When my daughter, Caroline, turned five years old we took her to her first horse riding lesson. The girl just loved horses. She talked about them. Drew pictures of them. Had just about every horsey stuffed animal known to mankind. It was the best birthday present – watching my daughter ride for the very first time – and from that day forward – riding became Caroline’s passion. Everything else in her life came second.
Her first horse was named Cash (very fitting as this hobby cost me a lot of damn cash!) Her second horse was Rosy. She took countless private lessons at Cottonwood Riding Club and Denver Equestrians. She gained so much confidence (and joy) caring for and riding these beautiful animals. She rode Western, English and even bare back – Caroline did it all.
And then came Big Red.
Big Red was the biggest horse I’ve ever seen. He was the size of a Clydesdale. He was big and he was red. And he towered over young Caroline.
Halfway into Caroline’s ride, Big Red bucked and threw her off. Luckily Caroline was not injured. But that fall was the beginning of the end.
Caroline cried the entire way home. She told me that she never wanted to ride again. I listened, empathized and told her how proud I was of her.
The next day, I was hoping that Caroline’s mind would change. But she swore that she never wanted to ride again. I sat her down and said in a sweet and assuring voice, “Caroline, we are going back to the stable and you ARE going to ride Big Red again. I want you to learn to face your fears. Life is all about getting back up on the horse. And after you ride Big Red successfully – and you still never want to ride again – I promise I will support you 100%.”
The following week, as we drove to the stable, I could see Caroline’s reluctant look on her face through the rear view mirror. When we arrived at the stable I once again told her to get back up on Big Red and to face her fear. Caroline got back up on that horse. Secretly, I was hoping she would find a renewed passion for riding.
She rode Big Red flawlessly.
And when Caroline got off she said, “Daddy, I rode Big Red again. And this is the last time I want to ride.” Caroline never returned to the stable.
Sometimes life can throw us all off the horse.
Without getting into the nasty details, I got sued for the first-time last year. It was by far the most painful, violating and costly experience I’ve ever had to endure. It made 2016 the worst year of my life. Eventually the lawsuit was dropped, but I swore to myself that I would never have another business partner. I would never trust again.
Last week I went down to Mexico to spend a few days with my mentor and longtime friend, Scott. The last evening there, Scott spoke some deep truth into me. Scott basically told me that over the last few days he noticed deep anger inside of me. And behind that anger he saw pain. Scott, with great empathy, shared that he saw the sadness, depression and hurt in my heart.
I shared with Scott the painful experience I had last year. I admitted that my anger (and pain) has gotten the best of me – affecting my marriage, my relationships with friends and my passion for changing the world. I shared with Scott that, sadly, I have a hard time trusting people.
Thank God I have friends and mentors in my life, like Scott, that speak truth into me. I have learned that I need to forgive. I have learned that I need to be more discerning in regards to who I place trust in. I have learned that I need to release my anger. I have learned that I need to face my pain. I have learned that I need to apologize to the people I’ve hurt along the way. I have learned that I need to love again.
Sometimes in LIFE, the horse bucks and throws US off.
But like I told my sweet Caroline years ago, we have to get back up on Big Red. To face our fears – face our pain – to forgive – to learn. Life is about getting back up on the horse. And becoming better because of it.