Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth
Hollingsworth Consulting

When I was sixteen, my horse Chessa and I entered a difficult horse show competition. The show included a cross country course, where horse and rider gallop through the countryside, jumping over natural obstacles like ditches and log piles.

When it was our turn, Chessa and I confidently galloped down a big hill toward the first jump—a massive flower box with a hidden ditch on the other side. But when we were perhaps 60 yards away, I felt her stride slow, her head bolt, and her body swerve. Chessa was losing her confidence. She didn’t know what was coming, and whether she could clear the obstacle.

I had walked the course the day prior, and I knew what was coming. I trusted my ability to guide her, and I trusted her ability to clear the obstacle. While it looked scary, it was no different than other obstacles we had cleared before. Immediately, I reassured her. I shifted my weight, squeezed my legs, brushed her hindquarters with my crop, gazed ahead, and said, “Come on, girl!”

In that moment, Chessa’s stride evened and lengthened, her head lowered, and her body straightened. She could sense that I trusted myself and I trusted her. Therefore, she trusted me. It amounted to a symphonic synergy of trust communicated through the synchronized bodies of horse and rider. To this day, it remains one of the best feelings I remember ever having.

When we approached the jump, Chessa lifted off the ground at just the right moment. We sailed over the big flower box and ditch, landing safely on the other side. We finished the cross-country course in record time and went on to win the competition.

There are so many lessons this moment has taught me over the years. Right now, I find myself reflecting on the contagious power of trust. When Chessa began to doubt, I could have doubted too. Instead, in a split second, I chose to rely on my trust in myself and in her. I knew we both had the intelligence, athleticism, and courage to clear the jump. Most of all, I knew I could trust the relationship we had developed over time. We had cleared so many obstacles before, and we could do this one too.

What obstacles are you facing right now? What challenges are ahead for you, or your team, or your family, or your community? Are people doubting and faltering? Are they afraid of the unknowns, or losing confidence in their ability? If so, I invite you to dig deeply into the power of trust.

Build trust in yourself by remembering the obstacles you’ve cleared; the knowledge you’ve gained; the ways you’ve done hard things with grit and grace despite loads of pushback. Choose to trust it, to trust yourself. And let that emanate from you with a calm confidence.

Build trust in others by remembering the obstacles they’ve cleared; the skills they’ve acquired; and the ways they’ve met difficulty with perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to adapt. Choose to trust it, to trust them. And let that trust radiate from you with a gracious gravitas.

Our most primal urge is to self-protect. And there is nothing wrong with self-protection. Some people and situations haven’t yet earned our trust, and in those cases, it’s wisest to hold back and second guess. 

But where trust has been earned, it’s amazing to realize just how much more is possible when we lean into its power and possibility.

About Andrea

Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth is Founder and CEO of Hollingsworth Consulting, author of the bestselling book The Compassion Advantage (2024), and one of today’s leading global experts on compassionate leadership. Since 2008, she has been studying, speaking, and writing about the science and spirituality of human emotions and relationships. Her articles have been published more than a dozen times in peer-reviewed journals, and she has taught at prestigious institutions like Princeton, Boston University, and Loyola University Chicago. In addition, Dr. Andrea has delivered talks to audiences at some of the top-ranked universities in the world—including Cambridge University in England and Heidelberg University in Germany.

Dr. Andrea spends most of her time inspiring leaders and teams to use The Compassion Advantage to build supercharged organizations through cultures of care— especially in times of challenge and change. Andrea lives with her family in Minnesota where she cheers hard at her son’s soccer games and relishes every opportunity to visit the north shore of Lake Superior.