This blog is the tenth most popular of all the blogs I have ever posted. For the next 9 weeks we will be counting up to number 1. 

In life, we all need a horse to ride.  Without the horse, we are a small fraction of what we could be.

When I was 13, my parents took me to a motor museum at a grand country house.  Big yawn.  Happily, there was a donkey derby alongside it, and they agreed to let me ride a donkey.  Being bigger and heavier than the other kids, nobody backed me and the bookmakers pushed my odds out to 66-1 against.  Whereupon my dad surprised them by plonking down a fiver on me – after a moment’s hesitation, the bookie took the bet and rubbed out 66-1 and put 25-1 instead.

When the race started, I was so terrified of falling off that I stuck my heels into my donkey and held on for dear life.  The donkey was terrified too – he moved up three gears and we won drawing away.   Dad was £330 richer – a fortune then.

I tried to get the same donkey in the next race but the ring manager directed me to another one, perhaps feeling that two rides from me would be hard on the beast.  This time I was less scared but I couldn’t galvanize the nag and we finished a distant third, even though the punters had piled their money on me and we had started odds-on.

Guess which donkey won?   The one I’d been on the first race.

It was a sign!

We are all less important than the donkey – or preferably horse – we get to ride.

Life is not just you or me – it is the vehicle (or vehicles) we find to develop our skills and express ourselves that counts.  And even then, perhaps our skills matter little compared to the destiny of the horse.

When I was 30, I was more-or-less fired from one job (with the Boston Consulting Group) but talked my way into another with a smaller rival, Bain & Company.  But the thing was – Bain had a great business formula and was growing much faster, at 40% a year.  Yes, each year the firm got 40% bigger.  You can imagine the opportunities presented by that growth rate.  From being a failure I turned into an overnight success – doing exactly the same job.  It wasn’t me, it was the growth rate.  I was stretched, learned a lot, and became so much more confident.  I even started to enjoy what I did.

The horse, not the jockey.

When I became a writer, I pondered the 80/20 principle.  I had long known its value.  I was not the only one.  The Principle was well known to economists and in business circles and was much discussed on the web.  But no-one had written a book about it.  Now that book has sold over a million copies.

The book, not the writer.

The horse, not the rider.

Have you found your horse yet?

The horse could be a college or firm that transforms you.  It could be an idea.  It could be a new business venture.  It could be a church, a club, or a cause you make your own.  It could be a group of friends banded together to do something great.

A blog, I’ve been told, should contain just one idea, so here it is again:

If you want to transform your life, Find Your Horse.

10 Responses to “TOP 10 – 10 OF 10 : FIND YOUR HORSE TO RIDE”

  1. My horse is my church: CHRIST EMBASSY

  2. Nice post! Thanks from Québec, Canada.

  3. The rider doesn’t win without the horse and the horse doesn’t win without the rider. Perhaps everyone should choose to be in a growing/mutually winning relationship if one wants to grow/win?… the Bain/Koch relationship.

    If we want to grow, expand and create choose to be in relationship with people working in a growing, expanding, creative context.

    • Richard Koch says:

      Yes. Best to have a great rider, but the horse comes first. Contrary to Western thought, but true.

      • I’ve been pondering how many levels up this goes. Is being in a growing economy just as important as being in a growing market? More so?
        Economy–>market–>firm (solar system–>earth–>continent–>country–>economy–>firm). What do you think?

  4. Tshimangi says:

    Great article! Thank you, Richard…from South Africa.

  5. Yes, as long as you dig your heels in!

  6. Thank you Richard, great idea to bring the top 10 posts back to our attention.

    To your point, I guess that’s why VCs focus on the market first, and then they look at the team.

    A bad CEO in a great market beats a great CEO in a bad market.


    PS: Isn’t it ironic that the most promising startups are called “unicorns”? I guess a unicorn runs faster than a horse. We would have to ask JRR Tolkien on that one.

  7. Ihar Anfimau says:

    Thanks, Richard! The idea is indeed counter-intuitive to the western thought.

    I assume you’ve gotten the concept from the book ‘Horse Sense’ by Al Ries & Jack Trout.

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