When Cindy Meehl, the 52-year-old first time director of the award-winning documentary “Buck,” first came up with this idea, it was the beginning of a midlife dream we can all get our hearts around. Cindy, an artist and a housewife, had never made a film of any kind before — in fact, she didn’t know the first thing about documentaries. Except that Buck Brannaman’s story needed to be one.
Cindy describes this pivotal decision in her recent interview with freelance writer and horse enthusiast Jennifer B. Calder: ” I didn’t go into it because I wanted to see my name in lights or make the great American film,” Cindy says. “I went into it knowing what this message was about and knowing if something moved me this much, to where I had that passion in my heart, then I should really think about it.” And I didn’t tell anyone—it was just this little thing, a little voice in my head, ‘”this should be a film; this should be a film…”
So how in the world would you go about making a documentary when you don’t know the first thing about film making? Cindy is a big believer that the right people come together at the right time to do the right thing if given half the chance. (I actually experienced this phenomenon while writing The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses!) “Where your mind goes, energy flows,” is Cindy’s favorite descriptive quote of this process. I couldn’t agree more.
So what idea, dream, or impulse do you have that deserves your passion? What changes are you willing to make — and what risks are you prepared to take to follow a certainty that something MUST be done and you are the right one to do it?
This story comes to us from my feed store friend and was just too good not to share. And, paired with my recent participation in Terri Maxwell’s Finding Your Purpose Workshop last Saturday, got me thinking about jobs that are, as one famous baseball player once said (I forget who . . .anyone remember?), “like getting paid to eat ice cream.”
So here is is. On touring Purina’s mothership in St. Louis, my friend discovered that every species of animal Purina makes food for is raised from birth at this giagantmo facility (she said the baby dairy cows might have been the cutest), and there are people whose full time job it is to handle baby animals from the second they’re born, just to get them used to being handled, examined, and evaluated as the humans who work there seek to document the effects of their feed formulations on things like performance.
This, she said, was impressive enough until she was ushered into a large room for a presentation on a new high performance horse feed. As the crowd watched, Purina scientists strapped monitoring equipment on a full-grown horse and then put it on a treadmill for a demo.
I think at this point any detail about their new high-performance feed were lost on her as she watched with fascination the horse on the treadmill. On cue it walked, and then trotted, and then cantered. Yes, you read that right. A full grown, full-sized horse, cantering on a treadmill. With monitors and a crowd of people watching.
I don’t know about you, but I have trouble even walking on a treadmill — with only two feet to keep up with. And yet, this horse wasn’t even bothered.
So of course, my friend raised her hand to ask the obvious question (that, probably much to the presenter’s chagrin, had nothing to do with the new feed formula they were so proud of) “How do you teach these horses to do this?”
With a why-do-they-always-ask-this-first expression, the rep answered, “Oh, we have a full time vet tech staff whose job it is to handle these horses from the time they’re born. They just play with them on the treadmill every day and get them used to all the people and equipment and testing protocols.”
Really? People get paid to play with baby animals to get them used to their job? Doesn’t the very fact that there IS such as job as this make you wonder what other kinds of fun jobs there are in the world — particularly in the horse industry — that you’ve never thought about?
Not coincidentally (Intrigue Expert Sam Horn calls this “Serendestiny”), since I just spent all last Saturday trying to boil my strengths and passions into a two-word, verb-noun construction (easier said than done!), I was still pondering the concept of finding and creating work opportunities that create that “sweet spot” pairing between what we do and what we love. (I’m going to resist going off on a Starkids and Farm Planet riff here. I do have a fourteen-year-old. So smile if you get this.)
So with this concept in mind, I challenge you. What brings a smile to your face and fills your heart with joy every time you think about or do something related to it? How can you get more of that into your life? What if there was a job out there that would pay you well to have that feeling every single day? And, on the flip side, if that thing that brings you such joy becomes “work,” will it then be less fun?
Let me hear from you! (If you want to know more about this workshop and its related programs, check out Terri’s book, Succeed on Purpose, Mindy Audlin’s book, What if it All Goes Right? and Terri’s Website, www.succeedonpurpose.com). I think it’s easy when we get to this point in life to consider work as “what we do” and our passions (things like spending time around horses) as “what we love.” What if you could have both?
There’s something new bubbling up about this book that tickles me even more than its escalating holiday sales.
Beyond hearing from all sorts of people who have purchased several copies to give as gifts to their horse friends, what’s surprising and maybe even more gratifying is when I hear of people who aren’t middle-aged women or don’t have horses who read this book (usually either because they know me or someone else whose story is in the book) and exclaim, “This is a great book for anyone, whether or not you have, like, or want horses — and whether or not you’re a woman!
This puzzled me at first. I realize, of course, that getting a horse at this time of life does tend to upend everything you’ve come to count on as “normal,” and and the experience does cause you to look at many things in your life differently. Often, our emerging authenticity and “inner lead mare” authority (our horses are SO good at helping us find, regardless of whether we thought we wanted to look for it) does paves the way for different choices and a more engaged and joyful life. This, sisters, is the gift of Midlife Horses. (Click here to view the new trailer that will tell you more about this unique journey.)
But then one of of these non-horsey, non-middle-aged-woman readers explained to me that since the book touches on so many of the issues we all face in midlife (whether or not we have the horse thing going on), the book provides a framework, using horses as a metaphor, for examining these issues in the light of any dream or passion we’ve let slip to the wayside. As the last group of Boomers to cross the center threshold of our lives, it is important and natural to go back and revisit those things that once made our heart sing and see if there’s something there we’d like to do again while we still can.
I’d love to know more about how The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses is starting to reach beyond the barn and into the hearts of anyone who wants to dust off a dream and discover a new path to living more fully in the second half of life. Post a comment here, join us on Facebook, or tweet your thoughts when you see this topic pop up on my Twitter feed.
And above all, to anyone out there thinking about dusting off an old dream,
What a profound statement from Dan “Buck” Brannaman in the riveting documentary, “Buck,” now showing in theaters everywhere (learn more at www.buckthefilm.com) . Go see it and reply to this post with your favorite quote! Free “Saddle Up Your Midlife Horses” t-shirt to the first five who respond!
What is most interesting to me about this statement from this celebrated “horse whisperer” is that, in the midlife horse experience we often completely miss this gift of pure gold. It’s so easy to blame the horse when things don’t go as we hoped in this relationship. We deny what our horse’s behavior may be telling us about who we are on the inside. Or, paraphrasing Buck and before him, Ray Hunt, and before him, Tom Dorrance, “horse problems” almost always turn out to be horses with “people problems.”
That invaluable reflection from our ponies, girlfriends, is the essence of what we can learn from our midlife horses. And, whether we like it or want to admit it or not, you can’t fool them or change their opinion. Horses just call ’em as they see ’em . . . and it’s up to us to figure out what changes we need to make so we’ll like what they see in us!
What did my horse, Trace, tell me? (I’m not sure why I’m sharing this, but it does give context to my struggles, documented for all the world to see in my recent book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses.) That I have an innate tendency to overthink, overachieve and overreact. That I am something of a control freak and get upset when I can’t have my own way. That I am sensitive to others’ feelings and emotions, need a certain amount of sincere, positive feedback, and am happiest when I have a job to do or something new to learn. I don’t like being pushed around. There’s a certain amount of disrespect I’ll put up with from people if I like them, but enough’s enough. And bullies bring out the crazy in me.
Fortunately, my second horse, Rio, shows me a sweeter, gentler reflection (if a little headstrong): I like to have fun, I’m sweet and committed (sometimes overcommitted) to doing the right thing, loyal as a dog, and my quirky personality gives me a knack for making people laugh — especially when things start to get too serious.
What does your midlife horse tell you? Don’t have a midlife horse, but wondering what’s going on in your inner landscape — and outward relationships? Get yourself one of these swishy-tailed mirrors and you won’t be wondering for long!
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