We drove back down the Owens Valley from our ski vacation at Mammoth today and once again saw the famous cattle grids that keep cattle and sheep from leaving their pastures. They are an enormous time saver, allowing vehicles to enter and leave a grazing area without the tedious effort of opening and closing gates. The hooves of grazing animals are unstable on the narrow bars and make a cattle guard as effective as a fence. They’re everywhere in the West.
What’s even more interesting is the false cattle grids that are at the beginning and end of every pasture section along California Highway 395. They are merely painted lines on the road with the same side bars as the real deal, but smooth and easy for trucks and cars to cross at highway speeds. These painted lines have the same effect on livestock accustomed to the real thing. They won’t cross the painted lines; in their minds, there is no difference.
There’s actually a name for this…it is a skeumorph of a cattle grid. The pattern of the painted lines resembles the real thing. It imitates the real thing enough to keep the animal from crossing the false boundary. It is no different than false shutters on a house or a flame-shaped bulb on a chandelier. Kudos to the person who figured this out.
How many times in life do we see something that looks like a boundary and is real in our minds? We all have boundaries like time, money and self-doubt. We think we can’t go outside of what we’re used to, so we won’t, even if that boundary is completely false. Marcel Marceau made a living out of pretending to find barriers that didn’t exist. And everyone laughed without thinking too much about it.
Do you ever refuse to cross a false boundary? In our work lives we create a multitude of imagined boundaries:
- It has always been done this way, so who am I to change it?
- Someone else needs to propose this because they won’t listen to me
- It is too much change for others to accept
- It is too much work and I’m busy enough already
- I’m not talented enough to do this
The truth is that none of these excuses are real boundaries. Great things happen to people who are unwilling to accept false boundaries. We’re smarter than cows, no?