Today I had an object reminder in the importance of listening - to your team, your family, your colleagues, and your friends.
My horse Jenn and I have been together for 9 years now. In all that time, we've struggled mightily with longeing (the horse works on a long line, directed by the person). Now, I can longe other horses and Jenn longes quite well if there's a trainer anywhere in the vicinity. But when we're alone we spend a lot of time being frustrated - it takes Jenn ages to actually do more than walk and stop (not necessarily when I'm asking her to do either). We've had many many longe lessons, have changed various pieces of equipment and aids, all to my continuing despair. I generally avoid longeing if I can get away with it, but today it had to be done.
We started out in the usual way - high hopes, quickly dashed by Jenn dragging her feet and stopping. At one point I leaned down to pick something up and saw out of the corner of my eye that Jenn had relaxed and started moving. And I started thinking - and listening. Conventional wisdom is that you need to stand at or a little behind the horse's shoulder to help send energy forward. I've worked hard on my position (see above!) and always stand that way. Today I started to adjust instead. Eventually I was closer to Jenn's head than her shoulder and ended up throwing away all the aids. No longe whip, no carrot stick, not even the end of the longe line was necessary (for those unfamiliar with horses, none of these comes into contact with the horse - ever - but they make for big movements and sounds). Just voice commands - walk, trot, canter and back again. When we were done, I took off Jenn's halter so she could roll and run - and she put her head on my chest, then followed me wherever I went.
It took me 9 years to listen! One little adjustment, one acknowledgement that Jenn is not most horses and I needed to do something out of my usual process to make her comfortable. Jeez! No wonder she was frustrated.
So there's my life lesson. Put away my agenda and process for a minute and really listen when something isn't working. And don't wait 9 years to do it!