A while back, I was teaching a training program and I made the comment that some people tend to be too territorial in nature and that they sometimes overstep their boundaries by being “control freaks.” All of us have probably either had someone do that to us or we are guilty of having done that ourselves. In either case, it is not a very wise thing to do. Anyway, in my talk I mentioned that when two people are constantly trying to overpower each other, it simply will not work. I said, “It would be like having two bulls in the same pasture.”
After I finished speaking, a lady approached and asked if she could speak to me for a minute. Of course, I agreed. She explained that she grew up on a farm and had a lot of experience working with cattle. “Dr. Rohm, I don’t want to offend you,” she said, “but your example of two bulls not being able to co-exist in the same pasture is not really a very good example.” When I asked her why that was the case, she explained that from time to time bulls can get territorial, but for the most part several of them can live in the same pasture quite well together, as long as there are plenty of cows to service. She went on to tell me that a better example would be that of having two stallions in the same pasture. She explained to me that it was not possible for two stallions to co-exist in the same closed-in pasture, because one of them would actually kill the other for dominance and control! Her experience with cattle and horses, had taught her that the nature of a stallion is such that it simply will not tolerate having another stallion in the same area because the issue of control is so strong.
We talked for a while longer and she gave me some more information that helped me to clearly see that my example of the two bulls was a poor one and that the example of the two stallions was more accurate. I was very grateful for her insight and correction.
Since that time, I have done a lot of thinking about our conversation. I think people should work to have the same experience that bulls have in being able to co-exist together though they each may be very strong. I know that there are a lot of “strong-willed people” in the world. Just look at the Congress of the United States. My oldest daughter is a very strong-willed individual and for that I am grateful because it is through her that I found my life’s calling and profession. She is the one who caused me to seek answers for why certain personalities are so strong, powerful and different from others. I have learned to actually appreciate that type of personality. And, I often seek to use that strong-willed part of my own personality to push past the daily, challenging endeavors I face in life and in business.
Unfortunately, most of us have had the heartache of seeing two people part ways because they could not get along. It may be that they were both stallions and just got to the place where one of them could no longer coexist with the other. We will likely all have that experience at some time, whether it is with a friend, a business associate, or a family member. It is a sad situation, but it does occur.
The next time you are challenged by someone in your life, ask yourself, “Is this a bull situation or is it a stallion situation?” Bulls can co-exist if they recognize they need to “spread out” and have their own space. By nature they do not attack others, although they do want some control and the feeling of being in charge. There is nothing wrong with that! I believe that is what a strong, entrepreneurial spirit is all about. Freedom, at its very root, is the opportunity to grow and experience greater success in life. However, it is unhealthy for any of us to have the attitude of a stallion – that attitude of, “I must win and you must lose!” It is destructive and harmful and in the end it actually creates a “lose-lose” situation for everyone involved.
It certainly was a great learning experience for me to know more about the nature of bulls and stallions. Perhaps the stallion attitude is appropriate in a sporting event or a war where one must win and the other must lose. But, since most of our life does not consist of a sporting event or a war, it would be wiser to approach each situation with a little less “testosterone.” Whether you are a strong male or a strong female, I think approaching situations from a “bull perspective” is a much wiser approach than the “stallion perspective”.
I am grateful to have this concept firmly in my mind because I believe it gives me the mental edge to stay balanced in my own competitive nature. I want to win, but I want you to win, too! For all of you who have the high achiever gene, I hope it does the same for you!
Tip: It is better to be a bull than a stallion!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm