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The Cowboy Way to Success

Bestselling author and adventurer Filipe Masetti Leite, the youngest person in the world to cross the Americas on horseback, shares the most significant steps he took on his Long Ride to success.

It’s no secret that in life, business or adventure, success only comes to those who work hard. Very hard!

I learned this critical lesson the long way — during my arduous 16,000 miles ride from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. It was my cowboy work ethic — built on taking care of animals from an early age with no weekends, holidays, or days off — that allowed me to see this decade-long project to the end.

It also took focus, determination, courage, positive thinking, grit and resilience. However, the key to my success came from five main steps I mastered early in my career.

The first major step I took was writing it down.

Before I ever had a single horseshoe to undertake this “impossible” journey, I posted on Facebook, “I’m preparing to cross the Americas on horseback.”

The comments came in immediately. “Filipe, are you crazy?” “It’s impossible.” “Hahaha Yeah and Unicorns really do exist… Ride a Unicorn.”

At that moment — 22-years-old, in my last year of journalism school and broke — I didn’t realize how important a step I had just taken. But today, I realize that that was the first step. Writing it down makes it real.

Back then, all I knew was that my life’s dream, my purpose, had become a project. Something tangible that put me to work. 

My first assignment was my second major step: Strategic Planning.

I didn’t have the money, the equipment, or the know-how needed to start my journey at that point, but I had two things going for me. I was a master planner and loved researching. I taped white Bristol board all over the walls of my bedroom, in a stuffy apartment in downtown Toronto, and began making lists.

It was during that period working countless hours in my “war room,” that I discovered the difference between failure and success is called strategic planning. Thanks to my lists, meetings, research, and due dates, I acquired everything I needed to set off and survive the trek. From the money, to the horses, to the equipment, to the knowledge of horseback travel.

After two years of planning I took the third major step: I learned to identify and work with my team.

I met my horses Frenchie and Bruiser seven days before departing for the largest rodeo in Canada, the Calgary Stampede. They were donated by two ranches in Montana. Frenchie, a big, stout palomino quarter horse, hadn’t been ridden in years. That first morning I went to work with the horses, Frenchie bucked like a rodeo bronc. He threw me off the saddle and nearly killed me. I broke my finger, ripped my Wrangler’s, and bruised my ego pretty seriously.

I got up from the arena floor, picked up my cowboy hat, dusted the dirt off, and jumped back into the saddle. Because that’s the cowboy way.

As hard a moment as that was, failing before even starting the journey, it taught me that if I didn’t have the ability to work as a team with Frenchie and Bruiser, we would not make it a single mile out of Calgary. 

Through trust exercises, repetition, patience, and lots of love, Frenchie learned that I wasn’t trying to harm him. We learned to speak the same language, listen to one another, and work towards a common goal.

On July 8, 2012, Frenchie, Bruiser and I, escorted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, finally started our journey south.

Another part of my team were the locals that took me into their homes in the 12 nations I crossed. I only rode 20 miles a day for the horses’ wellbeing, so every afternoon I was forced to knock on a stranger’s door and ask for help. I needed water and feed for the horses and a safe place for us to rest. And every night, out of the more than 2,190 days I spent on the road, I was never denied help.

This experience gave me a new-found trust in humanity. But it also tested me mentally like few humans will ever be tested. That’s why the fourth step is developing mental fortitude.

Our minds can be our best friend or our most dangerous enemy. The difference is in how you control your thoughts and emotions. On a long ride, feelings are always intense and obstacles are magnified. Therefore, you have to focus on the task at hand, trust your planning, your instincts, and your teammates (in my case two quarter horses).

What helped me with this process was taking ownership over my destiny, believing in myself, and removing self doubt through affirmations. Most importantly the fifth and final step, honing in on my purpose and using that passion to push me through adversity.

This journey was my life’s purpose. So no matter how difficult the road got, whether we were being stalked by grizzlies, escorted by drug lords, or lost and frozen in the Yukon, the love and passion I held deep in my being, never allowed me to quit. It is the fire that kept burning 24/7, no matter where I was or what was happening, until I reached the finish line, eight years later.

Bestselling author and adventurer Filipe Masetti Leite, the youngest person in the world to cross the Americas on horseback, shares the most significant steps he took on his Long Ride to success.

What I learned from my long ride is that life is not easy for anybody. Everyone has problems. Limitations. Fears. But when you focus on saddling your horse and riding 20 miles a day, you can cross continents.

It’s not one big step, it’s a million small hoof prints. And it starts with five key steps. 

So write it down, make a plan, find your team, develop your mental fortitude, and use your purpose to keep you trekking through the tough moments. And don’t be afraid to fail, failure is how we learn our most profound lessons.

Now get on your horse and ride off into the unknown because life is too beautiful to stand still.

Your success awaits!

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