Take the Bull By the Horns…


There have been countless moments in life where it feels as if I have just been through a 7.9 second thrashing of a Brahma bull ride: long enough to feel the thrill & pain of every jolt, yet failing at the end with a ‘no-score.’   That last 0.1 seconds an eternity away.

While I have never been on a bull (and never, ever plan too…), the idea of surviving those 8-seconds necessary to score an official ride works well as an analogy in business and life.


“8.0 seconds of fury” is not a way many would like to spend life, but eventually, we will face such a ride.  As noted in an earlier post “Let’er Buck” there are courageous souls who tackle this role with wild abandon on the rodeo circuit, and how they handle those 8-seconds can teach us mortal folks about dealing with life.

It takes an artistic skill not only to survive for those 8-seconds, but to create a thing of beauty from such a violent ride.  To score the highest possible with the cards we are dealt.


To score the highest, the cowboy must make the ride look effortless.  So amid the fury of the ride, arrives the concept of becoming one with the animal…to be one with nature, to allow a certain peace and quiet confidence to envelope the scene.

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Synchronicity, where everything around you works together.  A moment where it feels like you can achieve anything.  Your actions appear and feel effortless as if you are doing nothing, yet your focus and results prove otherwise.

It is taking the bull by the horns, becoming so focused and primed that you flow with the jolts and gyrations that may come your way.


Whether riding a Brahma bull, bronc, or pouring over spreadsheets and business deals: when you are in a zone, life becomes effortless.  Answers arrive before questions are asked, work is completed as if it were play.  These are the moments to live for, when nothing seems to go wrong.


Years ago, while at the Pendleton Round-Up, I was talking with a group of bareback bronc riders who were describing how they felt during competition.  Each one agreed that ‘there are days you feel as if you are one with the animal, and it is a beautiful effortless ride…” and behind that success are years of hard work, experience, and humility.

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The one thought I took away from that great conversation in the arena, was advice I still try to follow today: “The minute you start becoming cocky and disrespecting either the animals or those around you, it is lost…the focus is gone, and you are flying through air with a hard, hard ground below…”

Round-Up-37Humility is to understand that you can always learn something, often from people and places you least expect.  From what I have experienced and seen from cowboys over the years is that there is a consistent trait of confidence and a brazen sense of fearlessness with they way they live…yet even with this confidence, they are respectful and humble.

Respectful of those that came before them, and towards those who work the land making the USA and West they way it is today: a slice of heaven on Earth.


Life throws a lot our way, and as the immortal cowboys teach us every rodeo season with their actions, tough days are inevitable and there will be strings of rides that result in eating dirt & grass.

Such times make us who we are, as we find the focus and passion that allows us to dust ourselves off and prepare for that next ride.  For it may be the next ride, that perfect ride, to put us back on top again.


When the time comes where we have to face the ‘agony & ecstasy’ of that 8-second ride in life, keep focus on what is ahead and when problems arise: take the bull by the horns 

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Flow of Water ~ Flow of Life

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Years ago, my Dad and I were sitting in a duck blind in Eastern Oregon prior to dawn and I mentioned how much I wanted to live near the Oregon Coast.  The  gist of my reasoning was that the Oregon Coast is beautiful, and having water around was comforting.

There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of water; roar of an ocean or babble of brook.  The response from my Dad surprised me; he preferred the high desert and mountains…

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It was not the first time I have been surprised by such a response, as my ex- felt the same way, where I always envisioned a place on the water, she felt the opposite.

My dad laughed at my incredulous look, and said he loves being at the pond (one of his favorite places on earth), and it is made better because it is located in Eastern Oregon (which is why he chose Pendleton).  He also laughed at the situation with my ex-, saying that my Mom’s thought on the subject is also the opposite of his and, like me, she would rather live next to the ocean.

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Why I bring this up, is that there is a special connection to water that inspires me, calms me.  I will not think twice to pay more for a sea view room, while others cringe at the thought as they do not see the same value: some people can’t believe someone else would pay so much more for a house (or flat) with a water view, while others cannot comprehend why not.

The beauty of differences in human nature.

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Among us all, however, is a tremendous respect for water, and it is an inherent respect as we flowed like water from conception onwards.  Beyond the most obvious reason that the majority of our body is made up of the stuff,  it is the nature of water that intrigues.

Water is pure: two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.  It has no desire other than to be itself.

  • try to pick it up, control and squeeze it, and it will elude ~ as will a strong human spirit
  • if it remains still, it becomes stagnate ~ as will our body & mind without pursuing life
  • when it flows it becomes pure ~ as when we flow & move: life, love and our spirits tend to flourish

Natural properties that we should emulate.

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Water is resilient.  Soft yet incredibly strong.  An analogy which is often repeated, is how over time water can turn stone into sand with its relentless flow, creating such marvels as the Grand Canyon.  Water never ceases in its pursuit of life…it just keeps on flowing, bending when necessary, and without question follows its nature.

My favorite verse from the Dao de Jing is number eight which parallels water with human nature.  If I had to summarize the words of this verse it is: be true to who you are, keep it simple and kind, and flow with your work and in life, without expectations, and you will not be disappointed.

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Simple thoughts.  Whenever life throws something at me, a trip to the coast (or a creek) is all I need to gain perspective.

As with all words of Lao-zi, they are words of poetry…which makes translation by any non-native speaker close to impossible.  Below is the Chinese, and an old translation I made 15 years ago with a lot of help.

  • 上善若水。
  • 水善利万物而不争,处众人之所恶,故几于道。
  • 居善地,心善渊,与善仁,言善信,政善治,事善能,动善时。
  • 夫唯不争,故无尤。

The greatest good is like water.  Nourishing all in our world without effort, flowing to depths we ignore.  Water is therefore like the Dao.

In living, be close to the land

In thinking, be simple from the heart

In dealing with others, be kind with sincere words

In politics and business, do not manipulate

In life, be effective and completely present

When you are content being yourself, your flow gains the respect of those around you.

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I do remember when I was studying Chinese and the Dao de Jing, I asked many questions about this verse and finally the person I was studying with said the meaning of the verse “is just like a brook in the mountains: travels from high to low, nourishing, sincere, humble and true to itself…and most of all it sounds beautiful if you shut-up and take time to listen.”

Take the time to listen to what the water (and the world) is saying.

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Let’er Buck!

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“Let’er Buck!”

These two words can awake and excite a soul like no other.  My thought of what I wanted to be when I grew up is forever linked with these two words: a cowboy who would win the All-Around Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up

Realistically, there was a better shot of me becoming the President of the USA, as the road of a Round-Up champion takes a special & courageous soul to travel.

Big dreams at the Pendleton Round-Up, a big stage for any cowboy: if you win here, you have made it on the rodeo circuit.  The Pendleton Round-Up is one of the oldest and most respected rodeos in the world.

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Dreams of Larry Mahan, Lane Frost, Mike Currin, Mike Beers, Ty Murray and Bobby DelVecchio, great cowboys who have electrified the rodeo world with their art, still churn in my head.  Such dreams find the minds of many young rodeo fans in Eastern Oregon, all in anticipation of one day riding in the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up.

Yet, it is not just the big names that kids dream about…it is the ranchers and farmers of the area that make this show (and dream) so close.  Heroes, who one day are working the fields of their farms and ranches, and the next day are dedicating their time both as participants and key figures in making the Round-Up successful.

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Favorite events of steer wrestling, saddle-bronc and bareback to the riding of the Brahma bulls will see local and international cowboys show-off their skill.  While they often end up with just a mouthful of dirt and grass to show for their efforts, they’re always buoyed by the applause and support of the crowd.

In someway, all of us in the crowd are on the field sharing our dreams with cowboys as they ride.

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Of course, dreams of young men are never complete without visions of a goddess or two to steal away his time, and the Round-Up has more than its share of such beauties.  While every rodeo has numerous ‘buckle-bunnies’ it takes a special woman to make it to the Round-Up, especially the role of Round-Up Queen and her Court of Princesses.

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The Queen and Her Court can take me away from whatever I am doing, and along with everyone else watch them glide into the arena, flying in on their steeds with a grace that would make Pegasus jealous.  There have been royalty a plenty over the years: Jody Gugin, Ellen Kilkenny, Sara Mautz and my all-time favorite Mary-Lou O’Rourke (Lazinka) back in the 1960s.

Mary Lou’s husband (Bob O’Rourke) taught me the joys of fishing and the spirit of living in the area…while her brother Bob Lazinka had land on Butter Creek and in the mountains outside Ukiah, an ideal place to spend a lot of time elk, Chukar and pheasant hunting with my Dad (a past Round-Up Director as well…very proud).

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The call of “Let’er Buck!” still echoes in my head, no matter where I am.  These simple words create a wonderful sense of emotion for any Pendletonian, anywhere in the world and at anytime of the year.

These are the words of freedom, of hard work, of taking risks and knowing you have a whole community of people with love behind you.  It is at the heart of what made the West a great part of US history.  The stuff little kids dream about…even kids in their 40s.

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The Round-Up is a conglomerate of the spirit of the surrounding communities of Eastern Oregon (Heppner, Helix, Pilot Rock, Athena, Hermiston, Enterprise, Baker…to name just a few).  An event created over 100 years ago to celebrate the life of the West and to commemorate the harvest season and communal support for the farmers and ranchers.  And, of course, to put on a show…

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Many people have asked me how & why I speak so often of my family, and the answer is simple: because I come from Pendleton.  Knowing that after 25 years of being out of contact, I can show up at the doorstep of any friend in Pendleton, and we can pick-up our conversation as if it was yesterday as they warmly take me in.

The spirit of the West and the spirit of the people of Pendleton are the backbone of the Round-Up.

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While I love my adopted cities of Hong Kong and Seattle…the roots of Pendleton taught me the essentials of life.  The phrase ‘salt of the earth’ is often thrown around, but come to Pendleton and you will see and experience this quality first hand.

~ The Westward Ho Parade ~ Unique in that there are no motorized vehicles allowed

~ The Westward Ho Parade ~
Unique in that there are no motorized vehicles allowed

The Round-Up is an annual calling around world.  Friends from all across the globe will come to this small town in Eastern Oregon and join the ‘wild & free’ spirit that makes the rodeo what it is today.  While it is an event that brings together a rich history of the life of cowboys and the West, it also strongly wraps itself up in the history & culture of the Native Americans who have always been at one with the land.

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As mentioned in my earlier post of the beauty of nature: no one owns the water, the sky or fresh air, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are reconnecting modern society back to the roots of nature. Chinook salmon have returned to the Umatilla River through the relentless work of the Confederated Tribes working with farmers and irrigators.  Working with Mother Earth is a way of life in this region.

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The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation host an amazing tribal village, with over 300 teepees consisting of Indians from around the Northwest.  Here they share their cultures with all travelers, and during the week tribes from the Pacific Northwest gather in the village to visit with friends and relatives.  One of the most mesmerizing and refreshing sights you will see at the Pendleton Round-Up.

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The days of dreaming of becoming a cowboy maybe out of reach for me these days, but then again, as I strap on my chaps, put on my Stetson and an old belt buckle from riding days past…it is a dream I get to relive every September at the Pendleton Round-Up…the grandest of all rodeos.

Let’er Buck!

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The Beautiful Silence of a Seattle Sunset

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There is a special connection that exists between nature and man, and amid all the incessant din we create, stepping out along the shores of Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington such a connection can be made.

There is an intricate dance between the Olympic National Forest and the Puget Sound waterway, a dance that makes the Pacific Northwest a little slice of heaven in the developed world.  

During the evening hours in summer, the Olympics and the Sound often produce one of the most incredible mosaics of color & life: a sunset over Seattle’s Elliott Bay and the Olympics.  

The above is the first time-lapse photography video I have put together, and was taken from Pier 70, outside my flat in Seattle.

Perhaps the best part of the peace and solitude of a Seattle sunset, is that it is meant to shared.  The beautiful silence of the colors seem to bring out the best in people.  If you walk along Pier 70 or along the shores of Elliott Bay park during the golden hour, the conversations with the people, seagulls and wind will all blend in with the natural silence of the sunset.  A rejuvenating moment.  

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In regards to the beauty of Seattle, an emphasis should be placed on summer nights. The grey of Seattle winters are not that desirable, and instead I suggest you come to Hong Kong and I’ll treat you to some great dim sum and sunny skies.

As this is my first foray into time-lapse photography, in this video there are some flickers and errors that should be corrected.  Theoretically, I can correct these errors in Photoshop and/or LRTimeLapse, I just do not have a clue how to make such precise adjustments right now…and unless my patience improves unlikely in the future as well, as my computer will lie in pieces on the street below 🙂

Enjoy the final days of summer.   

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