Courage, Cowboys, Chunking, Changing

Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne (1907-1979), American actor

Maybe it is my southern roots that causes my visceral reaction to this quote. It is just so easy for me to remember being frightened to saddle up on Old Paint, but my father made sure that I would still jump up and ride anyway. There was no turning back after my family drove out to the horse farm. And, my only other option was to hang out with those stinky old men with smelly stuff under their bottom lip.

Have you ever wanted to throw in the towel, not wanting to face an organizational change or personal change that is greeting you as your eyes flutter open in the morning?


One of my favorite leaders – who also happened to be my manager – early in my career always used to remind us at the beginning of each large-scale organizational change project that ‘You can eat an elephant, but you can only do so one bite at a time.’ Translation: try chunking, a more flexible learning style allowing you to absorb change and information and keep your momentum going.

Try breaking down your challenge / change / opportunity / elephant into smaller ‘chunks’ or bites. Use whatever element works best as your ‘bite,’ such as time, task or person:

  1. Take an overwhelming project and break it down to the year, then the month, week, day, hour. Whatever it takes to get you through that overwhelming feeling. Try planning a day by the hour, or just decide to get yourself through to the lunch hour; then, allow yourself time to re-group and keep going
  2. Focus on one task only – completing one section of that strategic plan – then re-group after you’ve completed that section to schedule tackling the next section
  3. Handle the outstanding crucial conversations and attention that one person is needing before moving onto the next person

As hard as it may seem at the moment, remember that moments pass. Sometimes you just have to keep on keeping on. Even though you may not know exactly where the answer(s) will come from, know they will come. This is a great employee engagement technique as well. Model this behavior for your team while encouraging them to do the same. All of the great energy will certainly propel you as a high performing team.

Keep going. Go ride ’em, cowboys and cowgirls!

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Sandra Schwan

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