We saw some incredible speakers at the International Hoof-Care Summit this year. There were a variety of people, from PhDs to very functional farriers with great practices, research people and they all have something in common. They are successful.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people have a vision of their life and they work on that vision every day. Successful people actively create their lives, while unsuccessful people passively wait for life to happen to them. Successful people’s lives are intentional. Unsuccessful people’s lives are by accident.

We know those people. Those are the folks who get up every morning. They’re angry. They’re negative. These are the folks who are always victims. They look at their own schedule in the morning and they have a client they don’t like or a horse they don’t want to shoe, and they’re mad. They’re mad at their scheduler, who is themselves, but that’s how they work life. Successful people have passion and energy for what they’ve chosen to do, and that passion and energy is not by accident.

Primary Aim and Strategic Objective

There are two things you need to be successful. One is called the primary aim and the other is a strategic objective.

A primary aim is nothing more than asking yourself questions of what do you want your life to be? What kind of farrier practice do you really want to have? What kind of personal life you want to have? The answers to those questions are what we call the primary aim.

I know this sounds like a lot of psychobabble to people, but it really works. You’re probably already using this and not knowing. For example, I bet most farriers in here have thought about building a shop or have already built a shop. So, you’re thinking you’re going to build a shop. Finally, you’re going to get your own shop. As you’re driving down the road shoeing, you’re thinking about all the different things. How big a space I’m going to have; what kind of flooring; what kind of electrical needs for the equipment I want to put in; mirrors, doors. In your brain, you’re building, rebuilding and modifying this shop over and over again. You get a material list and you find out how much money you’re going to have to save in order to buy the material to build your shop.

Building a shop is the primary aim. The strategic objective is all the planning that you’re doing to be able to build that shop. When you finally carve out some time and you bought your materials, you wake up at sunrise and you’re out there building that shop. You don’t remember the last time you’ve had this much energy. You’re actively building that shop, having fun.

In the following weeks, when you get home from shoeing, boom, you’re going out there to the shop. You’ve got lots of energy. You’re not flopped on the couch with a beer. You’re out doing something.

The primary aim and the strategic objective. It works all the time. Do you have that in your shoeing practice? You need to ask yourself some questions about your shoeing practice. Are you physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of every day? Just wiped out. As soon as you get home, you’re done. Do you look forward to shoeing in the morning or does that become a task? Are you usually angry with your clients and the horses when you’re shoeing all day? And do you find that you’re shoeing every horse the same way because it’s easier?

If that’s you or any part of that’s you, it might be that you haven’t developed a primary aim and the strategic objectives to get yourself to where you want to go in your shoeing practice.

As I tell my students, if you don’t know where you’re going in life, how do you know when you get there? You have to narrow down your primary aim and your strategic objectives a little bit.

Imagine that in this room is everybody that has ever influenced your life. All your loved ones, family, mentors, colleagues, friends who have all played a very important role in your life. They’re here because of you and on this stage. There’s a box and you’re in it because you’re dead. Up on the screen comes a videotaped message that you’ve given, trying to tell everybody how you want to be remembered. What kind of farrier were you? What kind of husband, wife, son, daughter, parent? Who were you?

Try to get a vision of how you would do that, because that’s going to be your primary aim. That’s going to be where you want to go. They could be silly things as well, but they’re all motivating. When I was in my late 30s, I decided that one of my objectives was to physically be able to shoe a horse when I turned 70, but not financially have to shoe a horse.

When I turned 70, I was there. I shod a horse for my birthday. I didn’t have to. It was my own horse, so nobody paid me, but I didn’t have to. So, you have a primary aim. I’m going to shoe a horse on my 70th birthday. Now, how are you going to get there when you’re 35, 40. It starts to influence your decision-making as you’re going through life. It helps you get where you’re going.

So, develop this picture of who you want to be and then you can start developing the steps, because strategic objectives are nothing more than a roadmap. It’s just a way of letting you know where you were, where you are and where you’re going in life. You can’t believe the amount of energy that’s going to provide for you as a farrier. When we’re out there working every day, it’s physically exhausting at times. If you let yourself get mentally exhausted as well, your path to success becomes quite limited.

Success is No Accident

During the Summit, we’ve sat around some of the most tremendous people in our industry. These are highly successful people in what they’ve done. They’ve come here to share that information with us. It’s impossible to spend all this time with these people and not find individuals you would like to emulate. People you really admire and respect. The people who are PhDs, those who have gotten into the Hall of Fame, all these people did not get there by accident. It didn’t just happen to them. They didn’t sit around and somebody gave them a PhD. It was intentional. The energy level that you have for your life is dependent upon these things.

Imagine you wake up in a boat and all that’s in it is a pair of oars. You have no idea where you are. You look all around and all you see is water, everywhere you look. Can you imagine the despair? Eventually, you’re going to grab these oars and you’re going to start rowing in some direction. You’re going to row and row and row. After hours of rowing, your hands hurt, you’re thirsty, your back is sore. When you look around, all you see is water. Still, you have no idea where you are. That’s when people lay down on a boat and just let the wind and tide take them to wherever they’re going.

Now, if you wake up in that same boat, the same two oars, but you have a GPS. You fire that puppy up and you go, “Land’s that way.” Now you’re rowing and rowing and rowing, just like before. At the end of 3, 4 hours, you’re exhausted; your hands hurt the same; your back just as sore; you’re just as thirsty. But, when you fire up that GPS again, you say, “I’m over halfway. Land’s that way and I'm over halfway there now.” Do you have the energy to continue to row? Of course, you do. Why? Because you know where you were, you know where you are and you know where you’re going.

This is the only way that you can make your shoeing practice perform in a way that’s going to give you what you want out of it. You just can’t wake up at 65 years old and not know what’s going on with your life and what to do. You need to devote this plan in your life.

So, do you have a primary aim, a strategic plan for your business or for your life? What do you want your business to do for you and your family? Where do you want it to go? That’s something you need to write down. That’s something you need to develop to make this shoeing become something more than just an old guy with a bad back. It’s very important.

I want to challenge you to think about your life and your farrier practice. Set some goals, some primary aims of what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, then develop a plan to accomplishment it. If you don’t belong to an association, join. It doesn’t matter if it’s the American Farrier’s Association or the International Association for Professional Farriers. Join one. Make a decision that you’re going to certify or that you’re going to work for the IAPF’s foundation credentials. Pick things that are going to make your business grow, that are going to enhance your skills to get you where you want to go. You’re going to be surprised at the amount of energy that you have in your life to be able to perform the tasks that seem daunting. It’s amazing what it’s going to give you.

Start thinking about what you want your farrier practice to accomplish. Where you want your farrier practice to go. What you want your farrier practice to do for you and your family. Then set out a roadmap to make it happen. You’ll be surprised at the energy you have as you put some of these ideas to work and help you develop a functional farrier practice.