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June 10, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Horse sense: 8 things we can all learn from American Pharoah

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CC Image by Diana Robinson, Flickr

Have you heard the quote “A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace”? You may have no idea who first said it, but if you’ve ever been in the market for a job – or had to interview candidates applying for a job – you probably get the sentiment behind it: a competitive spirit leads to success. That spirit certainly worked for American Pharoah, the first horse in nearly 40 years to win the Triple Crown.

When he won the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown, American Pharoah demonstrated the kind of tenacity and skill that you need to succeed in business, whether you’re the one doing the hiring or you’re the interviewee. The value of competition isn’t the only thing we can learn from him, however. Let’s take a look at eight inspiring lessons both job-seekers and employers alike can take away from American Pharoah’s victory.

1. Be persistent. Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer, came close to winning the Triple Crown three times before. Jockey Victor Espinoza also nearly won horse racing’s most-coveted crown three times on other horses before finally riding to victory on American Pharoah. He is the first jockey in history to enter the last leg of the Triple Crown with a third opportunity to win it, and, at 43, is the oldest jockey to ever win the award. Imagine how differently the 2015 race would have played out if either man had been less persistent?

2. There can be perfection in imperfection. He’s a beautiful horse, but American Pharoah isn’t perfect. His name is actually misspelled. The correct spelling should be “pharaoh.” But the horse’s accomplishments are so impressive and memorable that he’s made the name his own, and turned that imperfection into part of his unique appeal.

3. Embrace differences. While the other horses running in the Belmont tore down the track with their long, luxurious tails flying behind them, you might have noticed something different about American Pharoah’s tail. Or, maybe not since he moved so quickly! He’s actually missing a piece of his tail. Another horse bit it off and his owners refused suggestions that he should wear a hairpiece to make him look more like the other horses. His stubbier tail is just one more quality that makes American Pharoah stand out from the crowd, even when he’s standing still!

4. Don’t give up because of one setback. If American Pharoah had done that, he’d never have won any races. The only race he ever lost was his very first one. If you give up after a single failure – or even three or more – what you’re really giving up is the opportunity to win the next time. Success is only possible if you run the race.

5. Don’t let distractions make you lose your focus. The roar of the crowd, the sounds of the other horses and their jockeys – it can all be distracting for a thoroughbred. American Pharoah doesn’t give in to distractions. Instead, he wears special earplugs to help him stay focused. Blinders are a common accessory in thoroughbred horse racing. Do what you have to in order to screen out distractions and maintain your focus on your goals.

6. Seize opportunities to build your personal brand identity. The name, the tail, the winning record – they’re all part of American Pharoah’s brand. In the wake of his record-making win, American Pharoah memorabilia is everywhere, and it not only adds to the overall earnings of his owners, every T-shirt and other item of kitsch further builds the horse’s unique brand. Whether you’re looking for a job or looking to hire great people, you want to create and communicate a memorable identity.

7. Always remember to give back. Just when you think American Pharoah’s story can’t get any more inspiring, it does. Although he was entitled to 10% of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown winnings, jockey Victor Espinoza decided to donate his cut to City of Hope, a charity that funds children’s cancer research. Espinoza’s big-hearted pledge was not only a great thing to do, it further cemented his and American Pharoah’s places in American hearts. Americans appreciate generosity, plus it’s good for your soul!

8. Learn your own strength and ride it to victory. In the end, horses may race because of their competitive spirit, but they win because they don’t know losing is an option. Imagine what you can accomplish if you know your own strengths, and race toward the finish line with all the passion and focus of a Triple Crown winner.