comfort zone

Who I Lost Because of Parelli

Little did I know that when I began the Parelli Program I would lose someone very close to me because of it.  Slowly, as the months wore on and I became further immersed in the Parelli culture, the distance between us increased.  She said she didn’t know me anymore, didn’t like my day to day choices.  I said I didn’t know her anymore either, I couldn’t understand her weakness and close minded attitude.  When all was said and done, I didn’t lose her to illness or death or from a move to another state.  I lost her because I decided to grow and she didn’t.  I lost her because of Parelli.  The person that I lost… was me.

I’ve had a lot of first experiences this year that have put me outside of my comfort zone (like really far!) and, at times, I was downright terrified, fearing for my life.  I’ve been in uncomfortable situations where although my mortality wasn’t on the line, my self-confidence or my ego was.  I recently wrote a blog called Leadership, Rock Climbing, and Horses in which I talk about a climb that I was very, very scared to do.  In that moment, instead of quitting, I assured myself that the discomfort I was experiencing was good for my emotional fitness and that I should keep going.  Following that statement, I immediately credited Parelli for giving me that tool; the ability to have the insight to know when I was doing something outside of my comfort zone that would ultimately propel me into self-development and personal growth (usually followed by a very good night’s sleep!).  The me that I lost all those years ago would have never even gone rock climbing. And if she had decided to go climbing in a moment of madness or confusion, would have certainly given up in the face of paralyzing fear and lowered herself back to earth, never to rock climb again.  
The me that I lost all those years ago would not have been brave enough to embrace her role as learner and to seize the opportunity when it came time to ride in front of Pat Parelli.  She would have doubted her skills, her worthiness to exist with a horse in front of a horseman of that caliber.  She would have found an excuse not to go, silently regretting it, and wishing she was a better, braver girl.

The me that I lost all those years ago would have never gotten back into horses after having a bad accident on a colt where she lost all confidence and in its place pain and fear grew rampant.
I am sure you can see why I had to let her go, why we went our separate ways.  The old me was only committed to things that felt safe and weren’t too scary or uncomfortable.  The old me didn’t push her personal boundaries.  It’s important you know though that the old me wasn’t a quitter, because you can’t quit something when you refuse to even try!

Horses are herd animals and with that comes a natural born need for an established hierarchy.  Horses are looking for a leader; a horse with a plan that is smarter, braver, more athletic, and savvier than they are.  They vote every day to see which horse has earned the right to be responsible for the entire herd’s survival and well being.  As humans we have it a bit tougher than that.  First, we must prove that while we are predators, we won’t act like one.  Second, we must then earn our horse’s vote for alpha by showing them our worth to their survival and basic needs of safety, comfort, and play.  I can tell you right now that the old me was not leadership material.  Leaders need to have self-confidence, a plan, an unwavering belief in what they’re doing and what they’re asking their horse to do.  I had none of those… but as I journeyed through the Parelli Program, Level by Level, I began to transform.

The greatest gift Parelli has given me has been the ability to diagnose a situation that I am in, whether with my horse or with other people.  Once you know what’s really happening you have the power to shape what’s going on, to change things for the better.  As I learned to master the art of diagnosis I could make faster, more powerful changes for my horse, but I also gained the insight to realize when something simply wasn’t about me (after all, one of Parelli’s core values is don’t take things personal), or that I may be uncomfortable in the short term but would gain personal growth in the long term.  I began to look at life and start asking questions:  Is my horse disrespectful or fearful?  Is that person angry at me or upset by something else?  Am I really going to die on this rock wall or is this a fear that is not actually real?  Once you have an understanding of what is really going on you are in control of your situation.

Yes, that's Pat Parelli behind me! / photo: Coco

Last night, at our employee lesson with Pat, he hosted a mini Parelli Games event for us.  He set up two courses, Liberty and FreeStyle.  Liberty is my best Savvy with Aspen while FreeStyle is our most challenging.  I regret to say that we didn’t seize the moment with a “go big or go home!” attitude; we went the safe route with Liberty.  We had a great time, Aspen was spectacular, and we left feeling very good and happy.  But as I sat in bed last night I began to feel a little disappointed in myself.  Why hadn’t I stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted the FreeStyle course?  What had held me back?  Why hadn’t I embraced my role as learner in that environment and tried something I believed would be a challenge?  I regretted letting my worry about my competency in front of Pat Parelli, fellow instructors, students, and co-workers get in the way.  So rather than worry about it for a moment longer I decided to make a change!  

Because of my diagnostic skills gained from Parelli, as well as the development of my emotional and mental fitness, I was quickly able to assess the situation and improve upon it, embracing my experience and deciding how to make it better for next time.  So, you can count on seeing Aspen and I riding FreeStyle in the Parelli Games the very next time the opportunity presents itself.  

Our group with Pat Parelli after we finished the Parelli Games. / photo: Coco

The old me, had she had the guts to bring her horse out in front of Pat at all, would have certainly sweated at the thought of even trying out her best Savvy in front of him, thanked the Lord when it was over, and the thought would have never crossed her mind to try her worst Savvy the next time.  Thank goodness the old me and I parted ways, she clearly did not have my best interest in mind.    

So, I credit Parelli with the loss of my old self.  The part of me that was afraid to try new things, afraid to try anything because she feared she might fail.  I’m so glad she’s gone and in her place stands a proactive me that takes ownership for my life story and how it unfolds.  May it be a good one, an adventurous one, one full of growth and learning!

Asking For My Dream

As many of you know I work at Parelli Central in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  I am on the Marketing Team which means that I now work closely with Mark Weiler (our company president) and Linda Parelli.

I was beside myself when I first drove up to the Parelli Ranch in 2012 for a month long course that set me on the path to becoming a Parelli Professional.  Stepping foot in the Parelli headquarters for the first time during that same year I remember feeling dazzled. I was truly at the heart of Parelli.

One day at lunch Mark came to introduce himself to my course mates in the lodge.  He had us all stand up and share our names and where we were from.  I remember just looking at him felt like an energy overload.  If you've met Mark Weiler you know exactly what I am talking about.  He's a burning ball of passion, energy, and enthusiasm.

The following year I came back for a 3 month course to qualify for a star rating as a Parelli Professional.  Naturally Mark made an appearance and we all introduced ourselves.  Afterward he came up to me and shook my hand and said hello.  He then asked me if my hair was real.  Yes, he did.  "Does your hair really just do that?"  Now, if you know me, you know I have big, crazy, wavy hair and at the time it was very long.  "Yes, it does."  I replied, him still shaking my hand, me feeling like I was being electrocuted.  I knew I should have said something more witty, or at least followed up with something smart to say, or ask the president of the company I longed to be a part of an interesting question but instead I think I said something like, "you should see it when it rains!".  Because all men know that curly hair gets even crazier in the rain, right?  He then told me I should never change my hair and it was nice to meet me.

Flash forward to September 2014 at the Parelli Summit.  I'd seen Mark a handful of times between our last hair talk and Summit but it was always a small exchange here or there.  I wasn't even sure if Mark really remembered me, he is a busy man that travels the world and meets hundreds (if not thousands) of Parelli-dazed students all the time.

Turns out he did remember me and asked if I would be interested in working for Parelli!! I moved to Pagosa to be closer to Parelli but then never acted on any of that.  I wasn't sure I was ready or that I was good enough to be a part of such a special group of people.  I wanted to be entirely on my A-Game before I even thought about asking for any kind of job with the company.

At Mark's mention of employment I remember feeling excited and surprised and very much terrified.

Needless to say I took the job.  Pat Parelli encourages us to shake hands with opportunity and this seemed like the opportunity I was looking for.  In hind sight I know I would never have ever wound up working here if Mark hadn't believed in me and supported me and encouraged me to take the position.

Since coming on with Parelli Mark has been a constant source of growth for me.  Whether it's just managing my Right Brain Introvert nature around such an energetic, confident, and very Left Brain person or whether it's taking chances and going for something I believe in.

Yesterday Linda was doing her second day of sales training with all of the staff.  She had mentioned the day prior that we would be doing role playing.  I tried to find a reason not to go to the training - I even contemplated throwing myself down the stairs with the aspiration of two broken wrists to see if I could get out of it.  I hate role playing.  It makes me SO uncomfortable and awkward and everything just makes me freeze up.  But I decided to go.  This would be a good opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and just maybe I could sit in the back and not have to participate.

I picked a chair in the corner of the room, kind of behind our (fabulous, I might add) COO Russ Elliott and Connie from Accounting.  I felt fairly hidden and I decided that if I just took a lot of notes and didn't make eye contact I might not have to role play.

Then Linda said it, pair up!  Ugh.  It would be very obvious if I didn't have a partner.  I looked at Connie, she was taken.  I looked at Russ, he seemed like an okay option.  Russ is a pretty great person and even though I didn't want to look like a total idiot in front of my boss I figured that it might go okay if I could just get Russ to do all the talking.  He likes to talk and he's good at it.  But then Linda asked Russ to help walk around and moderate and I was left partner-less.  SCORE!  No role playing for me....

And then Mark walked over.  I didn't mean to but I actually said, "Noooo!  You're the last person I want as a partner, I'm already sweating!"  Thank goodness Mark has a sense of humor and seems fairly immune to word vomiting very unprofessional statements to your big boss and company president.

"Oh stop!"  He said.  This is what Mark likes to tell me, "Just stop!"  or "Just do it!".  So we role played and I sucked.  I couldn't think of anything to say, I forgot everything we learned, and I couldn't even find the page of notes I had taken in my binder to prompt me along.

Naturally Mark was suave and had clever and fast responses to anything I managed to fumble out of my mouth.  I think I died a little inside during that role playing.  You always want your bosses and co-workers to think highly of you - that you're smart and you can do a good job and that you're worth the paycheck.  I wouldn't have blamed Mark if he had reassigned me to janitorial duties after that.

After it was all over Mark sat with me and shared some stories about taking initiative and believing in yourself and getting out of your comfort zone.  All personal growth happens out there and he encouraged me not to be afraid of it.

Then somehow I began talking about myself and how I have a hard time going after things.  And then I did it.  I puked my big dream out to Mark Weiler.  I wanted to ride with Pat and Linda.  Not just for an afternoon, but really go up there and spend some real time with each of them.

"Have you asked them?"  He asked me.  "No."  I said.  I wanted to be respectful of their time and I know everyone dreams of riding with Pat and Linda.  I am not any more special or deserving or qualified than anyone else - and perhaps even less so being that I am just a brand new instructor and recently earned my Level 4 earlier this year.

So Mark set me straight.  I would never get anywhere if I didn't do anything about it and what the heck was I waiting for?  "When are you going to talk to them?" he asked me.  I hate when he does this.  Whenever something is going on and I need to make a move on it he will ask me when I am going to do this.

As an introvert I wanted to think about this.  I needed time to analyze the situation and calm my seizing heart.  I needed to put on something nice to wear and comb my hair and prepare what I wanted to say.

"How about tomorrow you tell Linda what you want."  He said.  "TOMORROW?  Are you crazy?"  There's never a better time than the present he said.  So I think I half committed to asking tomorrow.

As we walked out of the room we spotted Linda outside of the building.  "Oh look, there's Linda!  What a perfect opportunity for you to talk to her.  I'd go now if I were you."  Mark said, and then he walked off.  "Really, now?"  I'm not sure what he said in response as he went into a different office.

Now I was really sweating.  My mouth went dry.  I couldn't find my chapstick.  I wasn't even wearing socks!  By the way, that always seems to happen to me in particular every time I happen to see or talk to Pat in the office, I'm not wearing any socks!  I feel like wearing socks is professional, which usually means wearing closed toed shoes or boots.  Instead I had on Crocs and no socks.  The pinnacle of not-professional (yet oh so comfortable!).

But something came up inside me.  Mark was right.  I just had to start taking life by the balls (occasionally!) and going for it.  So I went outside to where Linda was standing.

I'm not sure exactly what I said.  All of a sudden I felt like I was going to cry (which I thankfully didn't do!).  There I was, standing in front of my idol, my hero, the horsewoman I admire without question and I was getting ready to share my big dream with her.  WITH HER!

It's one thing to tell your parents you want to ride with Pat and Linda, it's another to even tell other Parelli Professionals or employees because they can judge you.  Is she even good enough to go ride with Pat and Linda?  Who is she to think she can go up there?  It is absolutely entirely another thing, an out of body experience, to share such a deep and special thing with the person that can make or break that dream herself.  I still get a little star struck when I see Pat and Linda now, I have dreamed of meeting them for a decade and now I work for them!  I am still awed and ever thankful for the chance to be a part of their dream of making the world a better place for horses and humans.

And here I was, getting ready to tell Linda I wanted to spend some real time with her and Pat.

As I said before, it kind of goes without saying, if you're into Parelli you probably want to ride with Pat and Linda.  But for me it was a secret and private dream I was too scared to verbalize.  If I said it out loud then someone could actually say no and take that all away.  I fear I would be entirely lost without that dream that I've held on to so tightly for the last ten years.

So I did it.  Well, I think I did it.  I stumbled through a clammy, cottonmouth-y, shaky request to come up and see her during one of the weekends I would be on campus for my course.  I told her that one day I wanted to ride with her and Pat and I was hoping she would spend a little time with me and let me know what steps I needed to take so that one day I could live my dream.

At least I think I said all that.  I hope I did.

I must have said most of it because Linda said I could stop by her arena one of the weekends I was on campus and hang out and we could visit.

I went back upstairs to my desk and had a huge adrenaline release.  I was shaky and overwhelmed and again near tears.  It was an eye opening moment for me, to realize how much I wanted that dream and how closely I had held it to my heart...  And now it was out there.  Linda's ears had heard it and she didn't laugh at me or say no or say I was crazy.

Needless to say I slept SO well last night.  When I finally came off all my excitement and nerves I was just simply exhausted.  For anyone that thinks that's dramatic I invite you to roll play with Mark Weiler for an hour and then share your most treasured hope with someone who could make it a reality or dash it all in a moment. 

This morning I felt great, it was freeing to get that off my chest.  I actually feel inspired to share it with Pat as well.  Then I can feel confident that I have done my part to make it known that I want to be excellent with horses, that I am committed to never-ending self-improvement, that I am 100% invested in becoming the best Parelli student and instructor that I can be, and that I want to do that by spending whatever time I possibly could with Pat and Linda.

So now, world, you all know it too.  I encourage you, however scary it may be, to find it in yourself to do hard things and take the chances and opportunities that await you right outside of your comfort zone.

Aspen and I with Linda during the Horsenality filming Sept. 2014