Don’t lose your cow!

There’s an old Texas saying that goes:  “It doesn’t matter how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow.”  In other words, what we see as “failure” may not really have diminished our ability to contribute, produce or earn an income.

If you lost your job, is your cow gone?  If your business bombs, is your cow gone or have you just lost a valuable but replaceable carton of milk?  If you have an accident and can no longer hammer nails, is your cow really gone?

Ten years after starting Apple, Steve Jobs was fired by his own board.  Yes, he felt betrayed, but then began to see this setback as a personal blessing.  “The heaviness of being successful,” Jobs says of his firing, “was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.  It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life.” 

His “cow” was his ability to be creative, to think, innovate and plan.  He started another business that was then purchased by his own former company.  Twelve years after being fired from Apple he was asked to return to the position of CEO and has been in that role since 1997.  In 2007 Fortune Magazine listed Jobs as the Most Powerful Businessman of the year. 

 In the last couple of weeks I have been speaking to large groups of employees who are losing their jobs.  There is a fair amount of despair in the conversations about “losing everything.”  But are they losing their cows or just a pail or two of milk?  You may be in the same position.  Could it be that you are entering the most creative period in your life rather than losing everything?  Could it be that you are getting ready to enter a new level of success that may surpass anything you’ve experienced?  Is it even possible that your previous success was blocking the new season in your life that is about to be released? 

General Douglas MacArthur once said, “Security is your ability to produce.”  Security does not come from a job, from a company or from the government.  It comes in your ability to be productive – and that is seldom taken away.

Don’t lose your cow!  Your cow is unique.  It should even be remarkable.  And if you have been freed to be more creative expect chocolate milk with swirls of whipped cream on top rather than the plain old vanilla as you prepare for the future you want.

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21 Responses to “Don’t lose your cow!”

  1. TLC Touch Says:

    Well now! That’s a refreshing perspective Dan! Thanks!

    “If you want milk, don’t park yourself on a bench and expect the cow to back up to you.”

    That’s a quote that was shared on Sunday at church. The message was about “Why a church or a parish is in the community. If the church isn’t making a difference, than why be where it is? Why be at all?”

  2. Donna Anderson Says:

    Thanks, Dan, reading your newsletter is like having a breath of cool, clean, fresh air blow my way. Media all around me pulls down with negativity, but you extend a helping hand up!

  3. Jim Says:

    Very timely article, for most of us! I’ve been living my “grace of interruption” going into the third week now. I’m also working through the 48-day program. I feel so thankful that I have this grace in my life as I could not imagine getting as much out of the program if I were still in my old “job”. It truely is like being RELEASED from my past, and positioned for the next great season in my life.

  4. Larry Says:

    Great article and wisdom Dan. It’s times like these that often force us to drill down to discover our hidden giftedness and abilities. Thats the reason all your readers should discover their natural giftedness through the testing you offer. If Gallap’s book, Strength Finder is correct, the majority of people through out the world are in jobs that are not in their area of “their strengths”. Operating out of you area of giftedness and strengths has the greatest potential to produce job fulfillment.

    I think God in His infinite wisdom and mercy sometimes allows us to lose a job or fail in a task in order to move us toward finding our strengths and our natural giftedness.

  5. Diana Pelham Says:

    Dan, your article made me miss my Dad. He would have loved what you wrote. No matter how hard times got on our farm in Woden, Iowa, he always shared. Any kitty that came up to him while he was milking, got a little squirt of milk lovingly aimed at his tiny mouth.

    He never lost his cow.

    What a sweet memory you gave me today, Dan. Thanks.

  6. Alyssa Says:

    Thanks so much! This is exactly what I needed to hear today! Thanks for the reminder that this phase is temporary and probably a “blessing in disguise”. Thank you so much!

  7. Tissa Says:

    Thanks for this article! I have always enjoyed cows and Jersey cows are my favorite. Seeing them in a field of green is one of the most peaceful and comforting images in my imagination. So, I felt as though the article was meant for me and the message was definitely what I needed the read! I am still a productive and viable person! Thanks for helping me raise my expections!

  8. Francisco Says:

    Great! This helps a lot to see things from a very different point of view. Personally I think it is all true. The cow is what you have inside, knowledge, experience, attitudes, etc. and that can’t be taken away from you, no matter what.

    Thanks a lot!

  9. Andy Traub Says:

    Dan, I love the confidence I find from living this out. I’ve had 4 jobs in the last two years and it’s been a great journey as I’ve seen my skills transferable to so many different businesses.

    Thanks for affirming that there is no job that will sustain me. My skills will sustain me! You’re a blessing – Andy

  10. Karin Says:

    Last week, I felt I lost my Cow. But actually I just lost the ability to see my Cow and separate it from the milk. I know that everyday is a new day and God’s grace is there to get us through.

    Your newsletter is God’s grace. Thank you for seeing us all through another day!

  11. Aaron Warren Says:

    This definitely gives a positive outlook on a negative situation. I have been laid off now for well over a year,and I think I’ve already reached my breaking point! This lets me know that God has placed a little piece of creativity in all of us. We just have to constantly seek his face to bring it out! Thanks Dan.

  12. Wendi Gordon Says:

    Thanks for another great reminder that what really matters is not what we do but who we are, and there are many ways we can use our God-given talents to both earn a living and make the world a better place.

    I was laid off in May, and that reality, along with your 48 Days course and other resources to which I have been led, inspired me to think and pray about how to best use my gifts. I have now started my own business, Be True to Yourself, to help other pastors rediscover the person behind the collar, cope with the unique stresses of parish ministry, and more fully become the people God created them to be. Because I am just starting out, I am still struggling financially, but emotionally and spiritually I am in a much better place. Even in the midst of wondering how I will pay the bills, I can still say that being laid off was a blessing.

  13. Jeannie Asher (England) Says:

    Hello Dan. I must say that I discovered your website a few weeks back as I was about to venture north to take care of my 2 God children/nieces, 15months and almost 4yrs! Today I am home and able to read an email from your organisation. The article re ‘don’t lose your cow’, was great – especially the latter part re chocolate swirls in the milk! When we get intimate with God and fully trust Him in all circumstances, He shows us the treasures/plans He has for us, in abundance, on levels that we are unable to imagine! When we journey with God, our journey becomes real, we become fully alive in Him and experience a joy like never before! I have spent 21yrs running a sporting organisation/basketball. This year I handed it over and it hurt – we also lost our wonderful Mum in-law – my heart has been broken, however, God had already started to prepare me for what is next! I look forward with great anticipation to do a good work for Him! I pray for all that they become filled with the Holy Spirit!

  14. LB Says:

    Thanks!!! This really blessed me!

  15. Have you Lost your cow? « N2ition0709's Blog Says:

    […] […]

  16. Alan Hildebrand Says:

    Interesting article, we have lost our cow, cows actually, 51 to be exact and their calves also. We were staring out farming/ranching on our own and due to a dishonest cattle trader we had them essentially rustled. Pretty harsh blow to say the least. We continue to struggle but what you say is true our ability to think create, and in my case the knowledge of livestock (care,management nutrition etc.) cannot be taken away. When forced to be creative by adversity we come up with possiblities that would never be dreamed of in normal times.

  17. Dan Miller Says:

    Oh my gosh – I didn’t expect anyone to have literally lost a cow. I remember as a kid a neighbor who lost 11 cows in a lightning strike. It nearly cost him his farm. How sad that you were swindled in this deal. But it sounds like you get the message nonetheless – your “cow” essence is that you are still thinking, creative and optimistic about the future. I commend you on that. The swindler will get his due.

  18. Timothy Fowler Says:

    In the classic film Quo Vadis, a Roman commander complains about the teachings of Peter and Paul. “Believe as they do and you’ll think a cow is a bull, and a bull is an ox and an ox is a goat.” He couldn’t comprehend the Christian world view. It takes a changing of our traditional view toward job loss to think that we haven’t lost our cow when we have lost our job. I am on the edge of losing mine, but in the process I have started to write seriously for publication since I was a journalism major over 30 years ago. So I am looking for the chocolate milk, thanks a lot to looking at Dan’s teaching the last couple of years.

    (For a complete look at how the Roman commander clashed with the Christian view, see my blog post:

  19. Sheiran Pudifin Says:

    Being Native Texan, I love the reference, but your article was especially meaningful to me as I had just finished the first draft of my Mission Statement which expresses pretty much the same thought. In spite of many failures and lost opportunities, I have found a new dream and a new hope in becoming a member of 48Days. You keep me inspired.

  20. adam Says:

    Thanks Dan….How Encouraging! News Media can really get sloppy during this time and instead of giving us Balanced news (which includes good , encouraging stories as well) give us desperate behavior and gossip, and rumors that just do not help anything but get un-protected folks even more fearful. The Inside Out Theory…We are trained to think and believe certain things. If we are trained that The Lord came before us as The Cow came before the milk we are safe. The God Given talent was given before we were. A reason to know that we are safe. The One who Gave did not just Give for no reason He Gave that we may know..Do not turn away from the Giver…see your God Given Talent because You do have One and see that there is a reason for you to live. LIVE your life..and Thank Him

  21. dawnblair Says:

    Thanks, Dan. I love this thought. I once had a friend tell me to get all the education I could in my current job because it was something they couldn’t take away from me if I was fired or quit. I would forever have that knowledge.

    As an artist and being self-taught, I sometimes face fear of failure. But really, even if I did fail, it would just be a couple pails of milk. I still have all the skills I learned and I can always improve. No one can take that away from me, ever.

    Thanks for giving my thoughts a new perspective.

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