The Tale of a Backwards Baseball Cap: Is a Distraction Ever a Good Thing?

Webster’s defines a distraction as a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. Is that ever a good thing? Or is a distraction always a negative?

I tell my clients to be observant but not obsessed about something effective or ineffective. What I mean is that I don’t want them to give full attention to their eye contact or voice up at end of sentence. To paraphrase the HR saying, what we pay attention to – grows. You don’t want to grow the negative by means of laser focus.

At a horse show, the busiest time in the show ring is around midnight. Once the show is over, around 10pm, exhibitors go back to their stalls, tack up their horses, and bring them to the show ring to work out. You are trying to re-create a situation as real as possible. When your horse is in the show ring for the class that counts, the horse will be more familiar with all the accoutrements of a horse show. In the actual physical situation, the horse will see and hear the sights and noises of competition.

One time I had brought Electric Impulse, the horse, to the ring for one of these midnight rides. Most female competitors always have their hair in some kind of slicked back bun. Our hat: derby, western or top hat, can quickly be put on when changing to our show clothes. We were usually wearing 24/7 a baseball cap to keep our hair as slicked back as possible.

This particular night I was struggling with his performance level. A friend and competitor yelled out to me, “Turn your baseball cap around”. I turned it backwards and keep working my horse. Other competitors started yelling to me as I trotted or cantered by, “Your hat is backwards” or “Is your head on straight?”

Like magic Impi’s performance improved. The comments about my hat had become a distraction to my obsessed, full attention on his neck and head placement. By responding to the “peanut gallery” I let my horse do what he was trained to do and I focused on answering people as I went by them.

The magic is to know when full attention is its own distraction and when it helps move us forward.

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