Pulling your weight

The Powerful Pull of Partnership! 1 + 1 = 3 Lessons From The Colorado State Fair!

The Power of Partnership!

Let’s retitle it today as the pull of partnership. This weekend, my family and I were down at the Colorado State Fair. It was funnel cakes, amusement rides, 4-H competitions, and the draft horse pull. Having our horse for almost 13 years, he was always around 900 to 1,000 pounds. Well, these draft horses were almost 2,500 pounds. They were massive beasts, and it was just a sight to behold. My daughter coming back from being a wrangler all summer long and working with horses, it was just a lot of fun to see her in her element, walking alongside of some of these horses.

Draft Horses.jpg

We got to see the draft horse pull, and that was just really fascinating to think of in terms of from a leadership principle. The competition was simply a sled that was designed with a series of weights that were on them, and the team would pull that for 20 feet, basically twice the length of the sled. So there was all of these horses lined up and harnessed in pairs, and they would go and pull respective weights throughout the course of the competition. We got to see SpongeBob and Ted, who are the defending champions for the state fair last year, compete. And, wow, what a sight to behold.

The math here is fascinating, and this is really the principle that I wanted to capture through the pull of partnership. It’s just simply this: 1 + 1 = 3. Where do I get that math from? It turns out that this defending champion last year was able to pull—these two horses, basically 5,000 pounds, a team, were able to harness behind them the capacity and the strength to pull 18,000 pounds. That’s amazing to me. When I did a little research around this, the records for draft horses in this class is actually 24,000 pounds.

Well, what’s fascinating is, in the harness of two, that the capacity or ability to pull 24,000 pounds is amazing, but if just single-harnessed, those same horses can only pull 8,000 pounds. Now, think about the math here. You’re talking about horses that are 2,500 pounds, and they’re pulling 8,000 pounds of weight, almost three times or more of their ability. But then, all of a sudden, that number goes up even more. So 8,000 and 8,000 is the ability to pull 24,000. 1 + 1 = 3. This is really fascinating to me as I think about who am I partnered with that potentially allows me to triple the impact of my ability to carry my own weight? I would invite you to consider the same.

  1. Who are your partners? Just thinking about the people in your work life and even personal life as well, who are those that you’re partnered with? As you can imagine, you have to have somewhat equal weight class. If you put my horse, 1,000 pounds, with a 2,500-pound animal, you’re going to probably get quite a bit of this. So just even understanding the idea of being equally yoked in the harness is something to consider. But who are you partnered up with? I just encourage you to just even think about those partners in your life.

  2. What’s tying you up? It comes from something that I saw that was actually really dangerous. It was just one of these moments where—just when the team got hooked up to the sled, and then there was a misfire. And then, suddenly, the team took off and the sled wasn’t there. Next thing you know, that harness, the chains and everything were all tied up in the horses’ legs. I was actually a little bit scared because it’s a very dangerous situation. So the question is what’s tying you up? Is there something that just—almost in a dangerous sense that’s just—you are just all wrapped up in chains and harnesses and potentially—literally, I saw these horses turned in the opposite direction. Imagine 5,000 pounds going in the wrong direction with chains. I mean, subject to injury is just—it’s a real thing. So how, perhaps, are you even tied up?

  3. What’s keeping you locked up? Now, I’d like to come out of the arena for the third question, and this is just something we saw earlier in the day, just really fascinating to me. And it’s these horses in the stalls. It’s just amazing that here you have these massive horses. Imagine their head coming out of the stall. They’re in there, and it’s just this little metal lock. I mean, it’s just a little flip pin and the door is shut. Those horses could blow through that with just leaning into it, and the thing would pop off. But every one of these horses just knew where they belonged and not to push up against that gate. That’s still fascinating to me that, certainly, just a little bit of leaning and that thing would pop off, but yet every one of those horses were contained. 

Certainly, there’s a statement to be made that it’s a place of rest, a place of, certainly, getting your oats and hay, a place to just relax before the competition, certainly. But from a leadership—as I’ve spent time coaching leaders, this is one of these areas that I just wonder, perhaps the question is, what’s keeping you locked up? What is the thing that’s just even the simplest of things that we are programmed that we just can’t open that gate on our own because we’re just locked up in habits and patterns? 

So, again, I want to capture three big ideas and forms of questions.

  1. Who are your partners?

  2. What’s tying you up?

  3. What’s keeping you locked up?

As I think about the course of my week, I’m leaving and I’ll be facilitating a team meeting in Kansas City this week. I’ll be partnered up with some other facilitators, and the fact is, given that training, I am going to be more effective partnered up with some co-facilitators that are going to be able to see things from different angles. It’s going to be a lot more dynamic being linked with those facilitators. On Thursday, I’ll be in a training here back in Colorado, and I’ll be with some other coaches. The fact is the dynamic of having other coaches together working with leaders just brings a powerful perspective as we co-coach together. And that is something that just allows a leader just to have a fuller experience as they consider ways they want to grow. 

Friday, I’ll have the opportunity to sit with some men that I do every Friday morning, and it’s just a spiritual enrichment as I spend time with these friends that just, somehow, I am strengthened having the power of friendship spending time with these men over coffee and talking about the important issues of life. And then, finally, as I think about going back to the state fair last weekend, wow. When I think about the power of partnership, just even in my family context, I am just a better man, I’m a better leader, and I’m a better coach because I have family in my life. 

This is a big idea and a longer entry today, but I just wanted to capture this as something significant. If you’re going it alone or you’re perhaps tied up with the wrong partners, there’s an opportunity here for you to consider what would happen if you linked up with the right partners. All of a sudden, 1 + 1 = 3 where you have the potential to have a greater impact as you unite in the harness with those people that are going in the same direction, and your ability to pull the weight of what needs to get done is really staggering.

So I hope this is helpful for you.