A few weeks ago, I asked reigning World Champ Jeremy Buhler if he'd be up for writing a letter to his younger self. As it turns out, Buhler has been writing letters to himself for a while now–a mental strategy that undoubtedly sets him apart from the pack. I won't say too much more–just enjoy this special read, brought to you by CSI Saddlepads.
You're 22, you feel like your skill level is behind for your age compared to other guys your age, and you're right. You are behind. You need to make up for lost time. When you practice, practice to get good--you can't waste time just going through the motions.
Don’t worry about the day job. In a few months you will win the World Series Finale, and you’ll have more money than you've ever had. Keep living broke, 100 grand will go faster than you think. You're going to buy your permit this year and rope with Clint. You're going to take his truck and trailer everywhere all year to the Canadian ProRodeos, don't take that for granted. Appreciate the fact that he's got a whole lot more invested in that partnership than you do since you don't have a good truck or a trailer. When you guys practice all day, every day have fun. Don't sweat it when you screw one up, trust the process. You're working at it all day, every day, and when you put in that amount of sweat and time you will be successful. When you guys have your differences, control your emotions and go your different road without being dramatic. Family comes before roping.
The year after you roped with your oldest brother, you'll really appreciate the things he did the prior years because you won't have anybody doing them for you anymore. You're going to bite off more than you can chew that year. You'll find out that just because you put your name down, that doesn't mean you're going to make it to the Canadian Finals.
It's going to be one heck of a learning curve rodeoing in the US for your first couple years. The set ups are a lot different than you're used to, on the longer scores you can't drive the steers left, you need to work on your scoring and learn how to keep the run in the middle. You're going to rope a lot of legs. You're not going to win much.
Don’t worry about what everybody else thinks, nobody is judging you as hard as you're judging yourself. Don't make excuses or blame your horse when you don't win. Be real with yourself, and write down your weaknesses without taking it personal. Watch the guys that make the Finals every year and win gold buckles. What are they all doing that you're not? Go home and work on it. A lot of people are going to be pulling for you to do well, just as many will be calling you crazy for running with the big dogs. Let the naysayers motivate you when you don't feel like heeling the saw horse in -10 degree weather.
When unexpected tragedies happen this year, bear down and focus on roping. Every night you spend roping your saw horse in the headlights of your truck will pay off eventually. The next year you'll win enough to go all year and have a chance till the end, come up short and max out your credit card. Make it a priority to pay off the balance or you'll be paying 19% compound interest for the next three years. You'll have a few sponsors that will be with you during this time that help keep your head above water. You’re going to experience some extreme highs and lows these first couple years.
When you come back first and second high call back and screw them up, don't throw a fit. You'll need the money bad and lay it beside the high-team steer three different times. Heeling can be a cruel sport.
Be thankful that even though you missed for easy money you have the opportunity to go work on the rigs and make enough money to rodeo the next year. In the grand scheme of things, it's the same result, just a little less convenient to work the night shift on the drill floor.
After the last couple years rodeoing, you're going to doubt your dun horse. It's good to always be trying to upgrade your horses, but give the dun some credit, he's going to play a huge part in your career in the next couple years. You're going to rodeo another season and miss the NFR again. Stay positive with the fact that you were close enough that if a couple steers went your way you could have made it. Just like the first year, write down what you felt your weaknesses were that year. Be real with yourself, you have too much time and money invested now to plateau. You do not want to be the guy telling stories about how he could have made it if... Make your weaknesses strengths and do whatever you gotta do to come back better for 2016.
You and Levi are going to be in the top 15 from San Antonio until October 1. So when you rope a leg to win Ponoka, miss your dally at Cody and swat the loper at Cheyenne, don't even worry about it. Listen to Doug when he tells you there's 100 million people that don't care that you missed that steer. Don't let your performance in the arena dictate who you are outside of the arena. You are not helping your cause by judging yourself and moping around after screwing one up. Katie is going to be there for you through it all, so don't burn her ears up venting, be thankful she's there to tell you to stay out there and that you can do it. If you listen to anything in this letter, listen to my next piece of advice. I know you don't think so now, but your character in and out of the arena is far more important than your performance in the arena. Nobody is going to remember the steer you heeled to win the rodeo in a year, but they'll remember the fool you made out of yourself for throwing a fit in 20 years. There's some things you can say and do that you can't take back. Silence will never embarrass you. Like I said earlier, you're going to let several high money steers get away--learn to deal with your emotions today.
Don't ever second guess your team. If you or your header are having some trouble, keep your hammer cocked, right about the time you're worried about it he'll duck back five in a row and your mind won't be right and you'll miss out on the opportunity to win. When you're in debt up to your ears and haven't won a check in three weeks, believe in the work you've put in and the fact that every storm runs out of rain. Stick to the same plan it's been since you were 15: ONE STEER AT A TIME. The dun horse you didn't think was good enough is going to play a huge roll in the second half of 2016. You're going to finish the year on him and make it to the National Finals. Trucks, trailers, a house, new sponsors and everything else will come from what you do on that horse, so buy him the extra bag of shavings, the best hay and let him out to walk around on those long drives. In the next few years the only regrets you'll have are the times you didn't have a good time because you were down because roping didn't go your way. Be thankful for everything, the life lessons, sponsorships and friendships you will make. Enjoy the entire journey, not just the times where roping went your way.
PRCA/Bryan Oller Photo