Our perspective of things in all parts of life determines whether we move forward and are successful or not. Obviously, that’s primarily shaped by our upbringing and the environment we’re brought up in. For instance, parents of children can tell them from an early age that they can do anything they set their minds to, and that they can achieve whatever they want to if they work hard enough at it. Or they can tell them that their future looks pretty grim, and that they aren’t going to amount to a whole lot. Sadly, that actually happens. You hear people talk about their past and how they were raised, and it really shapes the vision of a young person, and whether they believe they can be successful. I’m very thankful to God that I was brought up in an environment where I received encouragement, and my parents told me I could do anything I worked hard enough at and set my mind to. So that was my vision.
We learn how to process information and categorize it in our minds as a positive or negative experience. As far as my career was concerned, or what I set out to do with my roping, I had a lot of positive reinforcement.
There were other areas of my life where life experience didn’t really help me process some things in a positive way. As I’ve been walking through life, I’ve had to learn what was and was not the truth, so I could line things out in my mind in those areas. I needed to reinforce myself in a positive way in some areas, be it dealing with people and relationships, or be it friends and people I work with. To do that, you have to process your thoughts, know what’s right and wrong, and be balanced.
You can have a bad experience and come to a conclusion that’s not correct. Then you operate in your life on a wrong conclusion. I think it’s important to manage your thoughts, so you can make the right decisions. When your decisions are based on truth and what’s right, you’re able to travel through life in a positive direction—even through some hard spots in life. It helps you make the right choices, which keeps you happy, healthy and on a positive path.
I started learning early on that the way for me to have success, not only in roping but in all areas of life, was the importance of managing my thoughts correctly. Doing that gives me the ability to not succumb to negative thoughts, be it in the arena or out. It’s a daily thing, no matter what I’m dealing with.
I rope for a living, so a large part of my thought management deals with that area. But it’s not the only part of my thought process where I need to rely on the same principles. People sometimes ask me how I focus and concentrate. A big part of that is managing my thoughts, because there are always negative and untrue thoughts that try to enter in. If you happen to mess up at a big roping—which has happened to me a lot of times—thoughts enter my mind where I’m really hard on myself.
My thought management in those situations is to look at the big picture and focus on the truth, which is that messing up on one steer doesn’t mean I can’t do it. As I ride in the box, thoughts are entering my head about all the money and prestige at stake. Those things have nothing to do with roping that steer. It’s not always on the negative side. Some people are overconfident. The truth is the foundation. When I ride in the box and my thoughts are trying to control me, I balance that with truth. This is just one steer in a 40-year career. If I get in the right spot and do the right things I have a great chance at success. That lets me channel the truth into positive thoughts that are actually going to help me do my job.