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A Birthday Gift, and Two Horses’ Asses

It’s a special day, and this is going to be a special post.

I’ll share a story with you, and I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll make you smile.

Then I’ll let you in on *why* I’m telling you this story – because as much fun as it is, there’s an important insight that I want to share, and there’s a really good reason why I’m sharing it with you *today*.

After that, I’ve got a question for you to ponder. I hope you’ll give it some serious thought, because your business may depend on it!

Is that enough build-up and anticipation? πŸ˜‰

Okay, let’s start with the story…

The Story: The U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge, and Two Horses’ Asses

I first encountered this story about a month ago, in an email forward from my uncle. I don’t know who wrote it, or whether it’s true – read it for yourself, and reach your own conclusions:

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?

Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

But why did the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot call for that spacing?

Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.

Two horses’ asses.

Now, here comes the best part. πŸ˜‰

When you see a space shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

Which means that… a major space shuttle design feature – of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system – was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

Now, I don’t know if any of it is true, but either way, the moral of the story is pretty important.

The moral of the story is this: Even if decisions made sense when they were made, things change, and those decisions can often live waaaaay past the point when they made any sense at all.

So why am I telling you this story TODAY?

It’s my Birthday, and I’m a Horse’s Ass

Yep, that’s right – it’s my birthday! πŸ˜€

I was born on July 12, 1983, which means that tomorrow I’ll turn 29 years old.

Birthdays are really good for taking stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going – and I’ve got a lot to take stock of! Here are just a few of the things that happened since my last birthday:

So why am I a horse’s ass?

Because of all the milestones that I just described, and a whole lot more.

Mirasee has grown by an order of magnitude since my last birthday, and the business has become a whole lot more complex. It isn’t just a matter of size, either – the *nature* of my business is very different from what it was just one year ago.

In short, a lot of things have changed.

Which is why – between some time off, a BBQ with my nearest and dearest, and a tiny slice of birthday cake (I’m really not much of a dessert person) – I’ll take some time to re-examine my assumptions.

How much of what I’m doing made sense a year ago, but no longer makes sense today?

I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but I’m going to find out, and change whatever needs to be changed.

And I want to encourage you to do the same.

So ask yourself…

What part of your plans was specified by a horse’s ass? πŸ˜‰

Things change for all of us.

Your goals and plans were made and set with the best understanding and judgment that you had at the time – but things change, and we all learn and grow.

So take a moment to ask yourself this question:

Does your plan still make sense? Is there anything you might want to rethink or change?

Maybe a small course correction is in order. Or maybe a big one.

Maybe a big opportunity is right in front of you, and you just haven’t taken the time to notice it.

Well, now’s the time to start noticing. Onward and upwards!

Thank you for making it an amazing year!

Of course, there’s no way that I could wrap up a birthday post without saying a giant “thank you” to all the people who have made the year so amazing for me.

I’m talking about all of my co-authors, all of my colleagues, all of my students, and everyone who’s taken the time to download my book, watch my videos, read my manifesto, and leave a comment on the blog.

(Hint: That means YOU!) πŸ˜‰

You’ve made this year amazing for me, and I can’t thank you enough!

Now I’m off to enjoy a few hours off and that tiny slice of birthday cake. And when I get back, I’ll be working extra hard to try and return the favor. πŸ˜€

About Danny Iny

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the CEO and founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich.

48 thoughts on “A Birthday Gift, and Two Horses’ Asses

  1. Danny,

    You have killed it and it’s been amazing to watch you and Firepole grow. Happy Birthday bro!

    To the topic of your post… I feel that self-assessment and reflection should be perpetual (within reason obviously) so taking the time to sit back and reassess your game plan makes perfect sense.

    Especially considering how much you’ve growth.

    Congrats on all your success!

    Ryan H.

  2. Happy happy Danny!! I never knew we are the same age???? Looks like I be 4 months older than you my friend! πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, it’s been awesome to follow you for the last 8 or 9 months. Yep, not even a full year yet but let me tell you, what I’ve learnt from you about marketing many students never get to learn their whole course period at varsity! Thank you a million for that Danny; I really do hope that one day I’ll be able to return this favor to you…

    You have been an inspiration for me since the very first day I started following you and your work. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon either so I am looking forward to many great things to come. All the best of success to an even more exciting year ahead for you and Firepole Marketing!

  3. Congratulations on a great year, Danny! You deserve it! πŸ™‚

    And Happy Birthday! I just celebrated my 29th last month…it was a weird feeling. Hopefully you cope better than I did, haha!

  4. What a great story! It’s one of those wow stories! Congratulations on your Birthday, thank you so much for all you give. I hope you smile a lot and laugh on your special day. I look forward to the future and try to keep an eye on my *ss as I go.

  5. Danny — Happy Birthday! I love the story and who cares if it’s true? It was fun and it could have happened. You’re still so young yet so successful. It’s been a wonder to watch you grow. I’m not getting into the age game because adding all of your ages up — well, never mind.

  6. Nice story Danny – I love folk tales like this one.

    It reminds me of the Russian railroad with a kink in it ordered by the czar – have you heard that one?

    Anyways, happy birthday my friend – the success is well deserved because I know you work really hard – and I’m really envious that you can stop at one small piece of cake (I couldn’t).

    take care & best wishes,

  7. It’s not the story Jeremy, it’s what it inspired that matters.

    And I completely agree with Ruan, Danny, you’ve been an inspiration for me since the first day I started following you πŸ˜‰

    Very, very happy birthday – keep up the good stuff, and have an inspired and fulfilling year πŸ™‚

  8. The snopes article points out in the first sentence “…although wrong in many of its details, isn’t exactly false in an overall sense…”, So let’s chelax a bit and try to understand that Danny was just pointing out some simple lessons that can be learned from the story even if it is complete fable.
    Don’t be a Horse’s Arse and ruin Danny’s birthday!
    Happy Birthday Danny and keep up your awesome work.

  9. Happy Birthday Danny. I just recently began following you and have really been enjoying your writing and information. This is a great story and truly shows how we need to be mindful tst just because we have always done it his way, doesn’t mean it’s best for us now. All the best.

  10. Happy birthday Danny. That makes you the same age as my son and he’s having an amazing year too.
    You deserve to enjoy your success, you’ve worked hard towards it. Anyone who follows their dreams with true conviction deserves to reap the rewards and with you as our inspiration, we’re all heading in the right direction too.

  11. Danny:
    Great tale told by no horse’s ass, man. Happy Birthday.
    Wish I was so smart at your age.
    In fact, I was. I worked at great PR firms and knew the ropes.
    Now Danny, I depend on guys like you to update my know- how.
    Continued success,
    Myrna Greenhut, the syndicated articles publicity pro

  12. Happy Birthday Danny

    As one of your students I’m amazed at your output. Especially when I compare it to my own.
    Like you, I stop a couple of times a year to evaluate what I’ve done, or not, as the case may be. Also think about what can I change or throw out and why? New year being the other time.

    What I’ve started to do recently, on an hourly basis, is not just a to-do list but a what-I’ve-done list too.
    It started out by me discovering that the two had little resemblance to each other. Too much reading emails etc instead of some sort of production work. They are now starting to converge better but nothing like your production levels. I’ve made a start though.

    I first heard the story about some elements of design of the Space Shuttle being based on the width of a roman chariot about 3 years ago. True or not doesn’t matter. However, the thing about the gauge of the railways is exactly related to what you then followed the story with Danny. It also says in the Stopes version about the differering railway gauges and they superpose that had the civil war gone differently then the railway gauges may be different. That was not going to be likely for a number of reasons.

    Not only in the Southern States had different gauges been tried but also here in the UK. We had about a dozen different gauges from 6ft to 2Β½ft. The eventual two horse wide gauge was chosen because the situation HAD been evaluated many times. It was this checking of ‘The Status Quo’ that was the point of your story. While the space shuttle provided a nice hook to the story, because railway gauges really is a boring subject, the point of the post was reinforced exactly because the railway companies had done their re-evaluation from time to time to see if ‘The Norm’ was still valid.

    Enjoy your day and your BBQ Danny. No doubt we will hear from you again soon.

    Best wishes

    Tony Crofts

  13. Danny, I never knew you are married so accept my late time wish.

    As for many of us here, me inclusive, there are milestones we want to cross, some will probably face teh challenges and overcome but some will stop on the way.

    I see you doing greater things and accomplish them before your next birthday.


  14. Hey Danny, Happy Birthday!

    Your story ties in to what I have always thought are the 7 worst words in the English language:

    “Because we’ve always done it this way.”

    Love your suggestion that we periodically re-examine what we’re doing.


  15. Simply beautiful post, Danny.

    Happy Birthday, and I have a tribute post to your awesomeness and how you’ve touched my life, going live later to day πŸ™‚ I’ll link it here soon πŸ˜€

    Thanks again, man.

  16. Who knew horses’ asses were so influential? I’ll be looking at those equids differently from now on, ha ha.

    Happy Birthday, Danny!! Have an amazing day. πŸ˜€

  17. Hi Danny and Happy Birthday!
    You are right with the moral of the story. Everyone should reflect back on what they have been doing from time to time and make proper adjustments to create or continue their success. If one does not do that, they are basicly a horse’s ass and only have themselves to blame for not being successful in business, parenting, marriage, life in general.
    Life changes, technology changes, (at an incredibly fast pace) but some things do not change even over 2,000 years because if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. That will cost you money.
    Enjoy your slice of birthday cake and have a wonderful day.

  18. Just getting around to reading this now, so it’s a day late, but nothing wrong with extending the celebration right? πŸ™‚ Happy Birthday and blessings for another healthy, happy, productive year!

  19. Happy Birthday Danny!

    I do believe the story is true. I’ve heard it many times over the years. If it’s urban legend, it’s a good one.

    I’m so glad you caught my attention this year. Through you, I’ve learned a lot about how to move forward with parts of my business that have been on the back-burner for a couple of years. And, I’ve met (in cyberspace) more intelligent, thoughtful and supportive folks than I ever expected.

    Here’s to another successful trip around the sun!


  20. Happy Birthday, Danny! πŸ™‚

    Loving the article! And I think it really doesn’t matter if the story is true or not. The metaphor and what you can learn from it are much more important. Congrats for everything you accomplished and I wish you to have as many awesome milestones in the year to come!

  21. Well Peter Pan…
    Β‘Have a Birthday bigger than two horses’ asses!

    I really hope to share this journey with you for many years to come.

    “Β‘FELIZ CUMPLEAΓ‘OS!” all the way from Mexico

  22. Good morning Danny!

    Doh! I’m late to the party again…. it’s all that reading you send that keeps making me late – but happy belated birthday anyway.

    And I will personally testify that the blessed ruts are still in the English roads – ask anyone who has tried to travel on the M1 or better still the A1(M) our most infamous Roman road, in either direction!

    I would note, however, that it is still the most direct route from A to B and attempts to take an alternative direction don’t always result in arriving at the destination in any better time.

    I’m pleased to say, that with a little help from my friends (and a lot from you!), I’m managing to stick with my original ‘Roman road’. It may be slow and at times a little bend or two creeps in, but I’m hopeful that this means that what is being put in place will still be around many years down the line (maybe not thousands….) and others will be able to get their wheels stuck in the same ruts with good outcomes.

    ‘Big Hug’ for your birthday and for being such a good ‘friend’ to many as I see from the comments above,
    L x

  23. Happy Birthday, Danny! It’s been an awesome year for you and I wish you many, many more! Keep up all the awesome content here at Firepole and I can’t wait to see what’s in store! All the best to you and yours!

  24. Hi Danny,
    Great story, never underrate a horse’s ass and the impact it might have! And when next travelling in Italy on some old Roman road and your spaceship will turn up, I will not be surprised.

    And again, my best birthday wishes!


  25. Interesting story. Some times we must understand the reasoning about something before we can move forward and approve the changes. Sometimes the past reasoning is not applicable any more and can we improof to become better at what we do.
    It is a matter of view point and determination to move forward.

    I hope you had a blessed day yesterday.

  26. Happy Belated Birthday, Danny! It sounds like you had a good one. Am behind in reading e-mails as I’m finally writing my chocolate book!

    Thanks for the tip about Justin Troupe’s blog. He’s an amazing photog!

    Enjoy the rest of the summer. It goes by SO fast.

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