The 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (often called the first existentialist) distinguished between two ways to travel by horse: Riding a stallion or riding in the back of a hay wagon.

Both get you somewhere, but riding a stallion requires you to take responsibility for your situation.  Why this is relevant today: Riding the stallion, as much effort as it takes, represents being in firm control in tough times.  The back of the hay wagon may be more comfortable, but you have no control where you end up.

The end of the year is a good time for reflection and, in this case, mental preparation.  How will you approach 2009?  Will you ride the hay wagon and let it happen to you, determining your fate for you?

Or, will you do whatever you can to make it happen as well as possible, live it fully, and get whatever you can from it?

Ride the stallion!


  • BonnieL
    Dec 28, 2008 - 18:23 pm

    Gotcha Steve – I’m off! [note to self: beware of low-hanging branches. ]

    triiibe on!

  • Jeff Pasquale
    Dec 28, 2008 - 20:53 pm

    Hi Steve,

    2008 was a year of painful learning for a lot of people. During my reflection, I considered both what I know to be true, as well as what I hope will be true, and came up with eleven predictions. I list four of them below, as they are points that I plan on personally paying closer attention to in 2009. The others are listed on my blog.

    – More than ever before, a leader’s effectiveness (and worth) will be judged by his or her ACTIONS.

    – Authenticity, simplicity, and consistency will return as hallmark leadership traits (recall Covey’s “Personality Ethic” of today versus the “Character Ethic” of 200 years ago).

    – Strategy will surpass tactics as a path to success.

    – Family Values (which are really just People Values) will make a huge re-emergence in our society and they will no longer be two mutually exclusive terms/words.

  • Amanda Cullen
    Dec 28, 2008 - 21:45 pm

    But in modern terms, riding the bus is so much more ecologically friendly than driving a Mustang. Maybe it’s that association of lost control that discourages people from bus-riding.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Dec 28, 2008 - 23:45 pm

    Jeff – Great list on your blog. I tried to comment but it wouldn’t take the comments.

    Amanda – I think in Kierkegaard’s time the stallion may have been more energy efficient! In any event, I know you are not a hay wagon rider!

    • Amanda Cullen
      Dec 29, 2008 - 16:22 pm

      No way do I ride in hay wagons. I get carsick if I’m not in control. And that metaphor actually carries through (:

  • This energizing month
    Mar 12, 2009 - 16:46 pm

    […] to take it lying down.  As I’ve said in a number of previous posts (here, here, here and here) newsletters (here, here, here and here) and a teleseminar, in addition to many private […]

  • Lars
    Jun 01, 2009 - 15:35 pm

    What work by Kierkegaard has this analogy?

  • Steve Yastrow
    Jun 04, 2009 - 22:40 pm


    I heard this reference on a wonderful lecture series on audio from The Teaching Company called No Excuses: Existentialism and The Meaning of Life, by Prof. Robert Solomon of U. of Texas at Austin. Here’s a link:

    I tried to find the reference online and couldn’t. Prof Solomon is no longer alive, it turns out. I’m going to go back to the audio and see if he gives the reference on the lecture. I’ll keep looking .. if you find it, please let me know.

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