Seabiscuit: An American Legend
by Laura Hillenbrand
Random House, 399 pp
Publication Date: March 2001
We advocate reading books outside of our field, just to
stretch our thinking and our imaginations. Knowing nothing about horses or racing, and harboring many assessments about the worth of the sport, I picked up Seabiscuit just
to test my ability to stay with something I figured I wouldn’t like.
How misguided I was. This is a terrific book that had me
staying up late to finish exciting chapters, eyes tearing up at Seabiscuit’s misfortunes and achievements. Read this book. You won’t regret it.
In fact, this book got under my skin. I still think about the
characters, the events, and the times in our American life that Hillenbrand so skillfully draws. Seabiscuit is a race horse. Seabiscuit is an underdog ~ a “racehorse” that
was short, stocky, with knobby knees and legs that splayed in non-sleek racehorse fashion. Seabiscuit is one of the best stories of faith, hope, practice, standing tall
for what you believe, and never giving up that I’ve read in a long, long time.
For anyone in the U.S. who followed his story back in the
1930s, Seabiscuit represented the fundamental optimism, never-say-die spirit that has characterized our culture since its humble beginnings. Seabiscuit overcame the
odds. What allowed him to do that? The belief that the horse’s trainer, owner, and jockey each saw in this ungainly horse – potential that others scoffed at. Without
going into the details here, suffice it to say that Seabiscuit was a difficult horse, hard to train, with big odds against any success. Suffice it to say that Charles
Howard, his owner, had amazing faith, not only in the horse, but in the trainer, Tom Smith – a man of immense talent and few words. Both Howard and Smith had faith in
Red Pollard, the jockey who would take enormous risks just to be the one to ride his dear mount, Seabiscuit. The three had a bond with each other and with Seabiscuit
that enabled them to surmount untold hardships and come away feeling gratified.
What would our organizations be like if managers and
leaders exhibited the faith in themselves and others that these three did in the unlikely Seabiscuit? What would teams be like if team members truly allowed each other to
do their best, and supported each other in doing that? I wonder what any of us would be like if we believed in our potential, and others’ potential, way beyond the point
where many of us usually give up. I wonder what an enormous dose of patience, coupled with the practice to get better and better, would do for all of us. Who knows, maybe we would surprise ourselves!
1. This month, see if you can notice potential in others
that you have either written off or otherwise decided that they are not capable. Begin to see the person in the most whole way possible. What support might you offer this
person? What encouragement is possible?
2. For the next 2-3 weeks, see if you can be encouraging
to those with whom you come into contact. Notice what happens for you when you are able to be encouraging vs. dismissive or taking others for granted.
3. For your personal reflection, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you reflect your faith in others?
- How do you “stay with” something difficult?
- How do you overcome the odds?
- How do you rewrite the stories that others have about you?
What are the things in your life, and the people in your
life, that ground you and help you stay balanced?