Sometimes a break from the office is just what you need to change your perspective. I decided to get away. Far away. So I spent a few days on the Zapata Ranch, a working ranch in Southern Colorado near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Nature Conservancy runs it, and the people who work there really know how to live.

We spent a lot of time riding but also working. One day we rode the range for a few hours until we found a herd of bulls. Then we drove them back to the coral where they could do what they do best, which is impregnate the cows. Like any good cowpoke can tell you, you do a lot of thinking on a horse. Somewhere along the way I realized that those bulls were teaching me some valuable lessons. For example…

The Herd Mentality
There is something to be said for the herd mentality. It’s certainly a no brainer. Just follow the dude in front of you and do what he does. Don’t think and don’t ask questions. Once in a while a young bull would break from the herd and blaze his own trail. Lo and behold, the one that took the road less traveled often ended up in front of the herd. Lesson #1: The ability to see a problem from a different perspective is a characteristic of a good leader.

Seize the Day
Let’s face it, being a bull has its drawbacks. Basically, they get one really happy day when they get to fulfill their macho destiny, and then they end up in a tin can on a shelf at Safeway. As the bulls trudged off to their doom, we came upon a pasture filled with cows. Those boys sure perked up. They were totally focused on the moment. Lesson #2: Don’t stress out about things that are out of your control. Enjoy the moment and focus on the present.

The Dude Abides
The herd follows the dude with the most attitude. The chicks dig him and his peers respect him. Lesson #3: Good leaders display self-confidence.

Determined or Bull Headed?
Some bulls can be pretty stubborn. They know what you are up to and they don’t like it one bit. They are not moving, no way. Lesson #4: Determination is a strength. Being stubborn is just annoying.

Down and Dirty
Dirt rules on the cattle trail. To quote one of my favorite songwriters, Utah Phillips, “If dirt were a kingdom you’d be the king.” We’ve become a society that does not like to get our hands dirty. We farm out our dirty work. We outsource it to the people who mow our lawns and put food on our table and a roof over our head. Then we treat those people as though they are beneath us. Lesson # 5: Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Hard work is good for you. And never, ever disrespect the people who work so hard to make sure you don’t have to.

I learned a lot on the ranch. I learned to appreciate what you have and not worry about what you are missing. I remembered how nice peace and quiet is. I enjoyed the wide open spaces, good food and honest hard work. Hopefully, those lessons will stay with me far beyond the dusty trail.   



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