A few weeks ago I helped some friends move their cows from one pasture to another a couple of miles down the road. I figured if Hemmingway could run with the bulls, I could certainly walk with the cows and come away with an equally riveting read.
I especially adored the little spotted calves. As soon as they’d spot us, they’d jockey for position against the fence so they could check out my canine companions. They each had a number tagged to their ear and I made sure to compliment them on it, just as I would any great bling.
So it came as no surprise that the 27 cows and 33 calves I would be escorting to their summer pasture on this particular Sunday would have something to teach me. These cows had walked the path twice a year for a number of years. I, on the other hand, was making the journey for the first time, walking most of the way backwards and uphill. Despite my lack of experience, I was convinced I could lead them to the Promised Land.
This is not as easy as one might suspect. A true cow whisperer respects the fact that despite a calm exterior, a wild animal lives within. (This applies to the whisperer as well.) When the cows felt the need to pick up the pace (usually on the downhill side of the rolling hills) and the group took on the energy of Pamplona, I was immediately reminded of the importance of daily treadmill training. You just never know when you might face a bovine fitness challenge.
Now I know I possess an infinitely quirky imagination, but when I did turn around to see where we might be heading, I had this image of me, 27 cows, and 33 calves walking down the road with our shades on, wind blowing through our mane, smoking hot shoes, leather pants (naturally), and whatever else is typically associated with the epitome of coolness as characters emerge in slow motion with their best badass image on display.
We were definitely a force to be reckoned with. Mainly because we took up the whole road.
My chance to practice the first two technologies of magic Martha promotes in her book – Wordless and Oneness – were present on the day I walked with the cows. When one can’t communicate with words there is no choice but to drop into Wordlessness, which makes the choice to drop into Oneness a little easier. Of course, anyone who has tried to meditate for more than 10 seconds will tell you “a little easier” is still difficult.
Since September I’ve been involved in a leadership training program that has provided me with a view into my profession that others rarely get to see. The last session ended on Friday so I had to say goodbye to people I’ve come to care deeply about and experiences I looked forward to having each month. While I’m sure the benefits of participating in the program will continue for years to come, the challenge now is for me to incorporate the training into my daily life.
The truth is leadership opportunities abound. “Cow”nils of elders are everywhere, if we only open to them. While we may strategically plot, plan, and pretend to pick our presidents and politicians, this does not necessarily make them leaders. Leaders often emerge effortlessly in a classroom, a herd of cows, among preschoolers on a playground, or kernels of corn in an air popper. They do not need to be told what to do. They just sense what the situation requires and offer it up.