, therefore in my eyes I’m Living on the edge.
I don’t think I’m much different than any other high achieving individual when it comes to having minimal margins. We are successful because we pack in more things, do more things, and expect more than those who are less interested in performing at the pinnacle level. These same desires are the double edged sword however. We are living on the edge, or as a friend of mine likes to say “you outrun your headlights.” This lack of margin will time and time again put us in places of needing to find some balance and reset.
Two days after this rodeo experience I’m sitting here writing this post and asking myself “how can I, and others determine if we are living on the edge and not creating enough margin time?” I don’t proclaim to have all the answers, but a few things come to mind:
a. know yourself. Sun Tzu the great Chinese general and author of “Art of War” said: “Know thine enemy” Well I’m here to tell you that we can be our own worst enemy. In the case of margins, knowing when you have outran your headlights is crucial. For me, I get tense, tend to “bark” at people sooner than I ought too, and too easily become impatient with myself and others. As Jeff Foxworthy would say: “There’s your sign”
b. We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan. In the case of Bailey and the horse loading incidence, I could make legitimate excuses about how busy I was weeks before I knew she’d need to get in that trailer. I was busy! It still doesn’t change the outcome of what happened. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have been out there weeks in advance like I did last fall, and working with Bailey on overcoming her fear of the trailer. Had I done that, she would have hopped right in that trailer and no one, or one thing would have been damaged. I failed to plan well.
c. Its ok to say “no” I like many others have this nasty habit of overcommitting myself. Even when I know I don’t have the time or resources to help someone, or a cause, I find myself unable to say “no” at time. If I agree to do something with/for you, or I give you my word I’ll be there. I will be there. The character of “my word is my bond” is very healthy. The tendency to overcommit is it’s arch nemesis. Learn to say no at times.
d. keep a schedule whether the old school Franklin Covey daily planner, digital planner, or “keeping it all in your head” works for you: Keep a schedule. In that schedule build in mandatory “margin time” which you can not accept new projects or tasks in those times.
Balancing out lifes responsibilities and burdens can be challenging and arduous for us all. Living on the edge isn’t a healthy place to be all the time. We need balance. Knowing how to create that balance is critical. As for myself, heeding some of my own advice like written above is currently being heavily reviewed so I can better my relationships, and physical and mental state.