Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  


     For years now, I’ve been noticing something and this something puzzles me so…and it is this.  Some people have a strange ability to elicit high cooperation from other living things.  Some people can get a dog to do anything.  Others can get second graders to behave.  Still others can become one with the horse, and some can take high school kids who are just so goofy, and silly, and immature, and transform them into loyal, motivated, intense, driven stars.  How in the world do they do that?
     For some time, I have been aware that certain people can do wondrous things with the particular gift they have to help different living things.  And of course, that begs the question – how are they doing what they are doing?  So for the longest time – over three decades – whenever I see someone who can reach the adult, child, student, horse, or dog in profound ways, I make it a point to “get next to them,” and do an interview of sorts with the main question being, “How are you doing this?  Tell me how you have such success when others struggle so?” And I have found the strangest thing.  I think one of the reasons for their success is because they see better than I do.  They see more clearly – deeper – than I do.  Here’s a case in point…
     I’m riding the four year old – Joe Ben Black – and for the first time in his life, he’s a basket case.  Always cooperative, on this day the colt is the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest.  Won’t go forward, shaking his head, pawing like a fighting toro named El Diablo, and generally speaking, a complete psychological mess for no reason on earth that I could see.  Of course, I knew what to do…
     At times like these, I think it goes without saying that all real cowboys know what to do - all men know what to do.  (We have been trained our entire lives for this moment.)  When the horse, kid, or dog behaves poorly, we simply have a fit.  We get mad.  When the horse engages in such behavior, we all know to kick him as hard as we can and - while jerking madly on the reins - start cussing as loud as we can.  This should all be done in one motion.   That’s what real cowboys do.  So I did that.  Things worsened quickly. 
     Horse is going even “nutsier” and at that moment…my wife drives up.  (Ever notice how your wife always drives up just when you are making a fool of yourself?) 
     “What’s the matter?” she asked.  (Like it wasn’t obvious.)
     “This horse is acting like an idiot,” I said.  “I’ll have to ride him sixty days to get all this out of him.”
     She’s staring at him.  Then she says, “No you won’t. Can’t you see what’s the matter with him?  Can’t you see how he feels?”
     “I’m not running a health spa here,” I began to explain, but she was gone – she disappeared around the corner of the barn.  In a minute or two, she reappeared around that same corner leading Blue by his halter.  Joe Ben Black melted.  All that anger, all that venom, bared teeth, and mad pawing slipped down into that hot Texas sand beneath our feet, and there stood my kind and soft-spirited colt once again.
     “He couldn’t see his friends,” she said.  “We’ve never ridden him out of sight from the other horses.”
     I started to tell her all the reasons I couldn’t always go get another horse just because one became upset, but before any words could come, I couldn’t help but notice how soft and responsive Joe Ben suddenly became.  Now he paid no mind to her or to Blue, but only to me.  For the rest of the day, he proceeded to focus all his attention on what I wanted to do, and did anything I asked without hesitation.
     Next morning over coffee, I asked, “How did you know to do that yesterday?”
     “I don’t know,” she said.  She thought for a moment struggling to find the words and said, “I think… I got behind his eyes and saw the world from his view.”
     I’ve been thinking about that event since it happened.  It’s still on my mind – it taught me something.  I’m still working on what.  Something like this…
     To achieve our heart’s desire, we must have a strong focus on what we want.  While that’s true, it is also true we can’t accomplish much by ourselves.  We need others to help us.  People who are good at this cooperation thing pay a good deal of attention to the needs of the living creatures around them.  I need to do better at that – to not be so blind. 
     And maybe it’s a bit selfish to spend time thinking about the best ways to elicit high cooperation from others just because of something I want.  But the more I think about that little incident with Joe Ben, I realize…it’s even more selfish not to.

                                                                                               -- Michael Johnson

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