Kissing all the cows: A lesson in patience for the budding entrepreneur

As the old joke goes, there is a father bull and a baby bull sitting atop a plateau and they are looking down at a group of cows.  The baby bull is bouncing up and down so excited saying, “Dad! Dad! Let’s run down there and kiss ONE of those cows.”  The father replies calmly and in a deep voice, “Son, we are not going to run down there and kiss ONE of those cows.”  The son, still bouncing, says, “Dad! Dad! Why not? Why aren’t we going to run down and kiss ONE of those cows?”  The father says, as calm as could be, “Son, we are going to WALK down and ksis ALL of them.”

I have repeated that joke for as far back as I can remember; however, it has taken me nearly 20 years to truly understand its meaning.  The value in this joke is something that most young, excitable, creative, confident and over-caffeinated entrepreneurs overlook until they are met with the need to realize its value.  The very straightforward lesson, of course, is that you can pretty much have / get / conquer / win (choose one) anything you want if you maintain composure & patience and if you take your time.  Without getting too philosophical about a joke that is typically told at steak dinners among businessmen chomping on cigars, if you scratch a bit deeper there is more meaning lying there for the wet behind the ear entrepreneur to take advantage of.

Another way to look at this is to think about the negative space of the joke.  Is the father bull advocating walking down because he knows that is one way of getting all he wants or does he also know that running down ensures failure in getting all but one of the cows?  I think of this as the Chinese finger trap problem.  If you’ve tried to get your fingers out of a Chinese finger trap, I suggest you buy some to keep them around the office as both a reminder to you but also to give out to others.  In order to get your fingers out of this simple contraption, you need to relax, be patient and gently & slowly twist your fingers to release them, aka Father Bull strategy.  If you show off your Baby Bull, you will most assuredly be stuck.   Being patient and methodical is boring, slow, unsexy, in fact. If you recognize that the alternative is guaranteed failure or its close approximate, all of the sudden poise and maturity are sexy and in the end more effective.    Moral of the story, this is a marathon not a sprint.

Additionally, the Father Bull has an air of confidence well beyond the average.  How can he be so sure that the will be successful in kissing ALL the cows?  I mean come on, is he not going to miss one of them?  The value in having done something before is priceless.  The legendary story of Joe Montana in the 1989 Super Bowl illustrates this clearly.  As legend has it, Montana, down 3 with 3:20 to play, pulls into huddle starting a drive on his own 8 yard line and points out to his very tense, amped –up teammates that John Candy was in the stands.  Clearly this is not the type motivational speech typically reported in the annals of sports history.  But, Montana, having been there before (3rd Superbowl, 2 time Superbowl MVP and come from behind legend) knew he had to break the tension enough for everyone to relax and play their best, play without pressure.  Montana subsequently led the team down the field to a John Taylor touchdown with 34 seconds to go to win his 3rd Superbowl and 3rd Superbowl MVP.  Clearly, not every time you face a challenge will you have had experience with it before.  I suggest you have to be proactive and create multiple scenarios where you role play through outcomes.   If you put yourself in potential situations, when you are faced with potential pressure situations in the future you will feel like you have been there before.