Finding Your Harmonic Gait

How do you find your rhythm as a leader?


Have you ever wondered what it's like to be "completely in your element?" How would this affect your work, your relationships, your family, your purpose?

Lieutenant Commander and former U.S. Navy Seal, Rorke Denver, shares an insightful story from his summer job working on a ranch that explains the concept of achieving your "harmonic gait." Rorke learned the importance of functioning -- of thriving -- where you are completely in your element, moving forward as you know you should.

Finding your rhythm as a leader can be challenging, depending on where you are in your leadership journey. However, Rorke shares the significance of pursuing your dreams and living and working in a space in which know you "fit."

Rorke advises, "I'm telling you, if the job you're in isn't the right job for you, go do something else. Life is too short. And if you're in a job that you think is the right job or the right position or the right leadership status, great; still, if you haven't found your rhythm [in that position], find it. Change something. Make those bold corrections. Find your harmonic gait. This is a gift you give yourself."

Listen as Rorke shares insights on finding your rhythm as a leader. Watch this and other videos on employee engagement on Leadercast!

I told this story to a small, small group and some of you might be here but I haven't shared it with many and it's one of my favorites. It took place when I was in college. In the summers in college I came home to Colorado at the time and I worked on a ranch as a cowboy. I got to play cowboy for about two months and I was faking it. I got to learn the skills but I was basically faking it. But I worked for a legendary cowboy, multigenerational rancher and horseman by the name of Junior.

Junior looked like the Marlboro man, straight out of central casting. Lean, sun-baked skin, deep-cut eyes, just tough as nails. He always had an unfiltered cigarette hanging from his lips. I literally cannot picture this man without a cigarette in his lips. I remember this one day, just to give you an example of the level of toughness we're talking about, he was our farriman [sic] which means the guys that shoe our horses. He's shoeing a horse and I remember he goes to drive one of the nails, I don't know if anybody's ever seen these but these dagger little nails that go into a horse's hoof, which doesn't hurt him because that's like your fingernails. But he somehow manages to drive this nail through one of his fingers. I'm sitting right there. Doesn't flinch, doesn't budge.

I remember he pushes the horse over, he looks at it. No way is he going to take the cigarette out of his mouth so the cigarette goes over to the side. He bites into this nail and pulls it out. It makes an audible pop. Then he flicks the ash off his cigarette. He keeps the nail because that's a good nail, he can still use that again. He puffs on this cigarette four times, gets it burning hot, sticks it into the hole to cauterize the wound and then kind of wipes it off and finishes. This is person type I'm talking about. This is why I spent time around this guy. Okay?

I remember one day we go for a walk. We finish our day and we're walking fence which just means we're going out to check the fence line, and we had this awesome ranch dog that was this black and tan hound, this beautiful hound dog, and this dog is running out in front of us. As it's running, I see a transition from its normal kind of position, its normal kind of movement into something different. I don't know how to describe it but I'll get to it. But I see something different and it gives me pause, and I see out of the peripheral vision that Junior is pausing, looking at it and said, "Oh, here's a teaching opportunity."

So I turn to Junior and I say, "What is going on with this dog? I've never seen it move that way." Now Junior, in the four years that I knew him, never said my name correctly once, never one time. My name's Rorke. Roy, Mark, Roar, never once did he say my name right. But I remember he's got a smile on his face and I said, "What's going on with that dog?" and he says, "Royk, what you are seeing is something that I like to call a harmonic gait." I said, "A harmonic gait?" He said, "A harmonic gait." I said, "Junior, how you would define a harmonic gait?"

He says, "Rolf, a harmonic gait is when an animal achieves a rhythm and a movement for which God intended it." This was a heavy moment when he said this to me, and it occurred to me that this is very special that I had a chance to point this out. This was in 1996 when Junior told me about this, a harmonic gait. In 2006 I'm on the most violent deployment of my SEAL career. Two of my teammates didn't come home, several of them injured very seriously. We were in a gun fight every other day. Every other day we were in a fight. Sometimes multiple days in a row, I don't think we went three days on eight months not in a fight, and in the middle of one of these gun fights, a particularly horrific one, just straight out of a movie, bombs are dropping in, bullets are whipping pass your head, I'm shooting, and my job as the Assault Force Commander, as the leader, is to kind of achieve a level of movement that will win the day, to animate my team's behaviors and make good decisions. I've got to make sure my guys are moving properly. I've got to move properly so I don't get hit. I've got to call back to higher authority. There's jets flying overhead and for a split second, here a decade later, I kind of smiled. I'm sure it was a hundredth of a second. It felt like 30 seconds but it brought me right back to Junior and I realized in this moment I had found my harmonic gait. I had just achieved this rhythm that I think God intended which is a very, very special thing.

I share this because I want you to know that it's worth finding this gait, finding this rhythm as a leader for sure but in your life. I'm telling you, if you're sitting in this audience right now and the job you're in isn't the right job, go do something else. Life is too short. Go do something else. And if you're in a job that you think is the right job or the right position or the right leadership status, great, but if you haven't found that rhythm, find it. Change something. Make those bold corrections. Find your harmonic gait. This is a gift you give yourself.

Rorke Denver

Commander Rorke T. Denver, founder of Ever Onward, has run every phase of training for the U.S. Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. He starred in the ...

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