Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"
Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
What causes that? Rising, I mean. What causes us to do better and become more? Have you ever known anyone who seemed to be doing rather poorly in life, and then suddenly changed and began to shine? We’ve all known someone like that – several perhaps. What causes that rising?
I’m obsessed with that question, and for the life of me, I can’t see why everyone doesn’t feel the same way. We all want to know the answer to that question. Who among us doesn’t have a child or grandchild that we would like to see soar? Surely all coaches – male or female – want a loyal, cohesive, dedicated unit under their leadership. Second grade teachers, blue collar supervisors, and corporate CEOs all want the same thing – they want their troops to be motivated, to care, to try, and to rise. In my case, (and many of yours) what cowboy or cowgirl doesn’t want his or her horse to be the best of all things…a willing partner? How do you get that? You can hit them, you can cuss them, you can kick and spur them – and that will get some results with horses and humans. It works…a little. That’s why people do it. It works…a little. But what if we could improve our ability to help others - be they horse or human - want to? Surely then, they would give us so much more than anything we could ever make them do. Simply stated, “What inspires us – and can we do that for those we love?”
Some people say that can’t be done – that you can’t motivate someone else. “You can’t open up someone’s mind and pour in desire,” they say. I suppose that’s true, but at the same time, I know that you can inspire and motivate another because it’s been done to me countless times – and it’s been done to you. What did those people do to and for us to cause us to care about doing better in our lives?
So many people have done that for me – caused me to care and try and become more. Now you know I’m not telling you I won the Nobel Prize here – I just mean because of some truly special human beings, I didn’t end up in prison. (Which still disappoints a lot of old women in my hometown.) What did those people do to and for me? After devoting my life to the question of “what causes us to rise” I have at least some answers about how and why certain people seem to move us along the path. It all has to do with us going up…
1. They open up - people who help us don’t have their nose buried in a laptop. When we come around they are not on the cell phone. They are looking at us and interested in us – and one key component of their behavior is they have all the time in the world for us. People who help us are open, approachable, and treat us as if we have value.
They cowboy up –
people who cause us to rise tell us that we can. At first,
we never believe them. Their great power and influence
comes from their belief in us before we believe in
ourselves. And they know the process of causing us to have
personal faith in ourselves is going to take some time.
They persist in their high expectations.
3. They soften up – while those who help us can certainly scold and correct when we need it – boy, can they do that - one part of their behavior that has become so noticeable is the element of softness. When you see the truly gifted horseman or horsewoman, the one overall word you use to describe their behavior with the horse is softness. And have you ever noticed the great stock-dog handler never raises his voice? Yet in the hands of the master, the horse and working stock-dog have an intense willingness to please. Indeed, they will give their life to their master. He or she gains that deep loyalty with softness. Humans are the same.
All that is about those who help us. How can we become more skilled at lifting others? Is that possible? I’m convinced it is. Each of us carry inside the ability to motivate, inspire, and to encourage. Each of us can help those we love do more than they dreamed. How?
1. By sharing stories of triumph – high performers feed their spirit. We can do the same. We can find inspiration in all sorts of publications like Reader’s Digest, Guideposts, the Bible, and even rodeo magazines. And we can find miracles in our own lives. One key component of improving our ability to help others believe they can is to share our own story of personal triumph. Most of us are hesitant to do that because we are afraid of sounding boastful. Yet for some odd unexplainable, psychological reason, when we share our struggle – and how we overcame – the listener never thinks we are boasting. They just think, “If you can, maybe I can.” To become better at encouraging others, share your story.
2. By becoming a Positive Pygmalion – read Shaw’s Pygmalion, or even better watch the old movie, My Fair Lady, one more time to see a perfect illustration of helping others rise. Professor Henry Higgins is short, curt, crusty, and blunt, but he believes in Eliza – and convinces her to believe as well. A beautiful story and one that continues to teach us all.
3. By living through your trials – Ever get bucked off? Have you ever been on the arena floor unable to take a breath? Life ever kicked you in the teeth? ‘Course it has – yet there you sit. You made it. And my guess is the trial made you stronger.
So it is with us all. It’s as if something in the universe cannot stand for things to be all bad. Who would have ever believed the outpouring of love that came from the Oklahoma City bombing? Who would have thought 9/11 would bring us closer together – or that Katrina would cause us to feed the homeless – and open our doors to strangers just so they could have a place to spend the night? Living through the bad times makes us stronger. When we’re stronger, we can carry the burden of another for a time.
What makes us rise?
Encouragement, someone believing in us – if we are horse or
human - and persisting in the conviction those we care for
possess ability and value. We just have to help them see
they can. Can you do that? Sure you can.
Ed. Note – Michael Johnson’s Healing Shine – A Spiritual Assignment was named “Best Audio Book” of the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival, and “First Runner-Up” at the 2007 New York Book Festival. Read more of the author’s seven-year spiritual journey with the great – but severely troubled - roping horse called Shine at michaeljohnsonbooks.com
Michael's latest release, Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays and excerpts from radio performances about good people and good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately 8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005.