“Don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Taking risks, stepping out of our comfort zone, leaps of faith – all of these are phrases and actions I am a fan of. Learning experiences from #FailForward moments are some of the most powerful – with zero question in my opinion and from my experiences within not only my career but also life.

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Growing up in rural Ohio, I was exposed to a lot of country music. Not exclusively as oldies, classic rock and the “modern” 80’s pop music was easily accessible in my house growing up in the 1980s. However, being in a farm family and the fact that most of the radios in my family’s tractors only picked up country stations I became a fan from an early age riding with my grandfather or father and later driving and tending the land myself as I got older.

I’ve blogged about George Strait before and how his music has had significant impact on my life and career. While George is a universally known talent, my second favorite country star growing up and even today is the late, great Chris LeDoux.

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I first gained exposure to LeDoux in the early 1990s when Garth Brooks burst onto the national scene. Brooks single-handedly brought the then underground LeDoux to the mainstream. LeDoux was a genuine as they come. A native of Wyoming who tended his ranch when not performing or recording and was a former world champion rodeo star. Aside from his music, which often drew life lessons from his own rodeo, life and learning experiences, I also liked the fact that the man took significant risks – did things his way.

If you’ve ever been to a Garth Brooks show you know it’s quite the spectacle. Lights, sound, in his younger days especially, Brooks would dangle from wires above the crowd always putting on quite the presentation. A showman of showmen.

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Brooks’ admiration of Chris LeDoux came from LeDoux’s stage presence. Despite being middle aged at the height of his career – LeDoux would ride mechanical bulls mid performance, leap from the stage with fire bursting all around and really put on a show. He did what no one else was doing – taking a risk doing things his way, telling his story and putting on his show in his own unique way. One of my greatest regrets is never seeing the man live as he passed away in 2005 after a lengthy cancer battle. Garth Brooks recorded Good Ride Cowboy shortly after LeDoux’s death as a tribute to his fallen friend.

Chris LeDoux inspired so many with his lyrics, upbeat personality and positivity. While I loved his music, and still do, I adored his genuine nature just as much. Even when he was battling illness he was always smiling and even recording when he could. In what would end up being his final album, 2003’s Horsepower, he recorded one of my favorite songs and certainly most inspirational – The Ride. The song is all about taking risks, leaps of faith and leaving your comfort zone through life — all through the lens of a rodeo man like so many of LeDoux’s songs were.  The Ride

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The Ride

Recorded by Chris LeDoux

Written by Lonnie Melvin Jr. Tillis and Sam Weedman

Copyright 2003 Universal Music Publishing Group

I was six years old, my brother was ten
One July day came runnin’ in
Seen a Ferris wheel at the edge of town
So, of course, we headed on down

Well, it took us an hour to walk that far
Carryin’ our fortune in a Mason jar
It was all pretty sad, a cheap county fair
With a few old rides but there was ponies there

Well, the ponies stunk and the air was still
In that dusty circle behind the ferris wheel
This old guy smellin’ of smoke and rum
Swung me up and sat me down on one

Well, I’d never rode a horse but I’d seen it done
Cowboy movies made it look like fun
This old man whispered a few soft words
It was the best advice I’ve ever heard

He said, “Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

I went up a kid with shakin’ hands
But I came down a full grown man
It was like he’d cast some voodoo spell
Things were different for me now, I could tell

‘Cause whenever troubles come wanderin’ in
His rhyme would pop in my head again
And somehow I rode through the needles and nails
Brambles and thorns that life entails

He said, “Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Well, I know some day, farther down the road
I’ll come to the edge of the great unknown
There’ll stand a black horse riderless
And I wonder if I’m ready for this

So I’ll saddle him up and he’ll switch his tail
And I’ll tip my hat and bid farewell
And lift my song into the air
That I learned at that dusty fair

Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride
Now, don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride

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In the spirit of enjoying your ride, my #OneWord2017 is “unwritten” and one of my professional goals this year was to jump into educational leadership podcasting. An opportunity presented itself recently and I was able to jump head first into it when Marlena Gross-Taylor (@mgrosstaylor) asked me to be her guest last week on the #EduGladiators podcast on YouTube live. I jumped at the chance – a little nervous but I knew I needed to tell a story, share and took that leap of faith.

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Was the event flawless? No. Were there things I wish I did or said? Yes. Learning experiences gained? Absolutely. Will I do it again? (If Marlena asks of course) Without question.  #EduGladiators Podcast episode 5 – Connected Ed

What do I get from all these personal experiences and those drawn from others? Always make the most of every situation and live life to the fullest. One life to live, make the most of it. Take that leap of faith and don’t look back. Never wonder – “what if…” How do we as educational leaders expect our fellow educators and students we all serve to take risks if we don’t lead by example first? Your ride, your opportunity. Make the most of it or not – the choice is yours.

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6 thoughts on ““Don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Thank you for reading and your kind words, Kara! Yes, I have always been fond of LeDoux’s lyrics and music. Love how he always did his own thing and was so positive. So many connections in that song to what we do as effective edu leaders though, right? 🙂 KOKO -Brendan

      Liked by 1 person

  1. juliettekuhn says:

    Brendan, I love how much emotion you put into your blog posts. It is evident that music speaks to you and I love how you correlate that passion into your reflections and thoughts that drive you to work so hard. Thanks for always teaching me new things. One thing, I really want to hear that tribute to LeDoux but the link says the video is no longer available. If you have it available another way, I’d love to hear it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Thank you so much, Juliette for reading and your kind words! I truly appreciate your insight and feedback! I believe I have that song on CD somewhere from a Brooks greatest hits disc — I’d be happy to share. I tend to find a lot of inspiration through music (all genres) I am such a fan of taking risks. I never was but once I took that leap of faith 10-11 years ago to relocate and leave everything I knew behind — life changing in so many ways. My belief in #FailForward and risks has grown increasingly ever sense and continues to build steam. 🙂 Excited for your next post, my friend! KOKO -Brendan

      Like

  2. Bill Ferriter says:

    Hey Pal,

    So what resonates most with me in this post is the notion that we should all be willing to take risks and put on our own show no matter what. Going against the norm — something that it sounds like LeDoux was willing to do in the format of his concerts and shows — is a part of who I am and what I believe in. Someone has to blaze trails, right?

    But here’s the question that is rumbling through my mind as this applies to education: Do you think that schools encourage risk taking?

    My answer is, “Hell, no!” Here’s why: As much as we say that we value risk taking, we continue to rely on traditional metrics (read: standardized tests) to judge anything and everything in schools. And if we are being completely honest, preparing students to do well on end of grade exams depends on nothing more than traditional teaching.

    #norisksneeded

    Worse yet, we “hold teachers accountable” for results on those tests and we jack the stakes for poor results up to eleven. All of those stakes and pressures discourage risk taking times ten.

    So my challenge to all y’all working beyond the classroom is to find (and write about) genuine ways to encourage a culture of risk taking in schools. Because from the perspective of this classroom teacher, we are talking out of both sides of our mouth right now. We say things like “we need to reimagine education” while simultaneously “holding teachers accountable” for results that are anything but reimagined.

    Does any of this make sense?
    Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Thank you for reading, Bill! As always, I truly appreciate your detailed, honest and reflective feedback! I’m totally with you about the risks. While unfortunately some aspects of risks we’re hand-tied against (notably standardized tests) in terms of how much flexibility we as educators collectively have, the level of risk taking starts at the top.
      I was very fortunate to work with Chas Miller several years (@ChasTweets) when he was still in our district and seeing his daily model of the power of #FailForward and taking risks encouraged so many stakeholders to do so — myself included as a 4th grade teacher on his staff.
      When the “top dog” at the school values taking risks and being creative for the specific purpose of learning (not just some “cute” Pinterest lesson with no ties to CCSS, 4Cs, targeted learning, etc.) it’s truly a trickle down effect on the staff once the buy-in is there. The trick is how to effectively get effective buy-in. It can happen but not overnight — persistence is the key.
      My goal as an educational leader is to model similar types of “behavior” as best of my ability no matter my capacity in the school level. Make sense? I look forward to continuing this conversation face to face soon, pal! I truly appreciate your contributions to our district and above all, profession! #YouMatter KOKO -Brendan

      Like

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