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Two Oscars and a Horse

On a recent talk show, director Guillermo del Toro was asked if, when deciding to film a romance between a human woman and a sea creature in The Shape of Water, he feared it would end up being ridiculous? Del Toro said yes, he was worried, and then explained:

“Failure and success live next door to each other, and they have no numbers at the door—you just knock!”

How powerful is that—just putting yourself out there and knocking, when you really don’t know what you’ll find on the other side?

One day last year, I experienced what I viewed as a humiliating failure while on a retreat doing intuitive soul work with horses in Costa Rica. My group took a horseback ride to a waterfall deep in the rain forest, along hilly and rocky trails. Having had no riding experience, I was scared and felt really out of my element. I knew my horse Mr. Big could handle the excursion, but I had serious doubts about myself. I was told that when you ride, the horse needs to feel he can count on you as much as you can count on him. I didn’t have a clue how to embody that.

There were about thirteen others in the group, all riding single file on the trail, happily and calmly. Me? Inner turmoil as I struggled to stay Zen. I did not want Mr. Big to sense any kind of freak-out energy from me. At one point, my right foot came out of the stirrup, and I couldn’t get it back in. Feeling more and more insecure, I felt my fear spiraling, and Mr. Big responded in kind by suddenly taking off in a gallop. I tried to stop him, but he started darting in different directions, making me feel totally out of control. Debbie the facilitator called to me to turn the reins a certain way, but her directions didn’t compute in my frazzled brain. Finally, Mr. Big stopped, as did the entire line-up of horses—everyone had to stop while I figured out how to handle the situation—and I burst into tears.

Debbie explained again the equal partnership that needs to happen when riding. Mr. Big needed to know that I was in control of myself in order for everything to go harmoniously. That meant shifting my energy to be calm and also kind of “bad-ass” confident. She also explained he wouldn’t do anything I wasn’t able to handle. I took a deep breath, tried to center my energy, and found my inner bad ass. Thankfully, the rest of the trail ride went smoothly. At the end he even started trotting faster, and I was into it!

So, the first door I knocked on led to me losing it on the trail while everyone watched. But right next door to it was new-found confidence and a valuable lesson learned. Actually, I think failure and success are more than just neighbors—they’re like Rachel-and-Monica roommates.

Del Toro’s knocking got him a couple of Oscars. What will your knocking get you? (Some advice: Get the celebration speech ready.)

It’s all about the magic. 🙌

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