Why the Bison Faces Left (and You Should, Too)

Don’t run from a challenge; face the storm!

Have you ever wondered why the U.S. flag on the right shoulder of a military uniform has the union (the stars) on the right side? It looks backward if you’re not used to it.

The proper display of the U.S. flag puts the star field at the position of highest honor. On a stationary display (like mounted on a wall), it’s the top-left corner as you’re looking at it. (Usually—there are exceptions.)

When displayed on a moving object, the position of highest honor is on the leading side, so star field is positioned at the front. This gives the appearance that the flag is waving in the breeze as the object moves forward. (Picture the flags mounted on the front of a diplomatic limousine.)

This is why the flag on a soldier’s shoulder might seem backwards—it’s how the flag would fly if the soldier were running forward, into battle. It’s also why the bison on the Wyoming state flag faces left. It faces into the storm.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / railwayfx

The original design for the Wyoming state flag had the bison facing towards the fly (away from the flagpole). This was intended to have the bison facing outward, over the state’s wide-open ranges.

Shortly before the design was finalized, the bison was reversed to face the hoist (facing the flagpole). The reasoning was simple: bison don’t stand with their backs to the wind. They face the wind.

How we handle adversity is a large test of our character. Consider the following responses to an approaching storm:

Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it – and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.

Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation

When you face a significant challenge, what’s your response? Do you avoid dealing with the situation, hoping it will go away? Eventually, it will. If you don’t make a decision in time, time will make a decision for you. Hope you like it.

Or do you become the buffalo? Do you turn and face the coming storm? Run at the storm? Procrastination only prolongs the torment. Volunteer to go first and you could be done before Fear even puts its boots on.

If you run from the storm, you’re hoping for an external solution—you’re waiting for someone else to solve the problem for you.

If you face the storm, you accept responsibility for the situation. You’re proactive. You’re going to find the solution inside you. No matter which way the winds blow, you know how to adjust your sails and stay the course.

The flag on the right shoulder of a uniform is reversed because it sends the right message. The soldier is rushing into battle, not retreating from a challenge.

The bison always faces into the storm. It faces the elements head-on. No matter how hard the winds blow, it’s undeterred.

Which way do you face?

Question: Facing the storm can be hard. How do you turn yourself into the wind? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. For more information, see my comments policy.