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.

Yellowstone River-1

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.

Pendleton Round-Up-81

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 

Pendleton Round-Up-1

49 Comments on “Take the Bull By the Horns…

    • Thanks Trapper, posts like this are pretty fun to write…and serve as a good reminder as well.

  1. Nice series Randall. I had the opportunity to attend my first rodeo this past weekend and the fury and speed of the events was something I have a new appreciation for.

  2. Your photos took me right back to the memory of the event I attended in 2010, the Ellensburg Rodeo in Kittitas County. It was fab…Thanks a lot!

  3. Really beautiful photography and so well accompanied. I especially liked how you say “when you are in a zone, life becomes effortless”. In the shamanic tradition I learnt with, we call that being in ‘ayni’, meaning being in right relationship internally and externally. I loved this post! xox

    • lol…I think I get this one, although many times I find I’m completely right in the external, the internal is often too judgmental and I find myself running. Crazy though, how does one run from ones-self? I need to work harder on my “ayni” 🙂

    • Thank you very much, I like the word ‘ayni’ as it fits the meaning I hoped to describe. The word ‘zone’ is too general and while I think captures part of the spirit of what I hoped to say, ‘anyi’ seems to be more precise. Beautiful word.

  4. Another calming piece Randy and btw, I’m seriously liking the theme here. I love the weaving of events together to make sense of life.
    The best motivation to being in the zone is basically doing something you love. There’s no way anyone driven by passion can not be in the zone 🙂 It’s like those who serve or volunteer in life, another good example are teachers and moms,lol

    A really great teacher and mom do the most demanding and gratifying work as far as I’m concerned, are paid very little and many times taken for granted;but still they continue.
    The thrill and satisfaction is in the giving of self. Your examples of these cowboys and their passion brings a smile to my face as I imagine the content glaze on their faces. Heck, many times they get the bruising and hiding of their lives and still their grin is bigger.

    They dedicate themselves to their work and will not stop until they’ve given their all, now you have to be sold on something to be this way.
    Being in life’s zone I suppose is what we all must aspire towards,and that in itself would take what your cowboy pals told you, humility,respect and the desire to always learn. How could anyone possibly go wrong with an attitude like this?

    Beautiful photo’s as always, the second photo is like smoke rising from the stream,captivating!

    • Thanks Dotta, there isn’t a better feeling than being passionate about something and as you say that puts you in a zone. Agree fully with Moms…they best ones (one of which I have!) have a focus on their children they never lose. Humbles me to know how lucky I am. And I think your children would say the same.

      I have always like the phrase “take the bull by the horns before the horns take you” as that is when people have no option but to get passionate about life…and find that zone. Thanks for the comment, always so wonderful.

  5. Great thoughts and images, Randy. It’s funny. I’ve heard the term “take the bull by its horns” countless times and yet not really stopped to think about what it really means. That *is* powerful imagery (as your photos so vividly display)… And I absolutely love your point about humility. I think that humility *is* what allows those riders — and all of us (if we so choose) — to make our efforts appear effortless. It is our respect for and acknowledgment of the intrinsic value of others and their experiences that gives us grace and allows us to endure. After all, the prideful will always fall, and when they do, that’s a hard crash down… Best, Jess

    • Thanks Jess, you have summarized my thoughts on humility more concisely & clearer than I could have… I think humility is the best way to say thanks to all those around me ~ and to give yourself a much better opportunity to learn & contribute more with what you do. Things become easier, more natural. A good way to live. Enjoy your travels & take care.

  6. What a BEAUTIFUL post! Both the pictures and your words – feeling very moved and inspired!! Sorry I have been so silent recently, haven’t had a lot of time to check out your blog due to the move, but will start going through our archives now 😉

    • Thanks Alex, I hope the move to Brazil is going smoothly for you. Another set of adventures for you! Cheers.

  7. As you’ve noted we’ve only got seconds; 8 seconds to ride a bill. 5 seconds to make that perfect response. A moment to decide where our conviction lies, where our life will travel.

    I hope you always make that perfect decision, that optimal choice. The alternative is a slow inner death.

  8. I don’t plan to be on a ranging bull ever either, but boy do I feel respect for both the animals and people here. Life does throw us a lot along the way. To tell you the truth I’ve had an awful couple of years and am recuperating and I think its just going to make me stronger. Thanks for this lovely post. I love the photos and also especially the second last one.

  9. Thank you Sofia. It is good to have the awful years behind you, and with the recuperation I wish you the best…The one thing about difficult times is it allows us to enjoy all the great times that will come your way. From your blog I can see nothing but beauty and happiness.

    The photo you like is of Jesse Jones Jr., the Chief of the Cayuse. A true leader and one of the best men I have known.

  10. Wow! I always love your pictures, Randall.

  11. Enjoyed reading and viewing your post! You are definitely in your zone.

    • Hey Mike, thanks. I think many of my current thoughts formed with our many philosophical conversations growing up… 🙂 Cheers!

  12. Excellent series of photos. You have really made a great documentation of the event. And I enjoyed you write-up – very interesting.

  13. I grew up in a rural area where every summer meant county fair and rodeo – visiting relatives from back east to take to the Pikes Peak or Bust rodeo, etc.
    The summer after my son died, we had the opportunity to go to Cheyenne Frontier Days – I sat in the stands, cringing, gasping and holding my breath, fighting back tears as I prayed those massive horns and sharp hooves didn’t gore the cowboy – have not attended a rodeo since – maybe, just maybe, healed enough to try again! 🙂

    • I sense such great strength in you with your writing/life, and it is exciting to see that you are healed enough to move forward boldly. Beautiful. Makes me smile today!

      • 🙂 Thanks for the kind words – sure don’t feel like it some days, but nice concepts to aspire to on those days! 🙂

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