Remain Calm – And Please Feed The Horses

Ever hear Tom Hanks talk about being directed in a feature film by Clint Eastwood? Says Hanks, ” He treats everyone like horses. Seriously.” 

Eastwood, a veteran of the film industry and star of so many old spaghetti westerns, knows the drill. He’s spent a lot of time working with horses on film and understands what’s required on set is a calm, soothing tone from everyone in order to keep them at their most serene and productive. That’s a tall order to fill as Hollywood film locations are loud, active places. Equipment whirring, grips, and stagehands moving set pieces, and directors trying to work above the constant din of collaboration all contribute to an environment that is less than quiet and ambient controlled.

Which is why a director yelling “ACTION” every time he wants to start filming doesn’t jive so well with the large, equestrian giants. Unlike other directors who use bullhorns or amplified systems, Eastwood just waves his finger in a circular motion and quietly says “okay, go ahead.” The same methodology applies when the take is finished. No loud, directorial “CUT!” Just a silent wave-off and a modest “that’s enough of that.” To do otherwise in a loud fashion only spooks the horse.

“It’s intimidating as Hell,” quips Hanks. 

Yeah…I’ll bet. As if being told how to act on film by Dirty Harry himself doesn’t rattle your cage in the first place. Imagine being directed by the guy who famously coined the words, “Go ahead. Make my day.”  I’d be shaking in my Nikes too just knowing his menacing stare could appear over my shoulder at any given moment.

That story stuck with me for weeks after I heard it re-told by Hanks in the clip above. Both gentlemen rank highly among some of my favorite actors, plus, it’s funny as Hell. Professionally speaking, the anecdote also speaks to a certain degree about treating others and how we innately respond to tensions in the workplace as well as our every day lives.

That was made even clearer to me during some recently well-deserved time off.

Not long ago, my wife, kids and I spent time in the woods of Northern Wisconsin with other family members who were visiting from Colorado. We made a stop at a local stable down the road where the farm owners had no issue with us spoiling their three equestrian occupants with a little extra attention. With a spare bag of carrots and other assorted vegetables in hand, we went to feed the hungry trio.

Although I come from a rural mid-western farm country, I’ve spent little to no time around horses. I can’t say I know much about them, aside from watching them pull wagons during holiday parades where they would unfailingly stop and poop in the middle of the street. What I saw was always from a distance, so I seldom had a chance to interact. With the horses, not the poop.

The hour we spent feeding the trifecta (plus a goat, kept in-pasture alongside to help keep them calm) was made even better by observing their silent synergy through the innocent eyes of my young nieces and nephew, pictured above. A distinct, mesmerizing sense of calm overcame us all as we were momentarily swept away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

Workplace demands faded, and even the most complicated of issues we adults all faced previously took a back seat to this single moment of serenity.

Of course, I was on vacation, so the entire purpose was to get away, unplug and decompress from the moments in life where I want to pull my hair out and scream in utter frustration. Those occur far more than I want to admit, both at home and at work. Frankly, I think I’m better at it on the professional side vs my home life, but having teenagers living in your house has a way of warping your sensibilities and degrading your tolerance levels. That might have something to do with the fact that an employee can be dealt with in a cut-and-dried fashion. Your children? Not so much.

Still, there is a distinct parallel between the two sides. Getting the most from your employees takes an inordinate amount of patience, understanding, and development. In some cases, discipline and a strong resolve are required. Ultimately, the leader is not there to be a friend, but it does help the relationship significantly if a common bond is initially forged. The employee wants to identify on a personal level with the leader first before respect is given. That’s a relatively easy fix to handle by getting to know the employee before dictating expectations.

Conversely, a child wants to be understood by the parent, and they want to know the “whys” of the household. Why do I have to be back at midnight? Why do I have to clean my room? Why do I have to get good grades? If it’s anything like my home, “because I said so” doesn’t wash and only creates more issues. The sentence my children despise the most coming from my lips is “Because I’m Dad” as an end-all statement, most often used when I’m done arguing with them. It rarely works, plus it creates more exasperation from my kids as they want an explanation in order to fully understand the expectation.

In both cases, what’s required in spades is an extraordinary level of restraint, calm and composure. Eastwood knows this in a professional sense, and I’ll bet it carries to his personal life with his own kids and family. He doesn’t just practice it when he’s behind the lens, it’s an everyday method to existence. It’s a solid example of what can be accomplished when we approach daily challenges with a level head and an objective outlook, both in the workplace and in personal situations.

Frankly, we can use a lot more of it. You need not look any further than today’s turbulent times to see how calm has become a sparse commodity instead of an overabundance of supply. We want what we want now, without forethought of consequences or results of our actions, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone. Knee-jerk reactions indeed get the best of me at times… writing a tersely worded email when peeved, yelling at the driver of the car in front of me who just crossed three lanes of traffic, and most famously, ending heated conversations with my teenage kids by announcing, “Because I’m Dad.”

I’ve been blessed with some excellent role models in my lifetime who have exemplified the extremes on both sides. I’ve learned a lot about how not to manage personnel throughout my leadership career, much of which came from people who didn’t effectively grasp the concepts of stress management or employee engagement. From that comes a hatred of dealing with both work and life as a fire drill. One of the best leaders that I’ve worked with said it this way: “unless the client is pissed or someone is about to die, it isn’t an emergency.”

American self-help author Wayne Walter Dyer once put it this way:

Being relaxed, at peace with yourself, confident, emotionally neutral loose, and free-floating –these are the keys to successful performance in almost everything.

You can interpret that quote any way you want, but my takeaway is that from calm comes the confidence to deal with almost anything life throws at you. I’ll be the first to admit that’s easier said than done, as emotions can easily compromise objectivity and logical decision making. Even Mr. Spock had to deal with the incapacity of emotions.

We have choices in life, and those choices come from a place where we either accept the chaotic natures which we live in and strive to find balance, or we let it take us over. Finding those centering moments, no matter how small, make the difference. Above all else, I believe in the power of reflection.

And from time to time, stopping to feed the horses.

Andy Books
Andy Bookshttps://goodmenproject.com/author/andrew-books/
I have spent most of my life in a leadership capacity. That all began right from the time I was the lead in my elementary school play to my current position as a Sales Manager. My truest love and best work comes from teaching and training aspiring leaders how to be skilled and effective leaders, which is a large part of my current occupation. Thirty-five years of collective experience as a Corporate Trainer, College Instructor, Operations Manager, Classroom Facilitator, and Foodservice Manager have played major parts in forming my philosophies that surround company success through employee engagement. Teaching someone to effectively lead gives me the greatest joy, and I write a lot about it. My most important titles though? Father. Dad. Husband. They give me the best material to write and blog about, and you can find them on Linkedin and The Goodmen Project.
avatar
3000
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Anonymous
Anonymous

Thank you for this! Very nice! Yes, it is about choices. Welcome from a week-old BizCat!💖 This is Darlene Corbett. If I had posted from FB, you would have seen it.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Thanks, Darlene! Glad to be here and honored for the comment!

Tom Dietzler

Well done Andy; so much wisdom to be drawn from this. From the confidence that permeates the set when someone like Clint is at the helm, to the quiet sense of nothing else mattering when you drink in the serenity of horses in a corral… Having survived my kids traversing those turbulent teen years, let me underscore the need for calm and patience with them – you probably don’t need me to tell you that kids feed off of your demeanor, and can give back more than they take in, positively and negatively, once you set the tone. The boss who defined what an emergency is was spot on – I’ve always felt that if it isn’t going to matter in a year from now, then I’m not going to invest too much emotional capital in it. And most of all, time spent with horses is never wasted. Thanks for sharing this.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Big compliment coming from one of the smoothest writers I know…Mr Tom Dietzler, ladies and gentlemen. Get your souvenir autographed pamphlets at the door. :)

NO BS, Tom….I’ve read many a story from you regarding the appreciation of nature and the calm that comes from within as a result. These are the best of times in that we (all of us) get to re-center and appreciate what we have by the simplest of means…observation. How cool is that?

Seriously, I need an autograph. We should just get you an easel and you can be the next Bob Ross. :) Best to you, sir!

Noemi Zarb

‘Being relaxed, at peace with yourself, confident, emotionally neutral loose, and free-floating –these are the keys to successful performance in almost everything.’ Andy with this comment you nailed the road map to remaining serene no matter what life throws at us. What nurtures and sustains going down this road is what we need to reflect upon to ultimately clinch such ingrained and unwavering serenity. Thank you for sharing.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Thanks for reading and commenting, Naomi!

Noemi Zarb

I’d like to add that I don’t know anything about horses except that I love their beauty, courage, strength and gracefulness. Also that they are extremely sensitive and a universal symbol of freedom while a symbol of power for native Americans. I’ve been pondering on all these associations an at the cost of sounding silly, I think we can learn a great deal from their noble spirit which I think is akin to the interiorised tranquility you write so well about. Thank you once again for goading me to reflect.

Larry Tyler

Andy this is great advice and really works. We own how we start our day and how we end out day. We own the choices we make each and everyday. I always have to start the day calm and quietly. When we take the time consistently to sit quietly alone, when we go to our quiet place and connect we have prepared our best self to greet the world. When we have clarity of mind we are better in our personal life and in our business life. We make better decisions, present an inspiring energy and engage the people we meet and work in a more calm state of mind. We are better prepared to give and to receive life’s gifts.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

“Life’s gifts..” And when we are forced to deal with the curveballs. :) Thanks for the comment, Larry

Larry Tyler

The curve balls are what makes things interesting. I truly think for me if life was all ice cream and smiles I would be very bored, but that’s just me. Again great post

Anonymous
Anonymous

Andy, I enjoyed reading your thought reflections this morning. Your article contains many thoughtful ingredients. Calm and composure amid the chaos of life are important but as you’ve mentioned seem to be absent in much of our world today.

I love your closing thoughts. There is so much that we cannot control, but we can control how we react to the chaos. It is a choice we can make each day both at home and at work. I think part of it also is figuring out how to nurture your calm and composure. For me, it comes with daily exercise therapy and some meditation. It’s how I like to start my morning, and I find it helps me tackle the nuances of the day much better.

I know people, and I’ve worked with people who blow a gasket at the simplest thing. A former boss of mine was chaos, and he screamed and overreacted at almost everything. It was a harsh environment to be in, and I learned how NOT to be. Calm is a better alternative and more productive also.

Thanks for sharing this with us. It’s a keeper!

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Some of that comes from the situation and the ‘pile-on” effect. For example…I still owe my mechanic an apology after hit me with a 1500.00 repair bill. My reaction? “Are you out of your F’ing mind? ” What he didn’t know is that I had just forked out a lot of money on an emergency generator as a result of a 4 day power outage, thanks to a major severe storm. That was a lesson to me in practicing inner solitude. Still stings…..:) Thanks for the comment!

Laura Staley

I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful and relevant article on a topic dear to my heart, Andy. I am a huge Tom Hanks fan. I enjoyed Clint Eastwood in Bridges of Madison County yet, knew nothing about his directing style until reading your article. Responding with equanimity in as many interactions with others as we can seems quite an exceptional commitment. Those who do fairly consistently become beautiful examples of people who’ve learned to live from grace and dignity. Whether we are with colleagues, strangers, or beloved ones, how we respond (rather than react) can make such a positive and lasting impact.

Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I enjoyed reading/watching the clip, reflecting on that “Horse Whispering.” We have much to learn from one another, horses, and the process of becoming self-aware.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Thanks, Laura. The clip is a hoot….love the stuff I get to see on The Graham Norton show!

Joe Kwon

Great stories, Andy. Deep insights on how things that you do such as having restraint, calm and composure have a lot more to do with the results we get than most people realize.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Thanks for reading and commenting, Joe!

Teresa Young

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And calming. :) Thank you, Andy!

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Thanks for the comment, Teresa!

Maria Lehtman

Love your post! and great video example! I agree with your sentiment. People actually start to recognize from the tone of your voice the ‘that’s-enough-of-that’ essence. At least, if they have an ounce of emotional intelligence. Works like a charm when they know you. Never had to raise a voice in managing people. Respect goes a long way when it’s practiced both ways.

Andrew Books
Andrew Books

Agreed, Maria. Once they know you, they don’t have to see you get red-faced to understand when you expect more. Tony Dungee, who was an NFL coach, practiced that. Players never had to be yelled or screamed at to know when their performance expectation was higher. Kind of akin to when a parent has that “I’m disappointed in you” demeanor. Thanks for the comment!

JUST 1 CLICK

IS ALL IT TAKES TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW TODAY

Must Read

Success – at What Price?

Today’s most successful companies recognize the currencies that drive high performing, employees to achieve organizational goals. Employee engagement is not a cost of success, it's...

JUST 1 CLICK

IS ALL IT TAKES TO BEGIN ENJOYING OUR PODCASTS

JUST 1 CLICK

IS ALL IT TAKES TO EXPLORE OUR INSPIRING GLOBAL COMMUNITIES

Email List Login