Lessons from the 2019 Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby had more drama than my hat!

For the first time EVER in the 145 years of the Kentucky Derby history, the winner of the big race was disqualified! It was insane! So I thought I would take this crazy event and give you 5 Communication Lessons you can take away from the race and apply in your life TODAY! Ready? Let's check it out! 

First off what the heck happened?

So if you didn't watch the Kentucky Derby because, well, you don't really care about it, you might have missed the fact that the fastest horse, and the first horse across the finish line, Maximum Security, didn't actually WIN the derby this year. Essentially, Maximum Security "broke the rules" and lost the race of a lifetime because of an objection. 

The objection was filed by two of the other jockeys in the race. They claimed Maximum Security interfered with the progress of other horses. Three stewards immediately reviewed replays to determine whether Maximum Security had veered into the path of War of Will and other horses. After 25 minutes they decided to disqualify the horse.

Read More About the Derby Scandal Here If You're Curious


1) When lanes aren't clear things get crazy

Ever heard someone say "stay in your lane?" During the race the track had gotten so sloppy it was almost impossible to see if the horse was where it was supposed to be. When it's not clear to your co-workers who will be the decision-makers in projects, tasks, meetings, etc then it gets harder for people to stay in their own lane and not try to weigh in on topics that maybe they should stay out of. Good leaders know to not speak up on things they don't have all the information about until they've done ALL their research.

2) Everyone needs clarity about the rules

I'm not going to pretend that after watching the video 7 times I understand why Maximum Security was disqualified because I don't know the rules of horse-racing.  I tell you who did know! The other jockeys in the race. When they saw that a rule was broken they were quick to speak up about it and it changed the result of the race. As a leader when you're having meetings, make sure you set some ground rules about how those present are going to interact (especially if its a hard topic). Don't allow others to be rude or dismissive to one another. Encourage people to not interrupt. Make sure you move along those who monopolize time. Set the rules of engagement early and stick to them and encourage others to call YOU out if they see you breaking them. You're the best example your team has.

3) Be careful who you bet on

Maximum Security was the favorite to win. However, the actual winner, Country House, was a 65-1 long shot! (This means that a $2 bet turned into a $132.40 payout) People who took a chance got a much bigger payoff. I say this to point out that sometimes the person who "looks" like they have it together and is the "best choice on paper" might not actually be the winner for your team that you think they might be! Make sure that you interview for soft-skills and not just pedigree. 

4) Sometimes 2 minutes can change your life forever

I don't know if Luis Saez let Maximum Security interfere with the other horses or if the horse just did it, but I do know that within 2 minutes (the entire length of the Biggest Derby Race) Saez's life changed forever. Although reputable jockey, people will now always question his intentions and purpose. The same goes for communication. A flash of anger, a sexually suggestive look, a passive-aggressive comment, can be all that's needed to take down a career. The BEST Communicators are very intentional about their messages and they make sure they think before they speak or act. 

5) You win some, you lose some

Sometimes the "best horse" doesn't win and sometimes, in conversations YOU won't win. What you, as someone who is striving to be a better communicator, CAN do is decide whether you want to continue the conversation or take a moment, stop and assess if the conversation is worth continuing at all. My father has often said to me "Kristin, you can't out-argue stupid". And that's true! Sometimes people simply won't be able to see your perspective or point in the heat of the moment. Don't be afraid to take some time to decide if you should stop and give everyone some time to process.