Don’t be afraid to ‘cowgirl’ up

By Jessica Maldonado / Guest Opinion

As Iowa’s famous cowboy John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” As someone who has grown up riding horses, this quote has always been a favorite of mine.

Whether it’s a young horse or difficult riding conditions, it can be tempting to let someone else take the reins and ride through the bucks. But those moments are when it is most critical to overcome the fear of falling and “cowgirl up.” The ride may be bumpy, there is a risk of falling and you may get dirty. You need to saddle up anyway, and if you fall, you get right back on the horse.

I have discovered that many lessons learned in the horse barn also apply in the workplace, especially for women. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in “Lean In,” men are usually less afraid to take risks even when they know they may lack experience for a specific role or responsibility.

Women are just as capable of rising to the challenge as our male colleagues, yet we often weigh the risk of failure too heavily. Success cannot be achieved by never chancing the fall. On the contrary, the greatest success can stem from the lessons learned in picking yourself up after each time you hit the dirt.

You become a better rider after each fall from a horse, and in the workplace, you become a better leader after learning and growing from every failed attempt. Each time you rise after a fall, you become a better version of yourself that is less likely to stumble again in the future.

My horse trainer once said that if what you are doing does not give you butterflies in your stomach, what is the point of doing it? It could be a public speaking role, a large project, a new job or a crucial conversation. Regardless of the challenge, make sure to grab the reins and run with it. I urge women in the workforce, myself included, to chase the butterflies, take risks and cowgirl up.

Jessica Maldonado is public affairs manager for PolicyWorks, a Des Moines-based government affairs consultancy.

This guest editorial originally appeared in the Des Moines Business Record.