Are you flogging a dead horse?

May 6, 2009

The sight of the tulips brightening up my garden is a reminder to me that spring is here and it’s time for a spring clean of my priorities. I bet you are the same. You start each year with good intentions. You promise yourself that you will only focus on the things that make you happy/earn you money/meet your values. And then, as life gets busier, you end up agreeing to do things you maybe shouldn’t and suddenly find yourself with a To Do list bigger than my ironing mountain – and that’s saying something.

There is no time like the present for taking a closer look at all those things you have to do and asking yourself whether they all continue to serve you well. Do they still fulfil your needs? A chance meeting last week put me firmly back in the saddle.

Last week, I went to the London Book Fair and left behind my gargantuan To Do list, vowing I’d sort it out on my return. And then I met Alison Clark. Alison Clark is a fellow author at Lean Marketing Press. She has written a book called Stop Flogging a Dead Horse. I was immediately grabbed by the title and within minutes Alison and I had swapped a copy of my Find Your Passion book for a copy of hers. I read it from cover to cover on the flight home and am now clear about what must stay and what must go.

It’s simple really. If you keep on doing the same old thing over and over and continue to get the same, mediocre, results, then you may be flogging a dead horse. It is time dismount, let that idea or business stream or associateship go out to pasture, remove its tack and walk away.

Alison’s book is full of tips on how to identify when you are wasting your time on certain projects and how to extricate yourself from bad relationships and move on without making any enemies.

So, you are agreed that you may need to identify your dead horses and move on, right? But how do you know when a horse is a good bet? That an idea has the potential to gallop ahead towards wealth, happiness and success?

While on the subject of horses, I may have the answer. If you have ever ridden a horse you will know that the horse knows when its rider is scared, it knows that if you lose your focus it can get the better of you. It’s the same with a business idea. It is only when you relax in the saddle and allow your instinct to take over that you can move as one with your horse. When it feels right you just know. The wind gets into hair and you find yourself sitting up straight and you know you can conquer the world. When you allow yourself to respond naturally to whatever comes your way, the universe has a habit of giving you clues that show you when you have got it right.

You know how it is. Since I changed my website and became simply the number of enquiries I receive every day has increased. Since I decided to offer a six hour mentoring service rather than a straightforward hourly rate my new client conversion rate has soared. Since I decided to offer to publish their books interest has doubled. You see, I’ve stopped fighting for business in areas that I know should be lucrative but frankly aren’t and instead I’ve decided to go with the flow and watch what comes my way. Because, when you take the time to go for a slow amble in the fresh air, just you and your horse, you make a space in your head, you become more alert, you notice what’s happening and suddenly your focus returns. You just know what’s right.

This May, I challenge you to bring on the empty horses, take a long hard look at your stable of business ideas and products and decide who gets put out to grass and who is going to join you for the ride of your life.




8 Responses to “Are you flogging a dead horse?”

  1. Jo, I can’t believe it. I’m in the middle of writing my blog for the first time in ages. I was about to reference yours and clicked through to have a look! We’re blogging about each other on the same day!
    I love the paragraphs where you develop the metaphor!
    Thank you!

  2. Nadine Hill Says:

    Great post Jo.
    I totally agree that ‘going with the flow’ allows more opportunities to come to you almost effortlessly, rather than fighting for space in a marketplace that isn’t your true calling.
    I have a business and I also write the blog as time management is a passion of mine. Last week a journalist called me to get some time management tips for an article she was writing for Fabulous Magazine (News of the World magazine) and the tips should be in this week! That is great publicity in a national newspaper for my blog and it was an opportunity that came to me – without me having to go out and look!

  3. Eva Says:

    The Huns in my ancestry came and shocked Europe into submission riding like dervishes through the Eurasian steppe. They came and conquered ONLY because they mastered the art of becoming one with their horses. A Sagittarius myself, traditionally depicted as half horse and half human, I recognize damn well the state of having the wind in your hair and going with the flow: it simply means I have stopped flogging the dead horse. Whenever I am one with my horse we fly; whenever my ego is greater than the wisdom to admit that I’m shlepping a stinky, decaying corpse though the endless steppe in front of me, we fail. It is bitter to fail your own standards – in the name of ‘I had to do it…’, ‘I had no choice’. A citizen always has a choice – and if it is the choice to look yourself into the eyes and scrutinize your motivation with the unforgiving severity of a stockbroker.

    Yet another nail hit on the head, Jo. Thank you for reminding me to switch horses.

  4. Suzy Ogé Says:

    Hi Jo,

    Great tip! We all need to be more willing to let go of things that aren’t working for us or to try a different approach. The Dip by Seth Godin is also a good quick read to help you decide if you’re in a dip or a dead end.

    Hope to see you soon, Suzy

  5. Fantastic blog Jo. Whilst I think this is something I do regularly, the honest truth is that occasionally I “think about” doing it more often than I actually DO it.
    You have inspired me again this month to keep reviewing my goals – to make sure I stay on target towards achieving them!

  6. Amanda Says:

    A good reminder to us all Jo. Effort concentrated in the right places brings results. We all get so bogged down doing things we feel we ‘must’ do, that we sometimes forget to let ourselves go with the flow and concentrate on the things we actually enjoy doing.

    I have been following a Life Design course facilitated by Karen Armstrong from and have spent some time on a vision board which serves as a daily reminder of the things I really want in life! A motivational exercise, which takes the energy out of the “dead horse flogging” and puts it back into the things that matter. 🙂

  7. Cecilia Says:

    Thanks a gazillion for a very inspiring and true read!
    Even though it was more like my dead horse got rid of me when I was fired a few months ago your “May Inspirier” confirmed what’s been “happening” to me lately;
    Out of what I thought was laziness I have not really put any energy into looking for more work with the yoga lessons the past 10 days and by itself I got three more assignments – for the VU hospital in Amsterdam (research project), for a new gym that opens in Haarlem late September where I’ll give all their yoga and nutritional advice as well as one steady customer for private lessons every week. But after reading your newsletter I realized it was not out of laziness but out of “going with the flow”!


  8. […] today and noticed an interesting article about time management, so I thought I’d link to it here. Have a read – it’s great to learn about new resources and ways of thinking on the […]

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