Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I think of that quote when I find myself pondering the age-old question, “Why can’t I be more like [insert name]?” It’s a thought that I believe every human being has asked themselves at one time or another.
Years ago, my older sister and I were blessed to have the opportunity to show horses in and around our home state of Missouri. I remember watching my sister ride and hearing people say she was such a natural horsewoman. She seemed to know instinctively how to handle her horse and made showing seem effortless.
I, on the other hand, had to work continuously to improve my balance, keeping the balls of my feet in the stirrups with my heels down, and keeping my back straight instead of leaning forward as I was inclined to do. At times all of this work seemed to take the joy out of riding. Watching my sister do it with such ease and confidence made me seriously consider giving up riding horses altogether.
I sat down with my parents and told them how I just wanted to be like my sister, so natural and talented at riding. She won most of her competitions and had started riding other people’s horses, showing Walking Horses and Jumpers as well as our own horses in Western competitions. I knew I couldn’t be as good as she was.
My parents each had a special way of talking with me, as well as almost any other kid that needed a little guidance. They passed along words that I still lean on to this day. They let me talk out my thoughts and feelings. Then they asked me if I was doing my best, to which I could honestly answer yes. With that, they told me to “ride my own ride.” They explained that when I tried to be something I was not, I was hindering my own success. By using my own natural and learned talents I would be a better horsewoman and yes, a better person.
I didn’t give up my love of showing horses and enjoyed several more years of riding my own ride. Though I never obtained the success of my sister in winning trophies and ribbons, I gave her a fair race. And even then, it wasn’t about winning the trophy, it became more about being confident and competent in my surroundings.
As the years progressed, I embarked on a new career as a professional business trainer and facilitator. I remember memorizing and practicing the instructor’s notes. Then came the moment of truth when I presented my first segment to my parents. As always, their love and encouragement prevailed. At the end of my presentation, my dad stated that the information was wonderful, but he wondered where I was. I was stumped. He stated that I was again trying to ride someone else’s ride. The language and stories were good, but they weren’t me. When I was not myself, the message was lost. When I changed the language and stories to real life ones, I became more believable to my audience and more importantly, to myself.
Just last week, I was asked if my stories were real or made up. I laughed and said they were all real—you really couldn’t make this stuff up. And to quote Mark Twain, “Tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much.”
By knowing yourself, your strengths, the areas in which you can grow, and making the effort to continue to grow, you will continue to develop and maintain your confidence and balance. You will find the authenticity to be yourself and “ride your own ride.”