April 22, 2024

LIFE LESSONS FROM FERDINAND THE BULL

A GENTLE ROAR FOR AUTHENTICITY IN A WORLD OF SYNTHETIC NOISE

By Carmen Greger

In a time when tales were rife with bravery, challenges, and valiant knights, who would’ve thought a story about a little bull that simply wanted to sit and smell the flowers would capture the world’s heart? “This is the story of Ferdinand – a little bull who would rather sit and smell the flowers than fight in the bullring.” This seemingly simple line, inscribed on the back of Munro Leaf’s classic, “The Story of Ferdinand,” echoes a sentiment that is far deeper and more profound than it may initially appear.

Life isn’t always about the mightiest roar, the most dominant stance, or the fiercest fight. Sometimes, it’s about the gentle, steadfast nature of a bull who listened to his soul whispers and with vulnerability and courage, followed his own true north. Empowered by his deep knowing, he gracefully chose and committed to his own path. Ferdinand’s tale is a reminder that, despite society’s incessant demands and expectations, there is a place for those who choose to be true to themselves.

The Dance of Authenticity

Being unique is a gift, not a curse. Yet, society often parades conformity as the trophy and individuality as the consolation prize. Ferdinand shatters this illusion. By choosing to embrace and celebrate his love for flowers over the conventional path of a bull, he sends a message: our authenticity is our greatest strength.

In a world that sometimes feels like an endless bullring, where we’re constantly pushed to prove our worth, Ferdinand’s story offers solace. It teaches us that even if the world demands fierceness, it’s okay to be gentle. If the world insists on competition, it’s fine to sit out and enjoy the scenery. What an inspiration we all need act upon; It is fierce to be gentle- it is powerful to be kind.

True North: The Path Less Traveled

Dr. Lissa Rankin often speaks of an ‘inner compass’ – a direction that, deep down, each of us knows we’re meant to follow. This compass leads us to our True North. For many, it’s a journey of trials and tribulations, but for Ferdinand, it was a delightful spot beneath his favorite cork tree.

By following his ‘inner compass’, Ferdinand showcased courage, vulnerability, grace, and confidence. The kind of courage that doesn’t roar, but whispers. The type of vulnerability that doesn’t weaken, but strengthens. He displayed grace in his conviction and confidence in his choices. The sort of confidence that’s not loud or brash, but calm and focused.

A Silent Revolution

It’s easy to shout, but it takes strength to be silent. Ferdinand’s refusal to fight was his silent protest. It was not a sign of weakness, but a symbol of resilience. He stood his ground, not with aggression, but with gentleness and self-respect. No jeers, taunts, or pressures could sway him from his truth.

In our modern society, Ferdinand’s lesson is more relevant than ever. With social media painting pictures of ‘perfect’ lives and career pressures molding us into shapes we don’t recognize, finding our ‘Ferdinand moment’ is crucial. It’s that moment of clarity when we realize that the world’s expectations don’t define us; our authenticity does.

Wearing Vulnerability as a Badge

When did vulnerability become a sign of weakness? Why is it that being true to ourselves often feels like the most challenging battle? Ferdinand shows us that vulnerability is not about being weak; it’s about being real. It’s about showing up, scars and all, and saying, “This is me.”

(Insert mental visual of fist pumping moment between Brene’ & Ferdinand). 

To be like Ferdinand is to honor oneself with compassion, kindness, and integrity. It’s to know that our worth isn’t determined by the fights we win, but by the flowers we stop to smell along the way.

The Bullring of Today’s Society

We might not be literally pushed into bullrings, but how often do we find ourselves fighting battles we never chose? Battles of fitting in, of meeting others’ expectations, of chasing ideals that aren’t ours?

What would happen if, like Ferdinand, we decided not to fight? If instead of seeking external validation, we found peace in our own choices? Perhaps, like Ferdinand, we’d find ourselves under our own cork tree, basking in the sun of self-acceptance and smelling the flowers of contentment.

The Gentle Roar of a Flower-Smelling Bull

The Story of Ferdinand isn’t just a tale for children. It’s a lesson for all of us. A lesson that whispers: it’s okay to be different, to go against the grain, to find joy in the simple things, and to be unapologetically oneself.

Here’s to Ferdinand, the bull who taught us that sometimes the loudest statement is made in silence. In his calm demeanor and unwavering authenticity, he showed the world that there’s nothing more powerful than being true to oneself. And in that truth, we find our own cork tree, our own patch of sunshine, and our own field of flowers. And in that strength, we are the ripple effect, giving others the courage, vulnerability and grace to do the same. This return to a more pure self, individually and collectively, is the healing we all need, crave and deserve. Perhaps today is the perfect day to consciously course correct to be more true to you.

This book was given to me by my dear friend Alice. Reading it inspired the article.

Thank you, I’ll be sure to pay it forward.