The difference is heart.

Today is the Kentucky Derby. I started a tradition of betting on the 3 major horse races each year and putting any winnings into my daughter’s college fund. I’ve done better than skipping the bet and putting it straight in her account and it’s a small bit of fun. Last year a horse I picked to win came in second, while later the winning horse was disqualified for doping. Unfortunately, due to the betting payout rules, I was out $3700 in winnings on my $100 bet because the winner the day of the race is who is paid out even though I picked the horse that went on to be awarded the title.

My wife asks me how I’ve done so well. The fact is it could be blind luck, that’s why I don’t delude myself to thinking I can gamble my way to wealth and stay at the tracks all day. However, one model of a horse race I have is that horses are animals, and have personalities like people, and most people only put in about a 60% effort. This is an evolutionary defense mechanism for running out of energy/starving to death before finding food. In times of great peril or distress, we can tap into that 40% or so reserve. Thinking about this, I’ve never seen a horse race where a healthy horse had only finished half the race while the others were at the finish line. That means their speeds are on roughly equal grounds, like people the difference in similarly trained/skill people is who wants it the most. Which horse seems like he wouldn’t want another horse in front of him?

While I’m not a mind reader, I base my bet on which one seems to have that look in their eye, how they hold their head, and the impression of their stance. I guess like everyone else based on those things which one has the most heart because at the end of the day, that is the only thing that will separate all of these magnificent creatures in the race.

P.S. The takeaway from this post isn’t about horse racing at all. It’s about doing your best. Are you actually putting in your best? Or are you pacing with the rest of the field just because it feels comfortable there?