Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Brutal Pursuit

The journey towards doing anything well is hard. There are a great many quaint anecdotes that try to translate this journey for the lay-person, but I don't think I need to translate them for you. You're a horse-person too. You participate in one of the only life-long sports where constant coaching is a cultural norm. You and I joke about how intense or hard our lessons were, complain how difficult this whole thing is, marvel at the way that this sport takes our life and consumes it. 

We engage in deliberate practice, set goals, assess our progress towards those goals. Things beyond our control wreak havoc on these goals, things ranging from weather to the unwellness of our horses. 

You understand what I'm about to say. 

This afternoon I came home to a package containing a new book. I started reading it a bit later, and after 27 pages I read this quote: 
In the course of creating your work, you are going to be forced to ask yourself: What am I willing to sacrifice in order to do it? Will I give up X, Y, Z? A willingness to trade off something -- time, comfort, easy money, recognition -- lies at the heart of every great work. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always a significant sacrifice that needs to happen. If it didn't, everyone would do it. 
In order for me to achieve my goals with horses, I'm going to need to give up things I find comfortable, such as sitting like a trail rider while walking and pulling casually on the right rein. I need to bring my mental focus to bear upon geometry and my own position within space. I need to do things that are uncomfortable. These are small sacrifices, but they feel hard sometimes.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting Shawna Karrasch for a clinic at my barn and some of the things she said rang ridiculously true, but I still am finding that it is hard for me at times to consciously choose to do things in a manner that is better for my horse. I like my old habits. Not because they were thoughtfully chosen but because they feel comfortable.

PC: Olivia

I choose brutal today for "punishingly hard or uncomfortable"

We're doing it, though. We're making sacrifices. The commutes to our horses, the time spent at the barn, the meals we forget about. We're dusting ourselves off after falling off, we're trying new relationships with horses, we're seeking further instruction, we're putting ourselves out there. We are all in the arena

What then, does further discussion bring us? I want to recognize what's been done so far and admit to myself that there is more yet to do. Anders Ericsson writes: 
The plateau Josh encountered is common in every sort of training. When you first start learning something new, it is normal to see rapid—or at least steady—improvement, and when that improvement stops, it is natural to believe you’ve hit some sort of implacable limit. So you stop trying to move forward, and you settle down to life on that plateau. This is the major reason that people in every area stop improving. --Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
There is no arriving, and for me, there cannot be a settling. And although there is a cost to this desire not to settle, and even knowing that you cannot know the entirety of the cost until you've paid it, I think it's a journey worth taking. 


  1. I have definitely hit a plateau, but unlike you I'm not pursuing anything. I admire you for pushing past. I do wish I could have come to that clinic; it sounded really cool.

  2. I'm a bit on a plateau right now with my horse journey as well but there are other things that are requiring the push right now instead. I'm okay with that trade off - it will eventually swing the other way and I'll be ready when it does!

  3. So many great points in one post. It is a brutal pursuit, and there is much sacrifice no matter how you go about it. I feel this acutely right now.