“Get Back On The Horse, Son”

By Rod Lacey, Sunstone HR

Perseverance Is Paramount to Success


At the age of 11 I had my own palomino horse that I named Buck, due to his buckskin color. Buck was a good workhorse and was great in the mountains, but I had ambitions of team roping with my father. Going to the arena with my dad to rope was something that I looked forward to. I mostly helped to herd the calves after they were released, but on one occasion I was given an opportunity to back into the chute and chase a ‘muley’ (calf without horns).

I excitedly backed Buck into the chute and when the gates opened I kicked Buck and did my best “Heeyah!” Buck didn’t move. The calf now well out of reach I kicked again. Buck calmly walked out of the chute, lowered his head and began to buck, trying to throw me. I held on for a few of the crow-hops, but eventually was thrown from the horse.

I dusted myself off, grabbed the reins and started to walk Buck to the side of the arena. I was done. I was embarrassed. I didn’t really want to ride any more.

My dad, seeing me walking the horse, calmly told me “Get back on the horse, son.” He knew that it was important for me to overcome my fears and that it was a great opportunity to teach me that I could do hard things.

I didn’t just get back on my horse, but my dad had me run another ‘muley’ that same night.* (see the ‘rest of the story’ at the end of this blog)

Bethany Hamilton, the famous surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack, said “you fall off the horse and you get back on.”

John Wayne was once quoted as saying “Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.”

Enough with the horse references for now.


Let’s face it. Each of us will fail. We will all take a fall. Setbacks will test and try us. That reality causes some people to hold back and play ultra conservative –  so afraid of failure that they refuse to take any chances.

We will all fail at some point. That’s a fact. When that happens, we must embrace the learning, get back up, and march boldly forward.

Mark Cuban said I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed, you only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”

Consider some of the successful people who failed along the way:

Albert Einstein: Albert Einstein did not begin to speak until the age of 4 or read until he was 7. He was eventually expelled from school and denied entry to Zurich Polytechnic School. However, the name Einstein is now almost exclusively associated with genius.

The Beatles: One of the most famous musical groups of all time, The Beatles were originally rejected by many record labels. In one rejection letter, they were warned, “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business”.

Elvis Presley:  Elvis was fired by Jimmy Denny, then manager of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry after just one show saying “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

J.K. Rowling: Penniless, recently divorced and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old, manual typewriter. Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript. When Bloomsbury finally agreed to publish the book, she was warned that there was “no money in children’s books.”

You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling shared. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

Harland Davis Sanders: Before becoming the now-famous Colonel Sanders, determined Harland submitted his now world famous fried chicken recipe to 1,009 restaurants before finding a buyer.

Henry Ford: Ford will always be known for innovating industrial production with the assembly line. However, before founding the extremely successful Ford Motor Company Henry was bankrupted and left penniless five times from failed ventures.

Michael Jordan: Most basketball fans are familiar that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. “MJ” will forever be known as one of the greatest basketball players. He didn’t let being cut from a team derail his quest for success.

Michael once said “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Steven Spielberg: After high school, Steven Spielberg was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television. After attending California State University, Long Beach he subsequently dropped out and pursued directing without a degree.

Thomas Edison: This inventor changed the world with his invention of the electric lightbulb, but was considered unteachable as a child. Before this great accomplishment, Edison discovered over 1,000 ways he could not build a light bulb.

Vincent Van Gogh: Van Gogh’s Starry Night ranks among the world’s most recognized paintings, however he sold only one of his over 800 paintings while living. Starving and often destitute while working on his paintings, Van Gogh’s then “unappreciated” work now sells for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Walt Disney: Walt Disney has entertained children all over the world for almost 100 years and created a billion-dollar merchandising empire. Walt was fired from his first job at the Kansas City Star because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” In an ironic turn of events years later the Walt Disney Company acquired the Kansas City Star with the purchase of the parent company ABC.


There is a Japanese Proverb that states “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”

Given the above examples, shouldn’t we look forward to failure? Not necessarily. However, I think it’s fair to recognize that life comes with bumps in the road. Most roads to the top have detours, setbacks and potholes. Rarely is it ‘smooth sailing’ from start-to-finish.

If anything, the above examples encourage me to pursue my dreams, do my best and keep trying. And, if I fall along the way, maybe my name will be included in a future list of those who have persevered and ultimately succeeded. I will do everything I can to make sure my name won’t be included in a list of those who were too scared to try.


*Yes, I did run another ‘muley’ that night and Buck, true to his name, threw me again. The second time I landed on my back in the same arena, that same night, my compassionate father allowed me to put the horse in a trailer, with a commitment that I could ride his horse next time.

What’s the moral of this particular story? Throw me once, I’ll get back on. Throw me twice, I’m selling you and buying skis.

We’ll call horsemanship my “powdered milk, Mark Cuban” experience.

To learn more about Rod Lacey or Sunstone HR, Click Here.

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